Have we passed peak-MBA or is the MBA continuing to evolve?

25 March 2024

Andrew Crisp considers what tomorrow’s MBA might look like given recent trends in the marketplace.


Two months ago, the FT ran an article quoting Julian Birkinshaw, LBS vice-dean responsible for Masters degree programmes saying, “We recognised that the MBA as a degree is mature. It has many many years to run but we are past peak MBA”.  But are we truly past peak MBA or are we simply past peak 2 year, full-time on-campus MBA?

Today’s MBAs are delivered in a myriad of formats in a host of different environments.  The question might be better phrased ‘What is an MBA today and what might it look like in the future?’

At CarringtonCrisp, our Tomorrow’s MBA study has looked at the views of prospective students for 15 years.  Undoubtedly there has been a slow down in interest in full-time MBAs, but the market remains busy.  Part-time, Executive, blended, hybrid and mini-MBAs, along with the full-time MBA, all make up part of a crowded marketplace with demand across all formats.

So why has the shape of demand changed and why is it continuing to change?  COVID and technology have been drivers of change, but it’s not as simple as that.  Flexibility is to the fore with individual students increasingly seeking an MBA that meets their particular needs and delivers what they want in terms of career outcomes.  In the soon to be published Tomorrow’s MBA 2024 report, 72% suggest it is very or extremely important that an MBA/EMBA offers flexible approaches that don't involve full-time study.

The report has a variety of clues as to what a future MBA may look like.  Almost four out of ten, 38%, indicate they won’t study abroad as they couldn’t give up their job to travel.  Asked why they might not study an MBA, 28% indicate that if their personal circumstances changed and they could no longer take their preferred programme they wouldn’t pursue MBA studies.  Just under a quarter (23%) would be put off if the fees were too much.

However, the importance of the career advancement outcome is clear - 23% indicate they may not pursue an MBA if they feel that recruiters/potential employers do not value the MBA as highly as in the past.

And then there is MBA content.  Across traditional topics, Leadership remains most desired followed by Strategy and International Business.  However, more than twice as many respondents want to study Artificial Intelligence compared to Leadership.  Leadership also remains a key skill to develop, but only just ahead of Project Management.

Perhaps the most telling change is the growing interest in what is called a mini-MBA, especially when combined with a leading business brand.  Offered eight mini-MBAs, a minimum of 42% of the respondents indicated they were aware of and would consider those listed, rising to 57% for the PWC Mini-MBA.



The Tomorrow’s MBA report will be published in April and will be available for purchase on the CarringtonCrisp website.

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