Survey Uncovers Challenges Confronting UK Universities in the Business School Landscape

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UK ( Parliament Politics Maganize ) – The Chartered Association of Business Schools, the principal representative body for business schools in the UK, comprising members who are major contributors to student recruitment across UK universities, has disclosed a decline in student enrollments from both domestic and international sources in numerous business schools for the upcoming academic year.

As revealed in the Chartered ABS’s annual membership survey, the foremost strategic focus for UK business schools continues to be student satisfaction, with subsequent priorities including international student recruitment and financial performance.

Financial Challenges in Universities: A Perfect Storm of Factors

Amidst a backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis, escalating university expenses, and alterations in government visa policies, the survey results underscore apprehensions for universities heavily dependent on business students as a crucial source of income. This income is essential for supporting a diverse array of learning experiences and research across various subject areas.

The survey respondents disclosed the degree to which universities depend on international students recruited by business schools. A staggering 92% of business school Deans acknowledged that their school relies, to some extent, on the fees from international students for financial sustainability

In the case of undergraduate domestic and postgraduate international students, 94% and 98% of respondents respectively indicated that their parent universities were dependent on this source of income. Given that, on average, 59% of business schools’ net income contributes to their parent institutions, any alteration in business school income holds significance for the broader university sector.

In the current financial year, 30% of business schools anticipate a decline in income, a stark contrast to the mere 2% reported in last year’s survey. Meanwhile, costs are on the rise, with 64% of respondents noting that actual expenditures exceeded expectations.

Challenges and Changes in Business School Enrollments

While a majority of business schools demonstrated robust performance in attracting international students—with 60% reporting higher undergraduate enrolments and 50% indicating an increase in postgraduate enrolments—a nuanced situation emerges. Within the sector, 44% of business schools revealed that their overall non-EU student enrolments fell short of the targeted figures.

The postgraduate landscape presents a more formidable challenge, as almost 50% of schools reported recruitment falling significantly or moderately below targets. Furthermore, nearly a third (31%) reported an actual decline in postgraduate enrolments.

Business schools highlight the forthcoming government ban on visas for the dependents of international students, set to take effect in January 2024, as a factor adversely affecting enrollments. An overwhelming majority of respondents (93%) express the belief that these changes will negatively impact postgraduate student numbers.

Although only 39% of the surveyed business schools indicated a decline in enrolments of UK students, 50% reported that the enrolments of UK students fell below their targeted figures.

Role of Business Schools in Social Mobility and Lifelong Learning

Collectively, home and international students pursuing business courses constitute 1 in 6 of all university students. Notably, 1 in 3 of all international students studying in the UK are enrolled in business schools.

 According to Universities UK International and the Higher Education Policy Institute, the financial contributions of all international students to the UK economy amount to £41.9 billion over the duration of their studies.

The survey responses from business schools underscore the significance of their programs in promoting social mobility and aligning with government policies on lifelong learning. Notably, 49% of business schools have observed an increase in the proportion of business students from low participation neighborhoods over the past five years.
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In response to the Lifelong Learning Entitlement initiative, a majority of business schools (51%) affirm that they are modifying their executive education offerings, and more than a third are making adjustments to their postgraduate programs (39%). This reflects a proactive approach in adapting to evolving educational policies and addressing the needs of a diverse student population.

“Business students, particularly those from international backgrounds, play a crucial role in sustaining the overall financial health of the university ecosystem. Their contributions extend beyond the confines of business education, providing essential revenue to support the costs of teaching and research across a diverse array of subject areas. 

As one of the United Kingdom’s most successful exports, business and management education also serves as a valuable asset in enhancing the country’s soft power on the global stage.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.