The future of MBA programmes in a post-COVID-19 world

SOURCE: Josh Edelson / AFP
According to a GMAC survey, a combination of factors have influenced enrolment outcomes.

By U2B Staff 

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The global economy has suffered due to COVID-19 but business schools around the globe are seeing an uptick in applications for graduate management education; including MBA programmes.

While the growth in applications has been particularly strong for international candidates, many are seeing higher deferral rates, said GMAC Director of Industry Insights and Research Communications Dr Rahul Choudaha on LinkedIn, quoting findings from the GMAC Application Trends Survey.

GMAC’s annual Application Trends Survey gathers intelligence on the current market for graduate management education applicants. The 2020 survey collected application data from over 1,000 graduate management programmes around the world.


According to the Application Trends Survey, “Many b-schools responded by adopting flexible admissions approaches, including extended deadlines and deferral policies. As a result, the number of applications increased. B-schools also hedged enrolment risks by increasing acceptance rates.”

For instance, business schools are making it easier for candidates by offering GMAT and GRE waivers, though some schools still recommend that candidates submit their results to demonstrate academic preparedness. A good GMAT score can strengthen your application and improve the chances of getting accepted into your desired programme.

The survey adds, “For candidates, graduate management education offers a pathway to emerge from the economic downturn with better career prospects. While more candidates applied to b-schools, deferral rates also went up due to concerns about online learning, travel, and visas. This shift in choice pattern ultimately resulted in a lower yield for many b-schools.”

Spike in applications to business schools spurred by several factors

The survey found that as the economy slows, demand for graduate management education surges. 

Among the reasons some admission officers think applications are up include COVID-19 border restrictions which have prompted students to look for domestic programmes, and people being forced to change career directions due to COVID-19 and upgrading their current education status.

Choudaha wrote that in the 2021 application season, the demand for graduate management education may remain robust in the context of the pandemic-induced economic downturn. 


The survey showed that among prospective students who are indicating to enrol in full-time MBA programmes in 2021, international candidates (75%) are more likely to report that they are not changing their original plans than domestic candidates (56%). 

He added that much of the change among domestic candidates is driven by a desire to stay closer to home (29%) or adopt online learning (22%). International candidates are also more likely to consider staying closer to home (16%) than to embrace online learning (11%). 

“This suggests that international candidates still value the in-person global experience for full-time MBA programmes,” said Choudaha.

“A sustainable future of full-time MBA programmes would require business schools to understand the nature and direction of evolving candidate journeys and engage the best-fit, diverse prospects for better enrolment yield.”