Shift To Remote Learning Does Nothing To Slow MBA Applications

The forced shift to online learning at many MBA programs around the world over the last 18 months did little to assuage demand for the world’s top business degree with a new survey of 216 business schools around the world showing a 7% increase in applications from 2019 to 2020.

The new research from the Association of MBAs (AMBA) showed 43% of MBA programs were taught online in 2020, despite only 12% of programs being intended to be taught this way.

The AMBA Application and Enrolment Report 2021 also found that despite global turbulence, the volume of applications received by each Business School increased by a worldwide average of 7% from 2019 to 2020. The volume of applications received by each individual programme increased by an average of 9% in the same timeframe.

Andrew Main Wilson, CEO of the Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association (AMBA & BGA) said the the Covid-19 pandemic began to impact Business Schools just weeks into the calendar year of 2020.

“The results from this study demonstrate the continued excellence of AMBA-accredited Business Schools and their ability to expand their programmes in this ever-more demanding higher education landscape,” he said.

Key Findings

  • Globally, the volume of applications received by each Business School increased by an average of 7% from 2019 to 2020. The volume of applications received by each individual programme increased by an average of 9% in the same timeframe.
  • Application volume per programme increased by 45% in Africa, 23% in India and 22% in the UK from 2019 to 2020.
  • The global average proportion of women enrolling onto MBA programmes rose by one percentage point between 2019 and 2020, from 38% to 39%.
  • Globally, 76% of MBA teaching was intended to be classroom-based, but only 29% of courses were ultimately carried out in a classroom.
  • 41% of courses were carried out online when only 11% were originally intended to be taught online.

Globally, there was an increase of 7% in applications per Business School and an increase of 9% to individual programmes from 2019 to 2020, indicating that demand for MBA programmes across the AMBA network grew between 2019 and 2020.

The region with the most significant increase in applications was Africa, which had an increase of 45% in applications per School and per programme. Per School, the second-largest increase was in Oceania, where applications rose by 31%. This was followed by the UK, where Schools reported an average increase of 26%. The largest drop in demand was in Asia and the Middle East, where the volume of applications fell by 15%.

Globally, the proportion of women applying to MBA programmes remained at 40% between 2019 and 2020, with no region experiencing a change of more than a single percentage point. The global average proportion of women enrolling onto MBA programmes rose by one percentage point, from 38% to 39% in the same timeframe.

The conversion rate – defined as the percentage of applicants who ultimately enrolled onto a programme – dropped from 36% in 2019 to 34% in 2020 among female applicants worldwide, while the equivalent rate among male applicants dropped from 39% to 36%.

Comparing firstly the intended mode of delivery in 2020 to that used in 2019 shows some evidence of programmes moving away from a classroom approach to blended or online teaching, even before the impact of Covid-19 is considered. If programmes had been taught in the way they were intended in 2020, the classroom teaching mode would have decreased by eight percentage points, from 83% to 75%.

However, these changes seem insignificant when comparing the mode of delivery in 2019 with the actual most-used mode of delivery in 2020, showing the impact and disruption caused by Covid-19. Globally, programmes taught in the classroom decreased by 55 percentage points between 2019 and 2020. Programmes taught online increased by 36 percentage points from 7% in 2019 to 43%, again when looking at the most-used delivery mode in 2020.

To view the full report, click here. 

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Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).