London: The global economic slowdown and tighter student visa norms seem to have taken their toll on Britain`s prestigious MBA programmes, once favourite with students from countries like India and China.
Indian and Chinese students, the largest group among overseas applicants for these programmes, are being put off as a result of a tougher job market as well as increasingly attractive programmes back home.
According to the Financial Times, the 18 MBA programmes, regularly ranked among the world`s top 100, show that overall enrolment figures are at their lowest for the past eight years and 21 per cent lower than at their height in 2010.
Last year only four of the top 18 UK schools admitted more than 100 students, compared with nine out of 18 in 2010.
Business schools have traditionally been a strong earner for the UK economy, but even the leading full-time MBA programmes have been unable to attract overseas students in the latest enrolment cycle, according to data compiled by the annual FT Global MBA Rankings, to be released on January 28.
Business schools blame the UK Border Agency visa restrictions, especially changes to the post-study work visas.
Steven Haberman, dean of the Cass Business School at City University, believes the UK is becoming less attractive.
"The package we can put to a student from India and China is difficult. The big thing that is missing is allowing students to work for one or two years (after graduating)," he said.
Business schools at London, Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and Warwick continue to rank high mainly due to their ability to withstand the pressure of a drop in enrolment figures.
The fall is largely because of a decline in international students, as 86 per cent of all MBA students studying in Britain are from abroad.
There has been a growth in reputable business schools in Asian countries such as India, China and Singapore, making leaving home less necessary and economical.
Falling employment rates in the UK and the collapse of the student loan market are additional factors that have hit the MBA programmes in recent times, which is likely to have a wider impact on the British economy.
"We have been able to attract some of the most aspirational and talented business people to the UK to study for an MBA. If we lose those contacts, that is a real problem," warns Paul Marshall, chief executive of the Association of Business Schools in the UK.