Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Social Scientist
GRE 330, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0

Are U.S. Business Schools Headed For A GM-Like Fall?

A slide from Roger Martin's recent presentation at the Academy of Management

A slide from Roger Martin’s recent presentation at the Academy of Management

What will happen to the Rotman brand when Dean Roger Martin (above) leaves the school as dean this year? asks an MBA applicant

Roger Martin

One of the more tortured narratives in business has been the long and steady decline of the U.S. auto business. A relentless deterioration in market share ultimately led to the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler. Are U.S. business schools headed for a similar fate?

Roger Martin thinks so, and he is deadly serious about it. The former dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Martin is a leading thinker on business school trends and issues. He’s an iconoclast who has little patience for the status quo of business school academia.

He equates the tenured faculty at top business schools to the United Auto Workers in their single-minded pursuit of higher wages for less work in the classroom, their placing their own needs and wants over the interests of the customers, the tuition-paying students and the companies that hire MBA graduates. “I can’t help but see the situation as eerily similar to General Motors in 1971 when the company experienced a shock with OPEC and GM didn’t do all that much to change,” says Martin. “Some 37 years later, the company was bankrupt.”


Martin glimpses the early warning signs of a collapse in the U.S. business school model. Enrollments are being propped up by an increasing percentage of international students. Rising tuition and relatively stagnant starting salaries for MBA graduates have weakened the value proposition of the degree, from a 170% return in 2001 to 96% last year. The MBA market share of master’s degrees in business began declining in 2010. The upshot: Martin says that the top 50 U.S. schools will be forced to dramatically reduce tenure-stream faculty as MBA enrollments continue to shrink and companies refuse to pay higher salaries to graduates.

“It’s not just MOOCs or the impact of technology on higher education. It’s not just Peter Thiel who is offering $100,000 to kids to drop out of college. And it’s not going from a payoff on the MBA of 170% to under 100%. It’s all of those things together that is creating storm clouds that are now being ignored. I absolutely believe that if business schools don’t take action in the next five years, we are looking at a GM scenario. Some 90% of current tenure-stream faculty positions will not exist.”

Like U.S. consumers who began buying Toyotas and Hondas, Martin sees increasingly numbers of would-be MBA students opting for one-year specialized master’s degrees, enrolling in online MBA programs at a fraction of the cost, or simply doing without advanced education and progressing in their current jobs.

“The MBA has had this awesome run from a tiny business in 1955, when it was 5% of all master’s degrees awarded in the U.S., until it became the dominant educational option in the U.S.,” he explains. “In 1985, the MBA degree started to flatten out compared to other graduate education. It ceased to become the winner, but graduate education was growing by leaps and bounds so it became a bigger and bigger business largely due to the growth of graduate education overall. There were things about the market that allowed the people in it to say, ‘Things are fine. There is no problem here.’ But there are signs that things weren’t so great.”

After a spectacular run up, the marketshare of the MBA degree is now declining while specialized master's in business has shown a boom

After a spectacular run up, the marketshare of the MBA degree is now declining while specialized master’s in business has shown a boom

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.