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July 27, 2017 @ 10:41 AM

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Indian MBA Candidates and the Trump Effect: Are You Affected?

Published: Thursday, 27 July 2017 10:30 AM

Indian MBA Candidates and the Trump Effect: Are You Affected?

They call it the ‘Trump Effect’ – and it can be felt throughout the world of higher education. A study of 250 US institutions conducted by AACRAO, IACAC, IIE, NACAC and NAFSA in March found that 39% of 250 surveyed universities had seen a decline in applications from international students. While 35% saw an increase, the higher education world is braced for significantly worse figures over 2017/18, which will be the first admissions cycle to take place entirely under the Trump presidency.

When it comes to MBAs specifically, we can also see damage has been done. GMAC – the body responsible for administering the GMAT MBA entrance examination – revealed in an annual survey of prospective business school candidates that the US has seemingly lost much of its appeal as a study destination for international graduate-level business students. In February of this year, 43% of non-US registrants on GMAC’s portal said that they would be less likely to study in a US under a Trump presidency, up from 35% in the immediate aftermath of the election in November. 

At all levels 47% of international students in the US in 2016 were from India and China – therefore they comprise a substantial part of the nation’s student body. Any decline would hit US universities hard.

India has not been singled out by Trump as Mexico or any of the Muslim-majority nations picked out for the ‘travel ban’ have been. Indeed, Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the White House seemed to go rather well, with the two leaders finding a lot of common ground and Trump reiterating his previous sentiment that India would have a ‘true friend’ in him. That does not mean, however, that there has not been a change in atmosphere, with a general feeling that the US is no longer the welcoming environment that it once might have been.

There has been a lot of tough talk around the H1-B post-study work visa from the Trump administration, which is the common route for the majority of MBAs who remain to work in the US following graduation. Nothing has yet become law, but again, it may be off-putting to many if there is uncertainty. It’s not just the opportunity to study at one of the US’s top-drawer institutions that appeals to many students, but the chance to gain experience in Wall Street or Silicon Valley or in one of the innumerable blue-chip companies headquartered and/or with a substantial presence in the country.

US schools still seeking Indian students

So, should you be put off studying in US? Well there’s no denying these are uncertain times in which we live. You should not believe for a second, however, that US schools are not still actively seeking international (and that means Indian) talent.

“We’re preparing students to work, manage and lead in a global environment. As a result, international students play an important role in everyone’s education,” states Jim Holmen, director of admissions and financial aid for the Kelley School of Business (Indiana University) MBA Program. “They provide cross-cultural perspectives and given the importance of the global economy, they bring valuable examples from their work in different countries. An internationally diverse classroom allows all MBA students to develop a truly global network of professional colleagues and friends.”

With India, as one of the BRIC economies, taking a prominent place on the global stage; as a consumer base, a source of talent/labour, a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity and a regional base for business, getting an Indian perspective is increasingly important in the MBA classroom. Top schools will still very much be seeking out Indian talent.

“Schools are very much open to top international students. Our international recruitment goals have not changed; we plan to at least maintain our current level of international MBA student enrolment – about 35%,” Holmen asserts.

Sridhar Balasubramanian, associate dean of MBA programs at UNC Kenan-Flagler, echoes Holmen’s sentiment: “Managers need to have a global outlook in their decision making, be knowledgeable about the potential impact of events abroad on their company and operations, and learn to work in a global context. International students in US MBA programs help all students build these skills and perspectives. In fact, a classroom with strong global diversity can effectively simulate the global business environment that students will work in after they graduate.”

There can be no denying, then, the value of Indian students to the US MBA classroom. And on the other hand, the value of a US MBA. There is of course, the impressive ROI, about which you can learn more here. On average, graduates of US programs earn 75% more than when they started; gaining returns over 10 years of US$0.5 million, and US$2.6 million over 20.

There’s more to it than that. There’s simply the quality of the education you will get in the birthplace and spiritual home of the MBA. North American institutions dominate the QS Global 250; if you’re open minded, you’ll be spoiled for choice. You’ll gain insight from top academics and employers, and be able to network with some of the world’s finest business minds. And let’s not forget, you’ll be studying in a fascinating environment, which offers bustling urban hubs, stunning natural beauty, and diversions and activities for all levels of interests and passions.

And a country doesn’t just change overnight. While the current administration may seem somewhat unsavoury to some, that doesn’t mean that the people who make the country what it is have changed too. Legally speaking too, nothing has yet come into effect which will adversely affect Indian students – until it does, we can only speculate. One thing that will not change is the quality of a US MBA education.

If you’re thinking about studying in the US, the best thing you can do is do your research. Take the first step and speak to admissions directors from top business schools including Berkeley, Cornell, Emory, Michigan-Ross, Illinois-Urbana and many more at the exclusive Study in the US event in India from 29th July to 5th August at the QS World MBA Tour in a city near you. Book your spot at

Written by Mansoor Iqbal


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