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MBA Programs with the most international students

MBA Programs with the most international students

Education is a global endeavour. And imparting education to everyone is the end goal – age, social and financial status, region and religion, gender, or anything else that differentiates us, aside.

At the very least that is the pipe dream, globally. And to that highly utopian goal, international student mobility has provided an excellent avenue for education globalization.

Students stand to gain in terms of exposure, opportunities, and the ability to partake in some of the best programs in some of the best universities around the world.

For instance, the number of Indian students studying in USA is about 200,000. About 65% of those are studying at the graduate level.

Universities, as well, profit a lot from the participation of international students in their community.

For one, the financial aspect alone brings a lot of warmth to this welcome. International enrolment spells money – be it the additional tuition that international students end up paying as compared to domestic students, or the gain to the economy as a consequence of their presence.

In the recent past, a study showed that the then million international students, through their presence alone, added up to nearly $33 million to the US economy.

Besides the fiducial aspect, international students add the flavour of diversity that is essential in this global environment, for any work space.

Some of these international students graduate to become a strong alumni connection spread all over the world, including countries with booming economies and in need of business leaders.

A pretty neat way of spreading a good word for the business schools as well as creating more employment opportunities for future graduates to come.

This picture of diversity is especially evident in competitive programs like the international MBA.

International students provide business schools with a highly voluminous pool of excellent and competitive candidates that raise the overall education standard and experience in the programs. Some MBA programs even boast well over 50% international student enrolments.

As one can guess, China has been a major supplier to this international mix for the longest time (nearly one-third of all international MBA students).

However, in the past few years, India has been steadily closing the gap in their numbers (according to a 2019 GMAC survey). We will indicate some of the numbers in the table below.

But before we do, let us explore what makes international MBA attractive to Indians?

Why is International MBA gaining popularity among Indian MBA Applicants?

One major reason is the format. Unlike most Indian MBA programs, that are typically offered to fresh out of school undergraduates with a CAT score, an international MBA with a GMAT is relevant at a later stage in ones’ career.

The 4-5 years of work experience serves as a great juncture to step back and evaluate ones’ growth and the potential for further development.

An Oracle study recently found that 97% of the Indian work force feel unsatisfied with their job, a much larger number than the global 83% (13 countries evaluated).

And while an MBA may not make sense for all of them, a break-up of the causes and inability to correct that course shows that 27% are unsure whether a career change is suitable.

Even a most conservative estimate says that a large number of eligible and competitive Indians, with a few years of work experience, may be looking to change their career and boost it with a professional management degree like the MBA.

An international MBA, in such cases, can be a great turning point in their careers.

International MBAs also provide qualified Indian graduates a channel to enter the workforce abroad. For instance, a placement in a reputed corporation, post MBA in the US, can lead to an H1B sponsorship. For ambitious professionals, who want the international exposure for a successful career, this is a perfect path.

Compensations too, as compared to jobs before and even after an MBA in India, are much more in USA and Europe.

For those who are worried about paying their way through the MBA expense, the attractive salaries post international MBA can help them be that less worried.

So can the various scholarship, financial aid, or loan, opportunities that are now more readily available than say a few years ago.

Indians as a student population, as well, are generally better performers in GMAT or other competitive tests, and they tend to excel in the MBA curriculum as well.

And the growing numbers of alumni population across the globe, who belong to the Indian subcontinent, only adds to the confidence of future Indian MBA aspirants.

Read Is studying abroad worth it?

To see, in numbers, here is a snippet of GMAT test takers from India between 2015 and 2019, as obtained from GMAC Test Taker survey.

Exams Taken in India Testing Year 2015 Testing Year 2016 Testing Year 2017 Testing Year 2018 Testing Year 2019 Total Scores Sent 2019 %MBA %Business Master’s %PhD/
Total 29,432 33,046 32,514 32,425 30,590 83,916 81.3% 16.8% 2.0%
Male 21,006 23,110 22,585 21,975 20,454 57,099 82.6% 15.4% 2.0%
Female 8,426 9,936 9,929 10,448 10,131 26,803 78.4% 19.8% 1.8%
Mean Age 26.1 26.2 26.2 26.2 26.1 26.0 27.0 24.0 30.0
Mean Total Score 577 577 583 583 578 622 628 595 621

This is one of the highest GMAT test taking tally, only to be beat by numbers from China and USA.

