It’s no exaggeration to say that Indian and Chinese students are essential to both the academic and financial health of universities in the United States. The same is true of graduate business education.
According to the U.S. government’s Open Doors report, of the nearly 1 million international students (including undergraduates) who studied at U.S. higher-education institutions in 2020-2021, more than a third hailed from China, a percentage roughly the same year-over-year despite an overall drop in numbers and ongoing tension between the two countries. Meanwhile, just over 18% came from India, a slightly higher percentage than the previous school year.
That’s inverted in business schools: Since around 2019, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, Indians have outnumbered Chinese in U.S. B-schools after years of decline in Chinese student numbers. That trend continued in 2021, as indicated by data released as part of U.S. News’ 2022 ranking of the best business schools. Now, however, the numbers for both nationalities are trending upward.
Across part- and full-time MBAs, executive MBAs, and specialized master’s programs at the top 30 U.S. B-schools as ranked by U.S. News — in other words, for the vast majority of U.S. graduate business education programming — Indian students continued their dominance over Chinese and other non-U.S. nationalities, according to an analysis by Poets&Quants. Seventeen schools out of the 26 for which data was available reported Indian populations of 20% or more of their total international populations in 2021, same as in 2020, but nine reported 40% or more, up from five schools in 2020. Leading the way were the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, with 62% Indian students, followed by the University of Washington Foster School of Business at 58% and two schools at 50%: Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business and Arizona State Carey School of Business.
Conversely, only five B-schools reported 20% or more Chinese students among their total non-U.S. populations, down from seven schools in 2020, and only two — Washington University at St. Louis Olin Business School, at 94%, and Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management, at 42.6% — were above 40%. In 2020, three U.S. B-schools reported 40% or more Chinese students enrolled in their programs.
Overall, across the 26 schools that reported the data, the average Indian population was 28.5% in 2021, up from 27.9% in 2020, while the average Chinese population was 17.4%, up from 16.9%. It’s worth noting, however, that in 2020 the top school reporting these numbers was UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, while this year many more top schools are on record — with some notable exceptions including Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.
On the other end of the spectrum, the B-school with the lowest percentage of Indians in the overall population is Washington Olin, with just 2%, followed by MIT Sloan School of Management at 4%. Five schools out of 26 were below 10%. The lowest percentage of Chinese was reported at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 0.9%, followed by MIT Sloan (2.7%) and the University of Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management (3%); seven schools were below 10%.
A handful of schools had notable data differences. While most schools had Indians and Chinese 1-2 among all non-U.S. nationalities, that was not the case at MIT Sloan, where Chinese were fourth behind Spain and Brazil; UNC Kenan-Flagler, where Chinese were at less than 1% behind Mexico and South Korea; Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management, where South Korea was top with 14%, followed by India at 11%, and China was not listed; and the University of Florida Warrington College of Business, where Indians were the leaders at 27% but Mexico was second at 10% and China was not listed.
Only four schools reported more Chinese than Indians, led by Washington Olin's huge disparity of 94% to 2%; the others were Yale School of Management (31% Chinese, 12% Indian), Cornell Johnson (42.6% Chinese, 15.4% Indian); and Emory University Goizueta Business School (5.6% Chinese, 5.5% Indian).
Other notable nationalities:
See the next page for data on the cross-program populations of Indian, Chinese and other nationalities at the top U.S. B-schools.
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