In some corners of the business education world, faith in the power of the MBA is not strong.
While a number of B-schools have abandoned the full-time, two-year MBA in recent years, at least one new school won’t even offer the degree to begin with. King’s College London, whose King’s Business School is scheduled to open in November, will become the first leading British university to open a B-school that does not offer an MBA.
The school’s new dean says there isn’t enough interest in an MBA program — either among prospective students or recruiters in the London business community. “It is not where we want to focus our efforts,” King’s Dean Stephen Bach told the Financial Times this week, pointing to declining demand for the lengthy, rigorous, two-year degree program.
THE DRIVE FOR YOUNGER TALENT
In August, the University of Iowa became the latest business school to announce an end to its full-time MBA program. The Tippie College of Business had seen declining interest to the point that 91% of all MBA enrollment at the school was part-time, leading Dean Sarah Gardial to remark that Tippie is “seeing clear shifts in what students and businesses need.” Tippie joined a handful of other prominent schools in abandoning the full-time, residential MBA market in recent years, including Wake Forest University, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Virginia Tech, and Simmons College.
While these schools have shut down their full-time, on-campus MBA programs, many other business schools are using their full-time MBA programs as loss leaders to gain a ranking that would reflect on a school’s overall reputation and have a valuable impact on their other degree programs. That, apparently, is not a game the King’s School is interested in playing. The new school will instead offer only specialized master’s degrees, along with undergraduate courses and “short executive education training for corporate clients,” according to the FT article.
King’s will be the only leading British B-school without an MBA program. “What we are hearing from employers and some of our advisory group members is that companies are looking for talent at an earlier stage,” Bach is quoted saying.
A COMPLEX PICTURE: DECLINING APPS, BUT MOSTLY AT SMALLER PROGRAMS
It’s not just about being young. It’s also about being more “malleable.” Employers are “looking for new students who are very strategic in their thinking but are still malleable,” Bach says. “We already have great strengths in teaching people in those areas.” King’s master’s degrees in such areas as management, finance, and digital management will focus on “soft” skills, qualities that Bach says many employers value foremost.
Across the pond, while some schools are dropping the full-time MBA and others may be tempted to follow King’s lead because of declining enrollment, the question is complex. Elite schools are doing just fine: At least 16 of the top 25 U.S. schools report application increases in 2016-2017, with four programs showing double-digit rises in the number of candidates wanting a seat in their MBA classes. Just six schools report lower application volumes for this past year. Overall, the downward trend may be transient: “A strong economy and a disruptive political climate is likely contributing to the downward trend in application volumes among smaller U.S. programs this year,” Sangeet Chowfla, Graduate Management Admission Council president and CEO, says.
The data are clear on at least one other key aspect of MBA degrees: They spark a huge improvement in their holders’ lives. According to TransparentMBA, an MBA leads to a 44% increase in salary — and a 58% increase in happiness.