In 2023, the number of Indian aspirants pursuing their MBA aspirations in Canada reached a nadir not witnessed in the past five years

NEW DELHI: The year 2023 bore witness not only to a discernible downturn in the diplomatic relations between India and Canada but also to the nadir in the influx of aspirants seeking graduate management education (GME) to the North American domain, marking a five-year low. Canada, holding the fourth rank as a preferred destination for Indian students aspiring for an international MBA degree, saw a noticeable decline in interest.

According to experts, Indians are increasingly reluctant to participate in exchange programmes in Canada, primarily citing the dearth of employment opportunities and the prevailing economic circumstances.

However, Professor Himanshu Rai, Director of IIM, Indore, cautioned against drawing hasty conclusions regarding the underlying causes.

The downward trajectory commenced in 2020 amidst the onset of the COVID pandemic, witnessing a descent from 14% to 11%, and it failed to rebound thereafter, culminating in the steepest decline in 2023 (plummeting from 10% to 6%). In contrast, destinations such as the United States, Central and South Asia, Western Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and Australia, albeit impacted by the pandemic, are showing signs of recovery, as indicated by the latest annual “Prospective Students Survey 2024 Report” by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), exclusively accessed by TOI.

As per the QS Global MBA Rankings 2024, six B-schools from Canada feature among the top 100, while four B-schools are highlighted in the Financial Times Business School Rankings (MBA 2024).

The study reveals an eight-percentage point decrease in candidate preference for studying in Canada compared to 2019, juxtaposed with an eight-point increase in Indian candidates’ preference for studying within Central and South Asia.

The report notes, “Given that the survey was conducted throughout the calendar year 2023, it is plausible that challenges in diplomatic relations between India and Canada contributed to the recent decline, although the year-over-year change is part of a more protracted decline since 2019.”

As interest among MBA aspirants in Canada diminishes, Vaibhav Gupta, founder and CMO of iSchoolConnect, attributes recent diplomatic tensions, soaring accommodation costs, economic instability coupled with a volatile job market, and province-wise restrictions on international students as deterrence factors. The cost of living in Canada has surged, economic conditions are unfavourable, and employment opportunities have dwindled, Gupta added.

The report also highlights the growing inclination towards studying closer to home, stating, “Indian candidates now exhibit greater interest in pursuing studies within the country and the region, with approximately one-third expressing a preference for proximity to home.”

This trend aligns with the observation that since 2019, the proportion of candidates intending to apply outside their countries of citizenship has decreased from 72% to 67%. Moreover, domestic applications within India have witnessed a significant surge from 41% in 2022 to 53% in 2023.

The report interprets this as a consequence of enhanced “educational and economic opportunities” in the subcontinent, as the number of Indians pursuing international GME in Central and South Asia rose from 18% in 2019 to 26% in 2023, with no decline even during the COVID pandemic.

The United States retains its status as the foremost destination for candidates globally, with 38% of Indian candidates expressing a preference for it. As Gupta elucidates, “it boasts an extensive array of universities, exceeding 4,000.”. Central and South Asia emerge as the second preferred destinations, attracting 26% of Indian aspirants, followed by Western Europe, favoured by 24% of Indian candidates.