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As Canada stumbles, business schools in Eastern Europe & back home gain ground

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Safety concerns and a decline in preference for Canada as an academic option have prompted more Indian students to study business programs closer to home, said the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Prospective Student Survey 2024. The GMAT, conducted by the council, is the primary standardized test for admission into business programs worldwide.

The annual survey of global prospective students of business school shows that domestic application plans within India expanded significantly from 41% in 2022 to 53% in 2023.

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Given the survey was fielded throughout calendar year 2023, it is likely the challenges in diplomatic relations between India and Canada contributed to the most recent dip, though the year-on-year change is part of a longer decline since 2019.

Gaurav Srivastava, Regional director, South Asia, GMAC, told ET: “With an increase in affluence and easier access to student loans, selecting an international program is now well within reach for a number of Indian candidates. However, at the same time the preference for studying within India, has also not decreased with about one-third citing that they like being closer to home.”

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Affordability was the top reason among Indians wanting to study in India.

“As educational and economic opportunities increase within the country, it is no surprise that Indian candidates would take advantage without needing to leave their families to head to the other side of the globe,” he added.“In India, the opportunity for in-country educational and economic opportunities—many at a fraction of the cost—continue to grow,” said Srivastava.However, despite this most GME candidates from India still prefer to study in the US and Western Europe, largely because of their perceived reputations of the educational systems and better preparation for their careers.

“This is largely because of their perceived reputations of the educational systems and better preparation for their careers. While some Indian candidates are interested in the diversity of the student body in the United States, others cited the affordability of Western Europe,” said Srivastava.

The study covers both graduate as well as undergraduate students.

The preferred study destination of 38% of Indian students surveyed in 2023 was the US, almost at the same level as 2019 of 37%, while 24% preferred Western Europe in 2023 versus 23% in 2019.

The study shows that compared to 2019, there has been an eight percentage point drop in candidate preference to study in Canada from 14% in 2029 to 6% in 2023 and an eight point increase in Indian candidates’ preference to study within Central and South Asia from 18% in 2019 to 26% in 2023.

The study also shows that more than half of candidates from India now prefer STEM-certified GME programs, especially those who may be looking to take advantage of more generous optional training opportunities (OPT) for STEM students in the US.

Global interest in STEM-certified GME programs grew 39% in five years—and to new heights in Asia, driven by demand in India and Greater China.

Specifically, preference for STEM-certified programs has grown among candidates in India from 43% in 2019 to 57% in 2023.

The GMAC Prospective Students Survey provides business schools with critical insights into the decision-making processes of people currently considering applying to a management education program. This year’s GMAC summary report considers data collected in the 2023 calendar year from 4,105 respondents in 132 countries around the world. Among them, 42% are female and 61% are Gen Z.



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