Eight Big Trends That Shaped Business Education In The Just-Ended Decade

trends during the decade

5) The increasing popularity of MBA programs in Europe and Canada.

While fewer international applicants are considering an MBA program in the U.S., not all of them have completely dropped out of the market. More of them, in fact, are applying to schools in both Canada and Europe where getting a work visa can be a lot easier than in the U.S. these days.

In fact, one of the biggest surprises of the past year has been the growing acceptance of Europe’s business schools by international applicants. “I’m surprised at how quickly they have built acceptability in the minds of candidates,” says Sangeet Chowfla, CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council in an interview. “We always had the brand name business schools like INSEAD and London Business School which have always had great brand appeal but we are beginning to see significant candidate interest in schools like ESMT Berlin, Rotterdam, and Copenhagen, schools which were not necessarily on the radar of a lot of candidates in Europe. Europe is becoming a more attractive destination beyond the obvious big brand schools. That is a significant change that is going to affect the contours of the industry over time.”

6) The big emphasis on business analytics, experiential learning, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills

In the past ten years, the most important trends in business school curricula have been in four core areas: analytics, action learning, entrepreneurship, and leadership training. There’s hardly a business school on the planet who has not doubled down on any one of these four core areas–largely because of the demand for them from the corporations that hire MBAs or MBA students themselves. You can expect more of the same over the next ten years, with more of a slant toward artificial intelligence and machine learning.

All of this represents still more evidence of how responsive business schools have been to the needs of their customers: the companies and organizations that hire their talent and the discerning students who want to make sure they graduate with the skills that will give them options. The best proof of this is entrepreneurship, a subject area that business schools have made significant investments in the last decade. Only 5% of MBA graduates tend to launch startups at or immediately after graduation, but the vast majority of MBA students think that they will someday do their own thing.

7) The increasing acceptance of the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT

This past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the acceptance of the GRE by both business schools and their applicants. A sizable share of the applicant pool is undecided about getting an MBA and takes the GRE for its greater applicability in admissions to other competitive graduate programs. More women and more nontraditional students are likely to opt for the GRE, exactly the kinds of applicants that many business schools are trying to lure into their MBA programs.

Poets&Quants’ analysis of U.S. News data from last fall’s intakes at the top 50 schools finds that most — 30 of 48 that report the data — saw a year-over-year gain between 2017 and 2018 in the percentage of entrants who submitted GRE scores. Expand the scope to the last four years and that number grows to 41 of 48 schools, at an average increase of more than 100% (102.5%, to be precise). Eleven schools saw double-digit increases in percentage points of GRE submitters in the last year; in the last four, the number grows to 18 schools.

Expect the GRE’s gains to continue.

8) The remarkable growth of the specialized master’s degree in business

While full-time MBA programs may be in decline, business schools have been rushing out an array of specialized master’s degrees that range from supply chain logistics to data analytics. The most popular of these one-year graduate programs remain in finance and accounting, but there is now an almost bewildering portfolio of specialized master’s at many leading business schools. In the past seven years alone, for example, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business has launched eight specialty master’s programs, including one in cybersecurity risk management and IT management.

Some business schools have more than offset losses in their MBA programs with increased enrollment in these specialty master’s options. Expect more of these programs to proliferate, even if they have jumped the shark.



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