Interesting to note here is that though the number of Chinese test takers are nearly double the Indian test takers in the various years, the final number of total scores sent in 2019 are still relatively close.

Also, the fact that Indians mostly apply for an MBA degree abroad whereas a large percentage of Chinese test takers apply to other Business Master’s degree programs instead.

Exams Taken in China Testing Year 2015 Testing Year 2016 Testing Year 2017 Testing Year 2018 Testing Year 2019 Total Scores Sent 2019 %MBA %Business Master’s %PhD/
Total 64,240 70,537 68,906 71,223 70,473 95,682 19.7% 74.7% 5.7%

Note: American test-taker data, most of whom are domestic applicants within USA, surpassed both India and China with 138,334 scores sent in 2019. 79% of those scores were sent to MBA programs with the rest to MS or PhD programs.

Percentage of Indian and other International Students at Top US Business Schools

We have chosen the top-ranking b-schools and listed their international student enrolment (from their pages). A further break up of those numbers indicating Indian enrolment in all business programs has been obtained from Poets & Quants (Source: US News Ranking).

Business School International Student MBA Enrolment Indian Student Enrolment (All Programs)
University of Pennsylvania, Wharton 36%
83 Countries
Columbia Business School 48% 5.6%
University of Chicago, Booth 49%
56 Countries
Yale School of Management 44% 12%
MIT Sloan 43%
64 Countries

Among the well-known MBA programs, the following b-schools report having the most enrolment of Indian students in all business programs (Source: Poets & Quants).

Business School Indian Student Enrolment (All Programs)
University of Texas Austin, McCombs 62%
University of Washington, Foster 58%
Rice University, Jones 50%
Arizona State University, Carey 50%
Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper 45%


What makes an international business school Indian student friendly?

Like any relationship, the connection between a business school and a particular cohort of students is built over time. It comes from reputation, feedback, and most significantly through alumni who share a similar background as the new aspirant.

Normally, all reputed b-schools have some form of unique marketable edge that appeals to different MBA aspirants.

For instance, University of Texas McCombs has 62% Indian enrolment in its various business programs. India has a massive pool of technology and IT applicants to MBA who usually aim for a career in senior management in the Tech industry. McCombs’ diverse Tech specialization opens up a lot of doors.

It has over 20 areas of Tech concentration, in its curriculum, that train students to leverage their IT knowledge and compliment it with financial and strategic aspects for highly efficient business management.

Not very unlike many reputed schools, McCombs has a strong recruitment connection in India, involving student ambassadors who communicate with Indian MBA aspirants through events or virtual sessions.

Success begets success. Its historical trend of growing Indian enrolment also means an equally large number of Indians graduating each year, adding on to a successful alumni connection all across the globe with a familiarity of a similar background.

Typically, what appeals to a particular nationality of international students, besides the “best fit” of a business program, its employment statistics, rankings or alumni connections, are certain logistical aspects of studying abroad. Broadly, some of them are:


How well the b-school is situated. It can be for business network connections, social connections such as existing Indian population/clubs for new Indian students, or something even more basic like the weather.


MBA programs are typically way too expensive by Indian standards. Loans aside, the scholarship opportunities or fellowships/grants for Indians can really help cement the decision in favour of a particular business school.

For instance, the JN Tata Endowment for Higher Education of Indians offered at Yale SOM, Toronto Rotman, and more. Or The Ramakrishnan Family Scholarship and Akhtarali H. Tobaccowala Fellowship, both of which are aimed at Indian students at Chicago Booth.
If an MBA is part of your plan, take a minute (and a few months in change) to explore your needs and see which international MBA program helps you gain your career momentum.

And if you need professional help in your application, reach out to us at info[at]mbacrystalball[dot]com.
And check these quick reads to help you gain further insight.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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