Ten Ways B-Schools Will Change After The Pandemic

There is a growing sentiment that COVID-19 has not only created a “new normal” in the present, but more enduring changes for various aspects of life.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. business schools were already confronting a challenging environment characterized by declining international enrollment and rising alternatives to traditional MBA programs. In the early stages of the pandemic, they faced China’s cancellation of the Graduate Management Admission Test and other English-language graduate entry exams. Now, campuses are closed and prospects for next semester are highly uncertain.

In a world constantly in flux, the most important realization business schools can make today is that they should not — and will not — return to a pre-pandemic state of affairs. The following are 10 inevitable long-term changes for graduate management education (GME).


1.     Online learning will be divided into tiered, variably priced academic portfolios — such as a top tier featuring courses taught by tenured faculty and industry leaders, a middle tier taught by junior faculty and covering a narrower range of subjects, and so on.

2.     Cloud-based admissions and enrollment solutions will continue to become the industry standard even after admissions offices reopen. There will be a dramatic movement toward outsourcing administrative tasks, while programs strive to retain their existing workflows and maintain ownership over strategic decisions.

3.     Decreased institutional bureaucracy will lead to faster decision-making, as the pandemic’s demand that institutions remain agile will persist.

4.     Some of U.S. programs’ major markets for international students such as China and India will substantially decline, while others like South America will grow.

5.     With large conferences on hold, communities like Liaison International’s BusinessCAS will step in with a more intimate, collaborative, and robust professional networking experience.

6.     As COVID-19 lays bare gaps in healthcare access and the underperformance of medical systems, students will demand a more socially responsible curriculum focusing on topics like public health, climate change, globalization, and economic inequities.

7. Business schools will also rush to collaborate deeply with other academic units on campus such as public health, medicine, engineering, and the life sciences in order to equip students with a more holistic approach to problem-solving.

 8.     On-demand, at-home standardized tests — like those already introduced by the Educational Testing Service — will become the norm. Further, business schools will break down language barriers by increasingly accepting English tests conducted through platforms such as the language-learning app Duolingo.

9. Student recruitment will move away from travel, tours, and fairs in favor of expanded digital marketing efforts.

10.  Many of the business schools that do not adapt to the times will close their doors.

 Where does graduate management education go from here? Even before the more permanent new normal is identified, business schools should take this time to thoughtfully reflect on where they would like to be one, five, and 10 years from now, rather than scrambling to restore the former status quo.

Robert Ruiz, Managing Director of BusinessCAS, speaks at the 2019 Liaison User Conference.

Robert Ruiz, Managing Director of BusinessCAS, speaks at the 2019 Liaison User Conference. Credit: Brian Adams.

Robert Ruiz is the managing director of Liaison International’s BusinessCAS community.

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