May 13, 2017 3:00 pm JST

US business schools losing edge to Asia

Trump's immigration policy and high tuitions are driving away students

MITSURU OBE, Nikkei staff writer

Japanese business schools have enhanced their appeal by offering more courses in English.

TOKYO -- The Trump factor is just one reason why U.S. business schools are starting to lose their appeal in Asia, recent findings show.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. business schools say applications from international students have fallen this year. By contrast, full-time MBA programs in the Asia-Pacific region are reporting an increase in applicants.

The findings were made by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which oversees the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) entry exam for business schools.

U.S. President Donald Trump's move to tighten rules on work visas, as well as the simple fact that business programs in Asia are improving, are among the reasons behind the shift.

As good as anywhere

"It is becoming possible to get a globally competitive MBA education without going to the U.S.," said Hirokazu Kono, dean of Keio Business School in Tokyo and former president of the Association of Asia-Pacific Business Schools.

Business schools in Asia have improved their standards by forging close links with top universities in the U.S. and Europe, offering courses in English, expanding their range of full- and part-time programs, and getting their programs accredited by international bodies. Lower tuitions also help.

The competition among Asian business schools is intense. For Southeast Asian students, Singapore and Hong Kong have become the preferred destinations.

A GMAC survey found that 74% of full-time MBA programs in the Asia-Pacific region reported an increase in applications as of March this year compared with a year earlier. By contrast, 64% of U.S. full-time two-year MBA programs saw a drop in applications from international candidates -- the highest ratio since 2005, when it reached 67%.

Japanese business schools say it is too early to conclude that Trump's tighter immigration rules will trigger a fundamental change in preferences among applicants. Still, the general consensus is that the policy shift will benefit Asian business schools in the long run.

Japan's Waseda Business School, for instance, is receiving more inquiries from students from Muslim countries. Some of those applicants have said that Trump's policies have made them feel as if they are not welcome in the U.S.

Waseda's full-time MBA program admits some 70 students a year, of which two-thirds are international students enrolled in courses taught in English. The bulk of those from abroad hail from China, Taiwan and Thailand.

At U.S. business schools, Indians and Chinese are among the largest applicant groups. 

About 8 in 10 Indian candidates say the ability to obtain a work visa after completing their education is a "very important" consideration, according to GMAC.

Most of the candidates who say the U.S. is no longer their preferred destination cited concerns about immigration policies, the council said.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order calling for a governmentwide review of immigration laws in a bid to tighten the enforcement of rules governing the entry of foreign workers into the U.S.

The president said in a speech that his "buy American, hire American" directive is aimed at protecting U.S. workers, defending U.S. jobs and putting America first.

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