Shifts in the MBA Market


The current recession has had a huge impact on the MBA market from enrolment rates to study plans and course duration. The 2009 QS Applicant Survey has shed light on various key findings. For example, enrolment in Executive MBA (EMBA) programs has seen a decline. This is an indication that most candidates feel they will have less access to corporate sponsorship – traditionally associated with EMBAs – than ever before.

There has also been a noticeable decrease in interest in two-year programs and increase in one-year programs. This is reflected in the significant decrease in candidates interested in studying in the US, which predominately runs two-year programs, and in light of the recession is much more costly than in comparison to Australia and Europe. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Application Trends survey 2009 draws the same observation, “One-year full-time MBA programs reported the strongest application volume. Nearly 7 in 10 indicated growth in the number of applications received.” The GMAC report goes on to point out, “Whereas in 2008 the United States spearheaded the growth in the number of applications to full-time MBA programs, it appears that growth in 2009 was primarily driven by programs located in other world regions across all MBA program types.”

A significant increase in the number of female applicants, up 7% from 2008, represents a visible shift in MBA applicant demographics. Nonetheless, women continue to believe that they will receive lower salaries than their male counterparts after graduating from an MBA program. This seems to be a widely held view according to Diana Middleton , Education Reporter at the Wall Street Journal. She says, “Despite having similar educational backgrounds and experience, female MBA-holders are still not getting the same pay, positions, or promotions as their male colleagues.”

Additional observations from the QS Applicant Survey show that there is an increase in the number of years of work experience as well as a shift in motivation for embarking on the MBA program. The quality of applicants improved in comparison to previous years, both in the years of work experience and academic qualifications. Applicants, realising possible instability of the job market after graduation, were motivated towards entrepreneurship and self employment.

QS is currently carrying out the 2010 MBA Applicant Survey and it will be interesting to see whether there is a shift in current perceptions or if the 2009 trends will hold.

Graduate Management Admission Council. Application Trends Survey (2009)

Middleton, D (2010). Women M.B.A.s Continue to Lag in Pay, Promotions. Wall Street Journal, February 2010

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