The decades-long march of globalization is at risk of going into reverse because of geopolitical tensions and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine. For business schools, which play in a global market and seek to attract students from around the world, the political climate can impact where prospective students chose to study for their MBAs.
But many of the top business hubs have maintained their appeal to international MBA students. The MBA City Monitor report, developed by Esade Business School in Barcelona, looks at the ability of different cities and regions in the world to attract and retain highly skilled global talent based on how popular cities or regions are to MBA students.
In the 2022 edition, London came first, despite the effects of Brexit. The UK capital’s high position reflects the elevated numbers of top technology and engineering universities and colleges; its popularity among MBA students; and its capacity to still attract venture capital investment. The British capital is followed by Boston, New York, Silicon Valley, and Paris in the ranking.
Brexit impact on UK schools
Natalia Olson-Urtecho, who helped compile the report, says: “While there are visible signs of deglobalization in diverse areas at the geopolitical level, talented professionals have the unprecedented opportunity to establish themselves anywhere in the world and potentially even in various locations, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to more remote work and greater digitalization.”
The report’s authors also note an increasing trend towards offshoring talent. This presents an opportunity for smaller cities that can accommodate remote workers. Cities such as Seoul, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Miami or Munich have a great capacity to attract talent, but they do not have an MBA program in top global rankings.
Iván Bofarull, chief innovation officer at Esade Business School, stresses the importance of having a quality academic offering of sufficient size to attract the best MBA students. “If cities such as Seoul or Munich were to reach a similar number of international students as Los Angeles or Sydney, they would rank among the top 25 in the world,” he says.
The ranking measures the number of students enrolled in MBA programs, which are a good indicator of which cities are talent magnets. “MBA students make significant research and resource allocation before choosing a program: they make a substantial financial investment, dedication and time to research the program and the city, they face an opportunity cost of giving up a job for two years and are confronted with the emotional costs of moving to a new city,” says Bofarull.
This underlines the importance of making the right choice of location. There are many other top cities that attract MBA talent, each with unique advantages to prospective business school students.
Studying business with an interdisciplinary approach
Students who choose to study at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, for example, benefit from the school’s location in the US capital city of Washington D.C, which is a good place for studying business with an interdisciplinary approach.
“With easy access to business, government, policy, and diplomatic communities, students learn at the intersection of multiple disciplines, including business, policy, and international relations, providing the ideal context for a 360-degree, whole person education,” says Prashant Malaviya, professor of marketing and senior associate dean of MBA programs.
The D.C area is home to Fortune 500 firms, federal agencies and regulatory bodies, a number of multilateral institutions, as well as embassies and a diverse startup community. “Students benefit from unique experiential learning opportunities, including immersive site visits and career treks to various national and multinational corporations, exposure to policy briefings just a few miles away on Capitol Hill,” says Malaviya.
He adds that the school can pull in renowned business leaders who visit classrooms as guest lecturers and professors.
Students can also find advantages in smaller cities such as Cambridge, in the UK near London and home to the Judge Business School. Emily Brierley, head of MBA recruitment and admissions at Cambridge Judge Business School, insists the school continues to receive a high volume of applications and has not noticed a big impact from Brexit in terms of admissions for the Cambridge MBA at this stage.
“The UK has a unique advantage in attracting candidates from a wide range of countries and backgrounds, which makes for a very rich educational experience and an alumni network which spans the globe,” she says.
Many candidates applying to the Cambridge MBA have post-MBA objectives of staying within the UK, and the two-year post-study work visa provides international students with the opportunity to do so. “We have seen the impact of this in our employment report with an increase in the number of students remaining in the UK after study,” says Brierley.
She adds that the geopolitical environment is an opportunity for MBA programs. “The uncertain global economic climate is a key issue in how business schools can demonstrate the benefits of graduate management education in such a tumultuous economy.”