US business school closures: How to safeguard your study plans?

SOURCE: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP
Business Schools in the US are cutting down on full-time MBA programme offerings reflecting the general drop in applications.

By U2B Staff 

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Changing MBA landscapes spurred on by rising tuition fees, poor enrolment, and COVID-19 has led to many discontinued MBA programmes and business schools shutting down.

The latest business school to close its full-time MBA programme, albeit temporarily is the University of Missouri. According to a report, the university is stopping its full-time MBA programme at the Trulaske College of Business, albeit temporarily.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be making it harder for business schools to survive, but the ecosystem has been increasingly hostile to business school survival for some time now.

The GMAC Application Trends Survey 2018 analyses of data submitted by 1,087 graduate business school programmes at 363 business schools across the globe.

Survey findings indicate that applications within the US dropped by 7% in that period. Regionally, most MBA programmes in US business schools reported a decline in application volumes.

The report showed that even as far back as 2018, business school MBA programmes in the US reported a 53% drop in international applications.  In 2017 and 2018 international applications to US Business School MBA programmes dropped by 10.5% while domestic applications were down by 2%.

The list of business school MBA programmes that are closing continues to grow. University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business saw its last full-time MBA students graduate in 2019.

The Gies College of Business, University of Illinois also announced that it was closing its full-time, on-campus programme in the same year.

Business schools in the UK also show similar trends. The Henley Business School initially placed its MBA programme under review before closing.


How to make sure that you choose a business school and MBA programme that will not be discontinued?

U2B reached out to Duncan Chapple to seek his advice for prospective MBA students to choose a school that will last and how to avoid enrolling into programmes or business schools that will be discontinued down the line.

Chapple is a doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh business school who specialises in teaching and researching new ventures and new markets. Chapple’s research focuses on informatics and digital entrepreneurship and he has also lectured at Lancaster, Manchester, Sheffield, and Nottingham business schools.

He also has a track record of matching professionals to the right MBA and the right business school for years and is a business school admissions consultant.

“Over the last 20 years, we have seen lots of changes in the business education market. The full-time MBA used to be the dominant way of getting a master’s degree in business administration. And now that is not the case, many schools here in the UK have got many more students who are taking MBAs in a non-traditional format than in the traditional, full time, on-campus experience,” he said.

This shift has led to business schools having more students enrolled in non-traditional MBA pathways and in many countries, the MBA market has moved so aggressively that business schools are questioning whether it makes sense to continue offering full-time MBA programmes.

MBA programme
Chapple is also the co-founder of the Institute for Industry Analyst Relations and co-authored three books on relationship marketing.

He adds that even if a business school closes its full-time MBA, that does not necessarily mean the school is inferior to its counterparts. In fact, this could simply mean that the school has discovered a far more effective way to go to market.

Chapple added that even if business schools close their full time, on-campus MBA programmes, that that does not really reflect a defeat but rather just reflects a shift in the business model.

Migration policies and a general reduction in international study and work visas are also a contributing factor to this decline.

He said, “I think what we have also seen is that there are some schools that have had moments of advantage. The University of Bradford, for example, had a very successful full-time MBA programme during a period when it was easier for international students to be able to get work permits in the UK. That situation has changed in the UK and in the US and some other countries.”

The change in political sentiment towards international students meant that schools that were especially strong at helping foreigners to develop international mobility have found themselves in a less strong position.

As a result, a business school that has an unusual and distinctive business model will be pushed into a vulnerable position if it is dependent on these external factors.

Chapple concludes that the easiest way to choose the right MBA programme in the right business school is to choose a school that has been around for a long time and it is very well established.

He adds that choosing a school that rises too quickly although it was not strong ten to 20 years ago comes at a bigger risk, as it tends to be more volatile.