Market Report | It’s a pick-and-mix world for Masters students

27 August 2020

Senior Consultant Claudia Monteiro crunches the findings of CarringtonCrisp's Tomorrow's Masters market report. 


The MBA is often seen as the cheetah of postgraduate education for its ability to quickly boost salaries and accelerate careers. But times are changing as more and more students opt for Finance, Data or Management Master’s, leaving the classic jewel of business education with less ground to run through.

Tomorrow’s Masters reports on how prospective students view Masters degrees, a study CarringtonCrisp has been producing with EFMD for the last seven years.

During that period specialised Masters programmes have increased in popularity all over the world. According to the GMAC Application Trends Report of 2019, the number of business Masters programmes now exceeds that of MBAs, and it has done so since 2018.

As far as trends go this one didn’t land overnight. Across the various market reports we create, prospective students are clearly signalling flexibility, specialisation and personalisation as major plus points.

This, in part, can explain the rise in popularity of stackable degrees, with 39% of students saying they would consider taking this route – up from 33% only a year ago.

Adding masterclasses and electives in high-demand skills areas is also increasingly attractive for tomorrow’s business student. Two years ago Said Business School at Oxford University launched an elective programme on Big Data for 40 students on the finance degree; it was so oversubscribed that a second intake was immediately needed.

Those schools in a position to work with other faculties will be best placed to offer personalisation. Imperial College Business School taps into the main university’s areas of excellence in climate change and technology to offer electives. As a result, applications for its Masters in Finance are up 15 per cent year-on-year and its diversity is something most schools can only dream of, with women making up 50% of the 2019 cohort.

This also goes to show that business Masters can be seen as a nimble response to those skills shortages identified by employers. More and more schools are offering Data Analytics degrees and we can expect other technology-related areas to follow suit, with Cybersecurity and Technology Management growing ever more popular.

The pandemic will boost certain trends and throw a question mark over others. Subjects like Supply Chain and Logistics, and Healthcare Management have seen an uptick.

Chinese students are increasingly favouring Masters degrees over full-time MBAs, but restrictions on travel will inevitably point them to schools closer to home. 2020 was the year when online delivery moved away from being a stated goal in the strategic plan; it became a lifeline. But even though demand for online degrees almost doubled, it remains a small part of the overall market.

In this brave new world of online learning fees will see some readjusting. We’re entering a global recession just as new digital players and private entrants are offering degrees and alternative qualifications. Tomorrow’s Masters suggests that 33% of prospective students would consider short online programmes with providers such as Linkedin Learning. New players are seen as a convenient source for updating skills at a lower cost.

So perhaps the question is this – do you see opportunities, or only threats? Some would say it’s a matter of perspective.

Buy Tomorrow's Masters 2020 market report (£350)


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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