As applications to full-time MBA Programs continue to dwindle, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business today (Aug. 26) announced a unique value proposition to graduates of Master’s in Management programs. The school is offering an accelerated MBA degree only for MIM grads, hoping to entice the alums of its own management program but also alums of the many European options where the Master’s in Management is the most popular graduate degree in business.
Fuqua already boasts more than 1,100 alums from its own Master of Management Studies program which was launched in 2010. But the overall market is potentially massive. More than 30,000 students were enrolled in the 100 MIM programs ranked by the Financial Times last year, with the vast majority in Europe. In France alone, the five largest schools have nearly 5,800 enrolled students in MIM programs.
Under Fuqua’s new accelerated MBA, incoming students would largely skip the core MBA curriculum with the exception of three new thematic courses and then take elective classes with Fuqua’s two-year, full-time students. Fuqua offers between 90 and 100 distinct electives in its Daytime MBA program in any given year. “They will be in the mix, in the same classrooms as our traditional daytime students,” says Bill Boulding, dean of the Fuqua School. “They have to take a one year master’s program to qualify.”
A STRATEGIC MOVE TO GAIN MORE EUROPEAN STUDENTS
Boulding cited two reasons for the move. “One has to do with our desire to live up to the idea of lifelong learning and thinking about an affiliation with us that is not transactional but gives you the opportunity to engage in personal development over your career,” he told Poets&Quants in an interview. “All of our alums have access to our non-degree course at no cost. But we have ten years of MMS grads. We can live up to the idea of bringing them back.”
Fuqua also views the launch of its accelerated MBA as a strategic move to attract more European students. “The numbers of students coming to the top business schools has been steadily declining,” notes Boulding. “A pretty clear part of that is that within Europe the one year master of management degree is common and so is the one-year MBA. So students are making the decision to stay in Europe. We are giving students who have gotten their MIM from a top European program a very competitive option to come to a U.S. school and be a part of our MBA program.”
The school also would make available to these students a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) track that would make graduates of the MBA program eligible to work in the U.S. for an additional two years if placed in a STEM-related job. Boulding hopes the STEM-designation option will allay fears by international students of coming to the U.S. and having little chance of working here after graduation.
SCHOOL HOPES TO ALLAY FEARS OVER WORK VISAS BY INTERNATIONALS WITH A STEM-OPTION
“Europeans are nervous about coming to a U.S. business school because there is a fear of paying tuition dollars in the U.S. and not being able to command a U.S. salary,” reasons Boulding. “We think this gives us a really interesting and competitive option to attract more students from Europe. And we think this is valuable to the traditional daytime students because they will have a more diverse set of students that are part of their experience.”
The school expects to start the accelerated MBA with roughly ten students next fall. “We are thinking very low numbers to begin the program,” says Boulding. The school will initially target its own MMS grads and then Europeans before starting to market the option more broadly. “The first time out we expect about 10 students. Our assumption is it will work and over time we would have what would amount to an additional section of 65 or 70 students.” Though Fuqua has yet to set tuition for the fall of 2020, if the accelerated option were being offered this year it would be $86,825–the current tuition for its two-year program is $70,000 a year.
The dean says he expects admission standards for the program to be high. “There is a difference between qualified to apply and admitted,” insists Boulding. “Because these students will be taking classes with our daytime MBA students, we have to be sure that every student we bring into our accelerated program is on the fast track and is a high flyer. They have to be extremely qualified individuals who can hold their own with our daytime MBA students. So you still have to go through the same rigorous admissions process. The first cohort will matriculate as we launch a new MBA curriculum next year. So we will start actively recruiting students for this option at the end of August.”
NEW ACCELERATED MBA IS ONE OF THREE MAJOR INITIATIVES BY FUQUA
The one-year MBA is one of three new Fuqua initiatives, including a revamped curriculum that will be focused on three major themes: Creating common purpose in a world of difference; Leading technology-driven transformation, and Entrepreneurship for a lifetime (see Duke Fuqua Revamps MBA Curriculum). Accelerated MBA students will take those three courses in addition to the elective offerings.
The accelerated MBA option will not be made available to graduates of other specialized master’s programs such as data analytics, marketing or finance. “The problem is that you would not have had the exposure to the broad array of business courses in a MIM program,” explains Boulding. “We don’t see that path for the current way we are implementing the accelerated MBA.”
Boulding says the innovations at Fuqua are meant to keep the school in the forefront of the rapidly changing market for graduate management education. In common with most other elite U.S. business schools, applications to Fuqua’s daytime MBA program fell for the second consecutive year in 2018-2019 by 14.6% to 3,036 from 3,557 (see Apps To Major U.S. MBA Programs Plunge Again). In the past two years, applications are down by 20%.
“There is this real sense of urgency where the world is changing so rapidly that if we want to remain relevant we too have to evolve rapidly to make sure we are serving the business community,” he says. “One of my dean colleagues says a dean’s year is now like a dog’s year (of seven years) because the pace of change is do dramatic. In the last three years we have seen as much innovation in the business school space as we have seen in the last 21 years. We have a great brand and that insulates us to some extent to what is happening out there. But we can’t afford one moment of complacency because if we do we will be subject to the same kinds of challenges prevalent in the business school industry.”