Never mind the U.S. election, Alyssa King figures she's already a winner by coming to business school in Canada.
"I was actually looking at schools in the United States after I did my undergrad," says Ms. King, a Texas native who is studying for her MBA at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business in Vancouver.
"When I looked a little deeper, UBC stood out," she says. Ms. King says she was attracted by the school's diversity, both in the makeup of its student body and in its programming that includes required supervised work units to be done in other countries.
"There's quite a diverse group of professors here, and the class that they recruit is much more diverse than the classes I saw in the U.S.," she says.
Canada's MBA programs are reaching out to foreign students, not just those from the United States but from around the world. International MBA students are already in the majority at York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Carleton University's Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, Vancouver Island University and the University of Victoria.
These schools, and others like UBC's Sauder, are actively recruiting students from abroad.
"More than 50 per cent of our students are international, and in other years it has been more than 60 per cent," says Michael Holaday, Sauder's director of recruitment.
"We have students from 23 different countries," he adds. While only a handful come from the United States – Mr. Holaday is not sure of the exact number – the school spends a lot of time showcasing itself south of the border, particularly along the West Coast.
Canadian schools are capitalizing on a number of factors, including Canada's positive reputation not only for postsecondary education, but also as a stable developed economy with a good business climate.
"We live in a world where an MBA simply has to have an international focus," says Marcia Annisette, accounting professor and associate dean of students at Schulich.
"And over the last six months or so, Canada as a symbol of stability has become more profound in peoples' minds," she says.
The Economist, in its Oct. 29 lead editorial, has taken note. While conceding that Canada is "far from perfect," it observed that the country benefits from centrist, growth-oriented economic policies and a relatively welcoming immigration policy, particularly when compared with the immigration policies spouted by many candidates in this year's U.S. election.
Canada is also positioning itself as a bastion of pro-trade policies, at the same time as anti-trade rhetoric has been on the rise in the United States, especially after October, when Canada and Europe finally signed the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) that took seven years to negotiate.
"For me, there's a lot of appeal in going to an international business school as opposed to a U.S. one. It's close to home but still very far away in many respects," says Andrew Puente, an MBA student at Schulich who comes from New Orleans and hopes to do business in Latin America after he graduates.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), Canada received more international applicants for MBA programs than any other country in 2015, beating even perennial favourites such as the United States and Britain. Seventy-three per cent of all MBA applications were to Canadian schools – most from India, then China, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
At the same time, there does not appear to be a flood of U.S. students applying. "We have students from more than 50 countries, but we get a maximum of three U.S. students per year, and they tend to be students who had Canadian parents. We haven't seen a deluge, so to my mind there is no discernable trend," Dr. Annisette at Schulich says.
Recruitment continues to be robust in countries outside the United States for Canadian MBA programs. From Nov. 19 through 26 this month, the federal government is sponsoring its third international MBA showcase tour, called EduCanada, visiting five cities in India: Delhi, Chandigarth, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai. Schools get the opportunity to pitch their programs to perspective students and build the brand identity for their Canadian MBA degrees.
In Vancouver, Ms. King said she wondered about the cachet of a Canadian MBA compared with those from American schools before she enrolled, but she is not concerned now.
"An MBA is an MBA; it matters less where you go than what you learn," she says. She grew up with her family living in a number of countries, so the outward-looking approach to UBC Sauder's program appeals to her, she says.
The fees are also attractive, particularly right now as the loonie is low and the U.S. dollar remains relatively high. Mr. Holaday says fees for international MBA students at Sauder are $71,000 (they are capped for domestic students by the B.C. government at $41,000).
"The cost of an MBA in Canada is far lower than pursuing one in the U.S., where the top-tiered schools are about $130,000 (U.S.)," Dr. Annisette says. That means the payback for graduates in the working world will come faster, she adds.
Perhaps most important for international students is that they get to live in places such as Vancouver and Toronto – among the most diverse in the world.
"If you come here, without even trying you'll experience international life and multiculturalism," Dr. Annisette says.