Learn to love uncertainty to grow the MBA of the future

27 May 2019

For those in the MBA marketplace, learning to love uncertainty has become something of a requirement and is a focus of the newly released Tomorrow’s MBA report from CarringtonCrisp and EFMD. Stories of the MBAs demise abound, but are wide of the mark, although uncertainty remains a feature of the MBA market.

While the leading US business schools have in many cases found application numbers declining, they still have thousands of applicants to choose from each year. Much of the decline, which is focused on international students, may be due to political issues, but GMAC data shows US student numbers taking the GMAT test are down as well. In 2008-09, 130,508 US citizens took the GMAT, in 2018 that number was down to 73,556 and only 79% sent their test scores to MBA programmes.

It’s not just the number of applicants that are shifting, but course content that is also on the move. Last year’s Tomorrow’s MBA study found a surge in interest for Technology Management. In the new report, Corporate Finance makes a comeback having almost fallen out of the top 20 most valuable pieces of MBA content – it was rated the third most valuable piece of content this year, perhaps driven by students seeking careers in fintech start-ups.

Some full-time MBA programmes have closed in the USA and that trend may be spreading. Henley Business School in the UK recently announced the closure of its full-time MBA. Instead, students are choosing flexible approaches to the MBA; 40% of respondents in the 2019 Tomorrow’s MBA report express a preference for a flexible solution – part-time, executive, blended or fully online.

Rising fees have also proved to be a disincentive for prospective students with some questioning whether they will get the return on investment that they seek from an MBA degree. In Tomorrow’s MBA, only 5% of respondents indicated that they could personally pay the fees for their studies in full and upfront, with others seeking a combination of loans, scholarships, employer funding and other support to afford their MBA.

Add in changing skills sought by employers and students will question whether an MBA is the right route to acquire skills that will support career change. There are a growing number of cost-free or low-cost options for learners to acquire knowledge online with such approaches increasingly gaining credibility among employers.

For the MBA Programme Director, the future will increasingly mean embracing uncertainty, creating flexible programmes that meet the needs of schools, students and employers, innovating and looking forward rather than back.

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