2 in 3 Prospective B-School Students In This Region Put A Premium On Diversity

If business schools want to appeal to candidates from Eastern Europe, they must prioritize equity and inclusion in their admissions and programming. Sustainability, too, must be a major priority to gain the interest of these students.

That’s a key takeaway from the Graduate Management Admission Council’s annual Prospective Students Survey Report, which was released earlier this spring. It finds that a large majority of Eastern European students would rule out a university or business school when equity, inclusion, and sustainability are not prioritized.

“Sustainability, equity, and inclusion are global issues in higher and business education, and we’re seeing that they resonate especially well with individuals from Eastern Europe who are aspiring for advanced business education,” says Sara Strafino, GMAC’s director of market development for Europe.

67% OF EASTERN EUROPEAN STUDENTS DEMAND DEI

GMAC’s Prospective Students Survey Report measures the needs and expectations of individuals seeking business education. The 2024 report utilizes the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals framework to assess equity, inclusion, sustainability, and well-being within business education; this year’s survey collected responses from 4,105 participants spanning 132 countries. Among them, 42% were female, 61% were from Gen Z, and 29% were from underrepresented U.S. populations.

The findings underscore that prospective university students are increasingly prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion — DEI — when selecting academic institutions. Universities that fail to embrace these principles risk losing out on attracting a substantial portion of prospective students, GMAC found — a major challenge for admissions at U.S. business schools, now operating under a Supreme Court ban on affirmative action and many state initiatives restricting preferential treatment for women and under-represented minorities.

Failure to prioritize DEI won’t fly in Eastern Europe, GMAC found: 67% of prospective students from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and 19 other Eastern European countries consider equity and inclusion important or very important to their academic experience, and for many, a lack of these topics would be a deal breaker for them. Furthermore, 50% said the same about sustainability as an integral part of a school’s curriculum.

In comparison to non-European countries, on average, students from the United States (60%), Latin America (68%), and the Middle East (65%) all expressed that they would not consider a school that showed a lack of equity and inclusion initiatives.

ONLY ABOUT A THIRD SAY LACK OF DEI IS AN ABSOLUTE DEAL-BREAKER

Candidates from Africa and Asia were especially likely to say equity and inclusion are important to their academic experience, GMAC reports, but they are typically less likely to say they will not consider a school based on these dimensions.

Globally, an average of 36% of candidates said they would rule out a school for a lack of equity and inclusion efforts, despite 68% saying that equity and inclusion were important or very important.

The gender breakdown is significant: 81% of women respondents highlighted the importance of equity and inclusion, far more than the 61% of men who said the same. Women tended to be more socially conscious than men when citing the importance of equity and inclusion, sustainability, and well-being; but there was no significant difference between the men and women who prioritize these values when considering whether to reject a school for not adhering to them.

GMAC’s Sara Strafing says major events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine are impacting residents’ views in Eastern Europe.

“The region is witnessing profound geopolitical turmoil in their backyard and its permeating impact on people’s daily lives for the past years,” Strafino says. “It’s no wonder that for many of them it is critical to have an academic experience that helps contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals like reducing inequalities, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and developing sustainable cities and communities.”

DON’T MISS GMAC SURVEY: B-SCHOOL CANDIDATES WANT EQUITY & INCLUSION PROGRAMS — OVERWHELMINGLY and 4 TAKEAWAYS FROM GMAC’S 2024 PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS REPORT

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