Call for nominations: Chartered ABS International Committee

The Chartered Association of Business Schools is seeking new members for our International Committee.

12th June 2024

Results from the 2023 Chartered ABS Annual Membership Survey

13th November 2023

The Chartered Association of Business Schools’ membership survey is the annual barometer of the issues, opportunities, and priorities for the UK’s business schools. The 2023 survey results reveal the significant contribution business schools make to UK Higher Education, including their ability to recruit a diverse student body from across the globe and to address social mobility at home. 

This year’s findings show a divergence in student enrolments across the sector, and other signals of a challenging environment, that could give concern to many universities.

Against a backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis, rising university costs, and government changes to visa policies, the results reveal the extent that universities rely on business students for vital income to support a diverse range of learning experiences and research across subject areas.

The survey highlights that the top strategic priority for UK business schools remains student satisfaction, followed by international student recruitment and financial performance. The results also reveal how the sector is adapting to the changing policy landscape and continuing to make progress on EDI and sustainability.

Robert MacIntosh, Chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools, said: “Business students, and in particular international business students, are a vital source of revenue for the entire university ecosystem, underpinning the costs of teaching and research across a much broader range of subject areas than just business. As one of the UK’s most successful exports, our business and management education is also an asset to the UK’s soft power abroad.

“This year’s member survey suggests that there is genuine cause for concern with declines in UK and non-EU international students. If those trends continue there would be huge implications for business schools, for their parent universities and more widely for UK plc. We are calling for a national cross-sector and cross-party conversation on university funding to ensure that the consequences of policy changes, such as those relating to foundation year funding and to student visas are fully understood. Only by working in partnership will we secure the global reputation of our business schools and universities.”

Some highlights from the survey are offered below and the full report can be viewed here.  

Enrolments of UK students have declined or remained static for most schools. The performance in enrolling non-EU international students is more variable; the largest share of schools reported growth while a third saw a decline
  • For enrolments of UK students on aggregate, 29% of schools reported that they were higher relative to 2022/23, 32% said they were unchanged, and 39% said they were lower.

  • For non-EU international students, there is some divergence, with nearly half of the schools reporting that enrolments were higher, 23% reporting unchanged enrolments, and 33% seeing a slight or significant decline. 

  • The overall picture for EU enrolments is largely unchanged, with 69% of schools reporting enrolments were approximately the same and 23% reporting falls. 

UK universities remain heavily reliant on the income generated by the recruitment of students by business schools and the financial outlook for the year ahead are pessimistic 
  • Respondents are less optimistic about income levels than they were last year. While 28% and 49% of respondents in 2022 stated that they expected significant and moderate increases in income respectively, these numbers have fallen to 9% and 36% in this year’s edition of the survey. 30% of business schools expect a decrease in income compared to only 2% in last year’s survey.

  • In regard to expenditure, 64% of respondents reported that expenditure in 2022/23 was higher than expected and 68% expect expenditure to rise again in 2023/24. 

  • For undergraduate domestic and postgraduate international students, 94% and 98% of respondents, respectively, reported that their parent universities were reliant on this income, highlighting the risk posed to the wider sector of any reduction in business school income. 

UK business schools remain committed to student satisfaction and are responding to the changing regulatory environment 
  • The top three priorities for UK business schools are student satisfaction, recruitment of international students, and financial performance. Our survey highlights the challenges in recruiting international students against the backdrop of the government’s ban on visas for dependents of students, with 93% and 84% of respondents, respectively, anticipating an adverse impact on enrolments for postgraduate courses and MBA courses. 

  • The responses to our survey reveal the contextual factors experienced by our members in meeting the OfS condition B3 metrics on continuation, completion, and progression, and the pressures faced by students and business school staff in their efforts to secure positive outcomes. 

  • Business schools are already adapting some of their portfolios to respond to the government’s Lifelong Learning Entitlement, with roughly half of respondents adapting their Executive Education offerings, and 39% adapting their postgraduate programmes.   

Business schools are continuing to make progress on social mobility, inclusion, and sustainability
  • For almost half (49%) of survey respondents, the proportion of their students from neighbourhoods with low participation in higher education had increased over the last five years.

  • 90% of UK business schools who responded to the survey are voluntarily recording their ethnicity pay gap. 

  • More than half (57%) of UK business schools run a mentoring, sponsorship, or allyship programme to improve inclusion amongst their staff.

  • Almost three quarters (74%) of UK business schools or their universities have a net zero target. The most common target date for institutions to reach net zero is 2030.

The full 2023 Chartered ABS Annual Membership Survey covers a range of issues and data pertinent to the UK business school sector, including student recruitment, government policy, finances, campus utilisation, and approaches to EDI and sustainability. 

You can full the view report here.