The Most Important Characteristic Business Schools Look For When Recruiting MBAs

amba bga survey
The Association of MBAs (AMBA) and Business Graduates Association (BGA) surveyed business school leaders across a range of topics.

Prior experience of leadership or business is the most important characteristic business schools are looking for in potential students when assessing applications, according to a major new survey by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and Business Graduates Association (BGA).

AMBA and BGA surveyed 433 leading business school professionals globally in August and September last year.

About 96% of respondents identified ‘prior experience of leadership or business, as ‘fairly important’, ‘very important’ or ‘essential’ in recruiting students. Oral and written communication wa deemed to be the next most important (75% say it’s ‘important’ or ‘essential’), followed by interpersonal skills (72%) and academic achievement (62%).

The new report entitled ‘The business of Business Schools’ has been launched to coincide with AMBA’s Business School Leaders Forum (15-26 June 2020), and explores the overall structure of Business Schools and the qualifications they offer.

Other key findings include;

  • Two thirds of Business School leaders (66%) think the calibre of MBA graduates has increased over the past five years.
  • Leaders typically believe that factors relating to the reputation of their MBA (cited by 89%) and quality of their MBA (87%) have the greatest impact on demand for their programmes.
  • MBA rankings, which are a product of both internal and external factors, are also seen to have a substantial influence on demand. Seven in 10 deem both rankings (71%) and the marketing of their MBAs (67%) as influential factors.
  • Leaders were also asked whether they provide blended learning (by which at least 35% of the programme is delivered online). A third (33%) say that they do, six in 10 (60%) say they do not and 8% say they do not know. Those who say that their School conducts blended learning were asked what percentage of these programmes are conducted online.
  • The external factor deemed to have the greatest impact on demand for MBAs is levels of economic growth in participants’ home countries (59% gave this a significance of at least seven out of 10).
  • Political issues are seen to have less impact on Business School demand. Three in 10 (30%) gave at least seven out of 10 for domestic political issues and geopolitical issues (27%) as having an impact on demand. This low level of perceived impact may reflect the relative stability of the regions within which responding Business Schools are based.
  • Leaders were asked to state what proportion of their Business School cohort is international. On average, 46% of cohorts are made up of overseas students, illustrating the importance of international demand on the overall health of Business Schools.

Director of Marketing and Communications at AMBA & BGA David Woods-Hale said: “Something which comes across strongly in the findings is the high regard leaders have for the core elements of their Business School, such as the quality of its teaching and the calibre of its graduates.”

“Without these strong building blocks of educational institutions, and what they deliver to their core customers – the students – Business Schools would be unable to thrive and produce the kind of research and insight which can help shape the world.”

The survey was carried out just before a significant number of countries imposed lockdown restrictions in early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so this was not included as a factor in the questionnaire.

Leaders were also asked about the ways in which their Business Schools have innovated in terms of programme delivery in the past year. Positively, some of the measures Schools are taking relate to areas of improvement around flexible learning.

One in five say that their School has ‘increased the amount of digital and online learning opportunities’ (22%) and ‘offered flexible timings for delivering programmes’ (19%). Other frequently mentioned innovations include that they ‘collaborated with industry to deliver programmes’ (18%) and ‘increased capacity of teaching related to new technology and innovations (e.g. AI, big data)’ (17%).

Mr Woods-Hale said the study showed that Business Schools were evolving in how they deliver their programmes, with a substantial proportion of offerings now being delivered either fully or partially online.

“But (business school) leaders are also aware that more needs to be done to implement flexible working methods – and many report that their Schools have recently been innovating in terms of digital learning packages, or operating new ways of teaching methods such as flipped learning. In these areas there remains scope for further growth.”

Ben Ready
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 (