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Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic on Prospective Business School Students Differs by Regions

Posted by Rahul Choudaha
Dr. Rahul Choudaha is Director of Industry Insights & Research Communications at GMAC. As an evangelist of graduate management education, he analyzes, presents, and writes to help business school professionals inform their admissions and marketing strategies. He has delivered over 150 conference presentations and has been quoted over 300 times in global media. Choudaha holds a doctorate in higher education administration.

Posted on Apr 22, 2020 4:00:00 PM

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How does the impact of COVID-19 differ by the region of prospective business school students? A new Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC™) survey suggests that candidates from the Middle East and Africa and Central & South Asia are more concerned about visa and travel restrictions; candidates from the United States and Europe are less likely to report that they are considering alternatives.


While the COVID-19 pandemic is global in its scope and reach, some regions are more impacted than others. These regional variations in the impact of COVID-19 are also likely to manifest themselves in the candidate’s journey towards graduate management education (GME) across geographies.

Before exploring regional shifts, it must be stated that  the aspirations of candidates to pursue graduate management education seems to remain stable across world regions; this is according to a GMAC survey of nearly 500 prospective students considering GME. Less than 10 percent of candidates reported that they were no longer planning to pursue GME [Europe (7%), East and Southeast Asia (7%), US (5%), Middle East and Africa (4%) and Central and South Asia (0%)].

So, how does the impact of COVID-19 differ by region?

For starters, the snapshot survey finds that there were differences in the percentage of candidates expressing concern about the impact of COVID-19 on their plans to pursue graduate management education. Only one-sixth of candidates based in the United States and Europe reported they were extremely concerned or very concerned as compared to 43 percent in Middle East & Africa, 29 percent in Central & South Asia and 23 percent in East & Southeast Asia.

This difference in the intensity of concern is also reflected in what respondents report as reasons for the concerns and considerations of the alternatives.

GMAC is collecting information about how Business Schools are responding to COVID-19 and sharing it with prospective candidates.


Concerns of visa and travel constraints vary by the regions

The survey snapshot suggests that candidates from certain regions are more concerned about visa and travel restrictions as compared to others.

Regions which are a key source of international candidates—defined as candidates whose preferred study destination is not their country of citizenship—seem to be more concerned about the ability to complete visa applications and secure visas as compared to regions which are more likely to be a destination of international candidates. One-third of candidates based in Central & South Asia (34%) and the Middle East & Africa (33%) reported concern about visas as compared to 13 percent in East & Southeast Asia, 5 percent in Europe and 3 percent in the United States.

Likewise, travel restrictions are a key concern among Middle East & Africa (50%) and Central & South Asia (42%) candidates as compared to those in the United States (25%), Europe (25%), and East & Southeast Asia (30%). Clearly, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 are affecting all candidates—international and domestic. However, candidates who require a visa have to overcome this additional barrier, which is likely to accentuate their concerns.    

The regional differences reported by the respondents about the impact of visa constraints and travel restrictions are also influencing the alternative considerations.

Considerations for alternatives vary by the regions

Candidates based in Europe (22%) and the United States (21%) are less likely to report that they are delaying the pursuit of a graduate business education as compared to candidates from East & Southeast Asia (43%), Central & South Asia (37%) and Middle East & Africa (37%).

Also, candidates based in the United States (68%) and Europe (60%) are more likely to report that they are not considering any alternatives such as applying to a school in different geographic area as compared to Central & South Asia (47%), East & Southeast Asia (40%) and Middle East & Africa (30%).

This suggests that candidates based in the United States and Europe are more likely to stay on course with their plans to pursue GME as they may be anticipating a return to normalcy by the start of their academic term. In contrast, candidates from East & Southeast Asia, Middle East & Africa, and Central & South Asia are more likely to delay their plans or consider alternatives.


The COVID-19 global pandemic is shifting the mobility patterns and choices of graduate management education candidates. The GMAC survey findings show the regional differences in the reasons for the concerns and the considerations of alternatives. As business school professionals respond to the evolving impact of COVID-19 they must double-down on understanding how prospective students in various regions are adapting to  pursue targeted engagement strategies.

Do you have any questions or suggestions related to this blog or other GMAC Research? Please click here to reach us.

About the Survey

This blog series is a part of the GMAC initiative to monitor and respond to the rapidly evolving impact of COVID-19 on graduate management education. The analysis reported in this blog is based on a total sample of 482 survey responses collected between March 4 and 31 from Prospective Student Survey. It is composed mostly of prospective students who are actively applying (29%) and who are currently researching programs (41%). Nearly two-thirds (64%) reported that they are planning to enroll in a graduate business program within the next 12 months. Nearly 9 in 10 are 30 years old or younger, about evenly split between those younger than 24 (45%) and 24 to 30 (42%). Certain regions, such as Latin America are not reported in this analysis due to a small number of respondents.

Find the most up-to-date information on GMAC’s Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) here.


An interim online GMAT exam is now available. Read more about it and receive updates related to other assessments, testing center closures, the GMAC Annual Conference, the MBA Tour and more at

Topics: Recruitment & Marketing, Research Insights

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