Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Association on MBAs (SV49)


  • Of significant concern to the business school sector is the proposal seeking to ensure that students return overseas upon completion of their courses.
  • There is consensus among business schools that restrictions on the opportunity to work will impact enrolment figures, as prospective MBA students will be drawn to programmes in competitor countries with more favourable employment regimes.
  • International MBA students are highly skilled, highly paid professionals who bring specialised global business knowledge to the UK.
  • Alienating future global business leaders from UK business programmes poses a high risk of medium to long term consequences to the UK economy.
  • Accredited business schools undergo intense scrutiny by the Association of MBAs in order to attain accreditation status; their high standards ensure confidence that only the most experienced and qualified students, and those least likely to abuse the Tier 4 system, are allowed to enroll.
  • The MBA is an extremely expensive degree, both in terms of tuition fees and lost income resulting from students leaving lucrative jobs for the duration of their studies. Choosing to study in the UK represents a deep commitment on the part of the student, and this level of study should be differentiated from blanket definitions of student.

1.  If the UK is sincere in its wish to attract the "brightest and best" to its universities, then this should be coupled with an awareness that international MBA students make significant contributions to the British economy due to their specialised skills, languages, knowledge and advanced education, as well as the revenues they create for UK universities and the wider economy with fees, housing and other living expenses.

2.  The Association of MBAs accredits 47 MBA programmes in the UK. These business schools embrace the highest standards of education and undergo rigorous assessments of quality by teams of independent assessors. In 2008, they enrolled 4,406 students from outside the UK and Europe. This is a small, select cohort representing the most elite applicants from around the world. The impact of MBA enrolment on overall UK migration figures is small, and the Association requests that the government differentiate them as "highly skilled" or "preferred status" students.

3.  UK business schools consistently rank among the best in the world, with 10 in the top 50 Financial Times Global MBA rankings for 2010. Maintaining this reputation for excellence is key for the continued success of our postgraduate business programmes, and requires the ability to attract and retain the highest quality business professionals to its programmes.

4.  MBA students have no recourse to public funds for tuition fees, which range from £10,000 to £50,000 per year. This is a significant investment of resources which: (1) does not attract the type of migrants which the coalition government is seeking to deter from entering and abusing the student immigration system, and (2) nets a high level of income for UK universities at a time when they are struggling for funding. In a recent survey of 2,000 alumni conducted by the Association of MBAs, 50% of respondents self-funded their MBAs, 32% had company sponsorship, 10% used a bank loan, 1% used redundancy packages and 7% reported "other" or used a combination of the above. MBA students are a financially secure student population, and there is little to indicate in these figures that international MBA students pose a threat to public services or funds.

5.  The average age of students graduating from Full Time MBA programmes in 2008 was 30; from Part Time programmes it was 35. Before embarking on an MBA, a sample of MBA graduates worldwide in 2010 reported that 16% were already employed as senior managers, 34% as middle managers and 27% as junior managers. 5% were at board level or above and an additional 5% were independent consultants or self-employed. These individuals were already on advanced career paths and studied on the MBA with a desire to learn and engage in global business education. Their network of employers and contacts are of tremendous value to the UK economy, especially considering that 73% report that they would consider starting their own company or entrepreneurial venture. International MBA students are of substantial value to the UK economy in the medium to long term and their loss would be a deterrent to potential future investment and enterprise. Far from being an immigration risk, international MBAs return to their countries in most cases as powerful ambassadors for the UK. If we lose this goodwill, the longer-term impact on the UK's overall competitiveness will be considerable.

6.  The Association of MBAs surveyed the 47 accredited business schools in the UK in early January 2011. Of the 34 who responded, 97% said that they believe continued restrictions on student visas are likely to impact their enrolment numbers in the future. Of these, 56% said that the impact was highly likely. This supports deep concerns voiced in focus groups among business schools that prospective students will look elsewhere to competitor countries including Canada, the United States and Australia. Additionally, English-language MBA provision is increasing in emerging markets worldwide, as is general MBA provision, particularly in India and China which are two of the UK's biggest markets for international students. The UK must do all it can to remain competitive in the highly skilled business education sector; turning students away by restricting their access to post-study employment puts their reputations at stake and threatens future viability.

7.  82% of the accredited business schools in the UK who responded to our survey reported that international students form a significant part of their revenue. Schools estimated that in the last 12 months, their loss of revenue due to current visa restrictions ranged between £20,500 (one student) to £680,000. Given that there were 4,406 international MBA students in the UK in 2008, that represents an average of 94 international students per business school. The risk of dwindling numbers will have a devastating impact on UK universities and the industries they support.

In closing, the Association of MBAs is aware of and appreciates the government's need to assess the impacts of migration on the UK. However, the focus on student immigration and the blanket restriction of visas across the entire student population poses significant risks to the UK's ability to remain competitive in global education and business. We urge the government to recognise that there are different categories of international students. Each contributes something unique to the UK economy, and each also warrants different bureaucratic approaches when determining what level of work students and graduates are entitled to in the UK.

MBAs are a small, select, highly specialised and post-experience cohort. Given the enormous contribution that MBAs make to the British economy—both in the short term in fee income and contributions to the local economy, and in the long term as future partners for British industry and potential investors in the UK—we are sure that it is not the intention of government to introduce measures that could have a devastating impact on what is in effect a vibrant and valuable export industry.

January 2011

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Prepared 25 March 2011