Business degrees offer one of the best guarantees of post-study employment
Business degrees offer one of the best guarantees of post-study employment © Enrico Della Pietra/Dreamstime

Business and administration is by far the most popular degree subject in the UK, accounting for 342,970 student enrolments in the 2017-18 academic year, more than those taking maths, computer science or engineering and technology combined.

A membership survey by the Chartered Association of Business Schools showed that the number of people studying business at university is set to hit a new record in the UK this year thanks to strong undergraduate demand, growth in management level apprenticeships and a relaxation of visas for overseas students.

Fees from these courses are driving growth in revenue for UK business schools — expected to exceed £4bn this year — according to the survey, which is published ahead of the association’s annual conference this week.

Business degrees are popular because they offer the best guarantee of post-study employment of all but professional degrees such as medicine and dentistry, according to Julia Clarke, pro-vice chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University and chair of council at the CABS.

“Students understand the relevance in business degree subjects and their effect on future employment,” said Ms Clarke.

She added that professional development is a key part of any business degree and most business schools have close relations with local employers. “We listen to what they need, enabling us to reflect that through our curriculum.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent reversal of student visa work rules for non-EU nationals imposed by Theresa May in 2012 is expected to help UK business school revenues rise further in 2020 through increased numbers of overseas students.

About 79 per cent the schools responding to the CABS survey said they were targeting new students from outside the EU.

The survey also showed that schools see further opportunities in management degrees that can be funded through the apprenticeship levy, which is imposed on the UK’s largest employers.

Two-thirds of respondents to the CABS survey said they currently offer degree apprenticeships, and 51 per cent of these have plans to increase the number of degree apprenticeships they offer.

The survey showed that the biggest concern of business schools in the coming year is attracting research funding, with two-thirds citing this as their main worry, up from 56 per cent in last year’s poll.

Research funding adds little to business school coffers, but it is important because of its wider impact on the economy, according to Ms Clarke. “We need that business research to be happening in order to figure out how to close what we know is a serious productivity gap in the UK,” she said.

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