Home Advantage: Why More MBA Candidates are Choosing Local Programs

Why More MBA Candidates are Choosing Local Programs

In the MBA world, a trend is emerging — one that challenges the conventional wisdom of pursuing graduate business studies abroad. According to recent data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which runs the GMAT entrance exam, an increasing number of candidates are opting to pursue their MBA in their home country rather than venturing overseas, especially in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Affordability drives the trend 

Several factors are propelling candidates to choose studying in their home country over pursuing an MBA abroad. Foremost among these is affordability. The cost of obtaining an MBA degree has skyrocketed in recent years, particularly in countries like the US. For some prospective students, the financial burden of studying abroad –  including tuition fees, living expenses and potential lost income – can be prohibitive.

“Affordability is definitely a top consideration for many prospective students. For example, in India, local applications grew significantly from 18 percent in 2019 to 26 percent in 2023. More than 55 percent of them cited affordability as the reason behind their choice to study within the South Asia region,” says Nalisha Patel, regional director for Europe at GMAC.

Additionally, more and more candidates are recognizing the quality and reputation of home-grown MBA programs that rival those abroad. These domestic options are also often tailored to the needs of the local business environment. 

“Our research shows that the reputation of the educational system in a country or region, and how well they may be prepared for their future careers in these places, are top factors when candidates are considering study locations,” says Patel. 

Benefits of studying at home

The decision to pursue an MBA locally offers several benefits. Beyond better affordability, familiarity with the local business landscape and cultural nuances can provide a distinct advantage in navigating the local job market. 

“Some applicants prefer to remain in a familiar environment, where they are acquainted with the language, cultural nuances and job-market,” says Eric Cornuel, president of EFMD Global, which accredits business schools around the world. “Regions like Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe offer an environment of fast growth where they can contribute to and capitalize on local economic development.” 

Also, many MBA students may have family or personal commitments that make relocating difficult or impossible. Studying at home allows them to continue balancing these commitments while furthering their education. 

“We must remember that family and personal life are strong commitments for students, which make prolonged absences from the country difficult,” says Sylwia Hałas-Dej, dean of Kozminski Executive Business School in Poland. 

Drawbacks and mitigation strategies

However, studying for an MBA locally is not without its drawbacks and limitations. One potential concern is the perceived lack of international exposure and diversity compared to studying abroad. Candidates may miss out on the opportunity to collaborate with peers from diverse cultural, professional and educational backgrounds, limiting their global perspective and network.

“There is a potential lack of exposure to the economic dynamics and business practices of other regions, which are increasingly relevant in today’s globalized market,” says Cornuel at EFMD. This could narrow a graduate'’s understanding and adaptability to global trends, affecting their competitiveness internationally.” 

Another significant factor to consider is the variability in prestige and recognition associated with MBA programs. “Although there is an abundance of highly-regarded MBA programs across the globe, programs offered in certain countries, particularly those accredited and renowned for their educational standards, may carry with them a higher degree of recognition among international employers,” Cornuel adds. 

The regions with the highest concentration of top-ranked MBAs are North America and Western Europe. 

To mitigate these concerns, many homegrown MBA programs actively cultivate a diverse student body through targeted recruitment efforts, international exchange programs and collaborations with overseas institutions. Additionally, incorporating cross-cultural learning experiences, such as case studies and guest lectures, can help bridge the gap and expose candidates to a broader range of perspectives.

Long-term implications

The preference for studying in one’s home country has significant long-term implications for international mobility, global networking and career opportunities for MBA graduates. 

While it may initially seem restrictive, it can actually enhance MBA graduates’ prospects within their local markets and enable them to become influential leaders in their respective industries.

Moreover, as domestic MBA programs continue to gain recognition and accreditation on the global stage, graduates may find themselves increasingly sought after by multinational corporations seeking talent with a deep understanding of local markets and cultures. This could lead to a shift in the traditional paradigm of international mobility, with more professionals choosing to build their careers closer to home while still enjoying access to global opportunities.

“The preference for studying in one’s home country does not negatively impact international mobility,” says Hałas-Dej at Kozminski. 


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