Economic downturn prompts more to pursue their postgraduate studies

An unstable job market is prompting people to go back to school for their postgraduate studies.

By U2B Staff 

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An economic downturn is prompting many to go back to school and pursue their postgraduate studies.  

CGTN reports that China expects to see a whopping 3.77 million applicants — a jump of 360,000 over the previous year — attend its 2021 national postgraduate entrance examination from Saturday to Monday, said the Ministry of Education.


This marks a year-on-year increase of 10.6% of the applicants for postgraduate entrance examinations. The ministry notes that the number has increased more than 1.7 million over the past five years from 2.01 million in 2017 to 2.38 million in 2018, 2.9 million in 2019, and 3.41 million this year.

Despite the high number of applicants, the increase in enrollments has been slower. 

“Last year, 811,000 examinees were successfully enrolled, up from 762,000 in 2018 and 722,000 in 2017, the ministry said. The mismatch in growth rates of applicants and enrollees intensified the competition. The overall student enrolment rate has dropped from 36% in 2017 to 32% in 2018 and 28% last year,” said the report. 

So why are more people applying for an exam to pursue their postgraduate studies?

A survey by education website eol.cn found that the spike in domestic applications for postgraduate studies includes good employment prospects and growing competition in the job market.

In response to the reasons for pursuing a master’s degree, respondents said they hoped to improve their overall capability, strengthen their competitiveness in the job market and improve their chances of studying at a better university.

Chinese Academy of Educational Sciences researcher Chu Zhaohui told CGTN: “In order to enhance their employment competitiveness, college students try to improve their academic qualifications as much as possible. 

“Although the level of academic qualifications does not significantly improve the increase in professional ability. Employers usually attach great importance to academic qualifications.” 

The value of postgraduate studies is not lost

According to pundits, an economic downturn can be the perfect time for upskilling. 

In speaking about pursuing an MBA during a recession, Dr Christine Menges, MBA Careers Center director at the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, previously told U2B that it’s essential for professionals to ensure their skills are up-to-date to enhance their employability in preparation for a post-COVID-19 world.

“If you want to do an MBA and advance your career, it’s a good time to do it now because once the crisis is over, companies will be looking for talent that is most useful to them,” she said.

It may sound counterintuitive to pursue an MBA during a global health crisis – especially at a time when many companies may not be hiring – but the last global recession has shown that some resilient companies have continued to hire despite less than favourable market conditions, she said.


In a similar vein, it may benefit professionals to do the counterintuitive thing to help them be at the forefront once the crisis is over.

Similarly, a key finding in a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) report, The Impact of COVID-19 on the Hiring of Business School Graduates Corporate Recruiters Survey 2020, found that despite disruption to the global economy and future of work due to the pandemic, the confidence of corporate recruiters in the skills and abilities of graduate management talent remains strong. 

GMAC ran two rounds of data collection for the 2020 CRS report — Wave I and Wave II. 

During Wave I, 90% of respondents indicated they were highly confident or confident about the ability of graduate business schools to prepare students to be successful in their organisation; in Wave II, this dropped slightly to 87%. 

Even before the pandemic, concerns were emerging about the strength of the global economy, which only deepened subsequently, said GMAC.

“In Wave I, only 33% of respondents described the state of the global economy as very strong or strong as compared to just seven percent in Wave II. This suggests that even in a weak global economy, confidence in a business school’s ability to prepare future managerial talent remains steady,” said the report.

The survey also suggests that employers remain confident about the value of graduate management talent, based on their relatively steady hiring projections and salary trends.