Majority of Candidates Say Brexit has No Impact on Decision to Study in the United Kingdom
March 19, 2019 In response to the initial Brexit vote in June 2016, the Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC™) has been tracking Graduate Management Admission Test™ (GMAT™) examinee interest in studying in the UK. This has included periodic surveys of non-U.K. citizens who sent a GMAT score report to a UK business school program, as an indication of where they are interested in studying. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, it was unclear what the impact would be on the international flow of students to UK programs, which are heavily reliant on enrollees from other countries. Brexit, it’s been feared, could restrict or complicate the student visa process and dampen international candidates’ postgraduation job prospects in the UK, both because of possible changes to work visa policies and jobs leaving the UK.
However, the most recent survey findings, from December 2018, show that 54 percent of respondents overall say Brexit has no impact on their decision to study in the UK, up from 46 percent in December 2016. Likely bolstered by a falling pound and reduced interest in other study destinations around the world over the same period, there has been an increase in candidates’ selecting the UK as their first-choice country for their business school experience.
“The level of interest we’re seeing from international candidates in UK b-schools is a major factor in the overall global stability we’re observing in graduate management education,” said Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president and CEO. “It’s also a success story in mobility that I hope will continue in the UK as Brexit continues to unfold. If we are to maintain a healthy climate for aspiring candidates, we need to make it possible for people from different regions and backgrounds to study and work in the location they desire.”
The survey findings show that candidate consideration of the UK as a study destination is driven by the reputation of the UK educational system, a candidates’ desire to develop an international network, and a candidates’ desire to improve their chances of having an international career. Their ultimate selection of a study destination is primarily influenced by a desire to study at a specific program or school in the location.
The survey findings also show, however, that there is some hesitancy among candidates amidst the uncertainty of the looming exit from the E.U. at the end of this month. While overall most respondents to the December 2018 survey say Brexit has no impact on their decision making, about half of non-UK Europeans say they are less likely to decide to study in the UK because of Brexit (51%). Most non-UK candidates overall consider Brexit as a detriment to the availability of student and work visas in the UK, and over time candidates’ perception of the impact of Brexit on the cost of education and living in the UK have become more negative.
Despite this, GMAT score sending behavior shows that UK programs have remained just as popular a choice for business school as before the 2016 Brexit vote. In fact, the share of GMAT score reports sent to UK programs has increased slightly since the Brexit vote and is stable or up across world regions of citizenship. The increase is particularly strong among examinees from Asia-Pacific countries and examinees with a total score of 600 and above. Findings from GMAC’s annual Application Trends Survey also show continued strong international demand for U.K. programs, as 71 percent report year-on-year international application volume growth in 2018.
With the continued uncertainty about how Brexit will proceed, it’s not clear how international student mobility will be affected should the actual departure from the E.U. take place. GMAC plans to continue to conduct survey research on this topic as events unfold. Please visit the Market Intelligence and Research page on gmac.com for continued updates on this and other issues relating to trends in graduate management education.