A new generation of leaders?

09 December 2019

Changing trends in business Masters.

The market for the Masters in Management and specialist pre-experience Masters is substantial. In the testing year of 2018, GMAC found that 34.3% of its GMAT test takers used their results to apply for a business Masters. In East and South East Asia and Western Europe it was up to 65%. Add in the many programmes where schools don’t require a GMAT test to study and the market is big.

Quickly changing labour markets with demands for new skills from employers is certainly a driver. The pace of digital transformation has meant that skills that might have been taught at the start of an undergraduate programme may be out of date a few years later or at least need refreshing. In addition, there is the growing demand for older workers to reskill – the demand for a business Masters degree will not be limited to those with little or no experience. It is certainly is a big opportunity for business schools.

Carried out amongst 1,000 prospective Masters (non-MBA) students, the latest Tomorrow’s Masters study by CarringtonCrisp in association with EFMD investigates a number of trends including student views on what they want to study, how they want to learn and their motivations for doing so.

Blend of traditional and new subjects.

Business Ethics has increased significantly in popularity and is now the joint 5th most in demand subject, compared to only 18th in the previous study in 2018. The most popular subject is now Big Data/Business Analytics, rising from 7th in 2018. The other subject seeing a significant increase in interest is Business Forecasting/Modelling, rising 10 places from 15th in 2018 to joint 5th this year.

“Studying Business Ethics as a stand-alone degree marks a significant change in tastes among prospective students and one that business schools need to pay attention to,” comments Andrew Crisp, the author of the study. “From our regular research amongst MBA students, ethics has rarely been rated higher than 20th in popularity. However, prospective Masters students are generally younger and represent a new generation of business students with a growing interest in responsible management.”

This is reflected in wider higher education trends. In their recent article in University World News, “Towards new ways of becoming and being international,” Hans de Wit and Betty Leask argue that “it is more important than ever to focus on the social values at the centre of internationalisation.”

The demand for employees with skills in data management and the importance of data use among businesses is driving the demand for data science degree programmes. A Royal Society report from the UK in May 2019, Dynamics of data science skills, showed that demand for workers with specialist data skills has more than tripled over five years (+231%). Demand for all types of workers grew by only 36% over the same period.

New ways of learning.

It is not only the popularity of subjects that is changing but also the way students engage in learning. More than a third of respondents to the study said they would consider approaches other than a traditional Masters degree, namely a MicroMaster (33%), Digitally Badged Learning (34%) or a Short Online Course (34%).

The market for alternative forms of study is growing and the tendency is likely to continue but is highly dependent on employers’ attitudes. Andrew Crisp comments: “Demand from prospective students will only increase substantially once employers make it clear that alternative forms of study will be considered in the same way as formal degrees. The challenge for business schools is in aligning the needs of both students and employers when considering new learning methods.”

What does the future hold?

The study points to a big Masters market, but one in which the needs of students, and the skills and expertise demanded by employers are changing and evolving rapidly. Andrew Crisp concludes: “Masters are certainly a growth area for business schools. However, they need to be aware of increasing competition from both other schools and new market entrants.  Understanding student motivations, how they choose what and where to study and where they get information about study options will all be key to maintaining and growing a sustainable offer.”


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