Harvard Business School (HBS) is at risk of losing their supply of international students to isolationist policies that make it difficult for them to attend school, acquire US work visas upon graduation, and for companies to risk hiring them. This distances HBS from international business communities as they grow to rival the US in size and importance.
International students are hesitant to study in the US because of the political climate and fears of finding employment after graduation (Figure 1 []). 75% of US MBA programs saw a decrease in international applicants in 2016, despite 10% growth in overall GMAT test volume and 20% growth in international GMAT test volume since 2013 []. Those who do apply face a discouraging commercial and political climate, as a 2017 survey indicated 27.5% of US employers would hire international students, down from 34.2% in 2015 – and this survey was conducted before the White House presented an aggressive agenda on immigration reform [][].
HBS must expand its international influence to retain its status. The Harvard Business Review’s attempt to objectively identify the top 100 CEOs in the world found 54 to be helming companies headquartered overseas – this proportion will surely grow as GDP and population growth of the developing world outpaces the US []. Despite this trend, only 13% of HBS hires in 2017 accepted offers from companies based outside of the US – down from 17% in 2013 []. It is clear that business schools depend on successful alumni to attract students and provide financial support – the aforementioned trends indicate HBS will lack alumni in key growth markets in the years to come [][].
HBS has taken proactive steps to increase international exposure through the Field Global Immersion (FGI) program, the Global Initiative and it’s 14 global satellite offices. FGI is a 1-week consulting program in another country – firsthand exposure that is critical to convincing MBAs to work abroad []. The Global Initiative supports research and finds partners for the FGI program []. These efforts abroad do well to recruit students when US corporations dominate the world and there are reasonable prospects of international students working in the US; however, the value proposition breaks down when isolationism eliminates these prospects or when top firms originate overseas.
It is evident that Dean Nohira understands this trend, having stated, “if the 20th century was the American century, the 21st century will be the Global century, and one where game-changing ideas and radical innovations will emerge not just from the U.S., but from all over the world [].” However, the rise of isolationist policies means HBS must accelerate global outreach, spreading alumni to leading companies around the world. HBS can circumvent these policies by exporting MBA students. When HBS alumni head successful companies overseas it exposes prospective students to the HBS name, and sends the message that one must not acquire a visa or work in the US to profit from an HBS MBA.
The question becomes how to encourage students to work abroad. For starters, HBS should incentivize students to spend their summer internship overseas with a supplemental grant. Second, satellite campuses should be retooled to prioritize business outreach over research, with the intention of building relationships with top firms and encouraging worldwide recruitment in Boston. Finally, class size should grow to support the larger international market, and the percentage of international students should increase to pace global growth trends.
A truly international institution must extend beyond business partnerships and student recruitment – it must also increase international faculty and facilities to support this venture. The challenge will be how to support this expansion without diluting the quality of the product.
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 Graduate Management Admission Council, “GMAC 2017 Application Trends Report – Web Version,” https://www.gmac.com/~/media/Files/gmac/Research/admissions-and-application-trends/2017-gmac-application-trends-web-release.pdf, accessed November 2017
 National Association of Colleges and Employers, “Plans to Hire International Students Slide Again,” http://www.naceweb.org/talent-acquisition/candidate-selection/plans-to-hire-international-students-slide-again/, accessed November 2017
 Harvard Business Review, “The Best-Performing CEOs in the World 2017,“ https://hbr.org/2017/11/the-best-performing-ceos-in-the-world-2017, accessed November 2017
 Harvard Business School, “Trends – Recruiting – Harvard Business School,” http://www.hbs.edu/recruiting/data/Pages/trends.aspx, accessed November 2017
 Harvard Business Review, “The Power of Alumni Networks,” https://hbr.org/2010/10/the-power-of-alumni-networks,” accessed November 2017
 Greenberg, Jason and Fernandez, Roberto M., What’s the Value of Social Capital? A Within-Person Job Attributes, Offer and Choice Test (July 14, 2014). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5141-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2465908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2465908
Fortune, “Harvard’s grand experiment: Send 900 biz students abroad,” http://fortune.com/2011/12/15/harvards-grand-experiment-send-900-biz-students-abroad/, accessed November 2017
Harvard Business School, “HBS Global Initiative & Research Centers – MBA – Harvard Business School,” http://www.hbs.edu/mba/academic-experience/blog/post/hbs-global-initiative-and-research-centers, accessed November 2017
 Harvard Business School, “Messages from the Dean – About Us – Harvard Business School,” http://www.hbs.edu/about/leadership/dean/Pages/message-details.aspx?num=2671, accessed November 2017