We may look back on these months of upheaval as the beginning of a new era: the time of the disruptors. That’s the conclusion of a major new study released today (May 13) that reinforces the view — admittedly not new — that traditional graduate business education is rapidly ceding ground to new approaches and new ways of thinking, an effect accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The future shape of the business master’s market is likely to be different post Covid-19, with increased focus on flexible micromaster’s degrees and so-called stackable programs, according to new research from CarringtonCrisp, a specialist consulting firm, in association with EFMD, a nonprofit that runs the EQUIS certification system for higher education organizations. Micromaster’s are graduate-level courses designed for career advancement; stackable degrees are credentials can be “stacked” together to build all the elements of a traditional degree program.
Launching the 2020 Tomorrow’s Master’s 2020 study, Andrew Crisp, author of the study, says that all indications are that demand for shorter, flexible learning options — appealing to students who want to, or must, continue working while they learn — will accelerate because of the current crisis.
“Even before the pandemic, there was growing interest in alternatives to traditional business master’s degrees,” Crisp says, “partly driven by concerns about rising living costs and fees. Modular study options, where students get to tailor their course to suit them, will become more prevalent long-term.”
POPULAR SUBJECTS DON’T CHANGE, BUT RENEWED INTEREST IN OTHERS IS ANTICIPATED
Poets&Quants has reported extensively on alternatives to the full-time, residential MBA, most recently here and here. The Tomorrow’s Master’s study, now in its seventh year, was carried out late last year among 1,041 students from across 35 countries; however, Crisp notes that the conditions of the coronavirus and global economic doldrums can only accelerate the trends it documents.
Most respondents — more than 30% — were in, or at the beginning of, the process of applying to business graduate school; 52% were women. Responses were generated through a panel provider and a number of business schools who were participating in the survey who contacted current undergraduate students. Among its key findings, the report shows that 39% would consider a micromaster’s/stackable degree (up 6% from the previous year), 36% are open to digitally badged learning, and 33% would consider a short online course as alternatives to a full master’s degree.
The most sought-after subjects remain the same: Big Data/Analytics is No. 1 (31%), followed by Accounting (25%) and Finance (21%). However, Andrew Crisp says he expects the pandemic to drive renewed interest in different topics.
“With the increased focus on the online economy, we expect subjects such as data analytics and technology management to remain popular. However, the pandemic may also drive students towards areas such as supply chain, logistics and healthcare management,” Crisp says.
‘PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS WILL BE ABLE TO SHOP AROUND’
CarringtonCrisp’s study cites last year’s Application Trends Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which found that year-on-year applications for business master’s degrees increased 5.4%. GMAC’s report also highlights that among programs that accept GMAT scores, the number of business master’s programs (3,389) exceeded that of MBAs (3,283) for the first time in 2018.
“Of course, schools using the GMAT test are only a small part of the overall business school marketplace, suggesting that the business master’s degree market is considerably larger than the figures above suggest,” CarringtonCrisp’s report reads. “With more students seeking to differentiate themselves in the labor market through the addition of a master’s degree and others seeking to add knowledge in fields not covered by their undergraduate studies, the market for master’s degrees looks likely to continue growing. Whether the current global pandemic leads to a reshaping of the market remains to be seen.
- There is a near doubling of interest in online/blended study (12% versus 7% in 2019)
- Over two-thirds want their program content to include ethical leadership behavior and responsible management
Post-pandemic, Andrew Crisp expects increased pressure on business schools and universities to re-consider their strategies.
“Competition from traditional providers in global markets, from online providers, and from new private entrants offering degrees and alternative qualifications are likely to mean that prospective students will be able to shop around to get the best value for their spend,” he says. “While that does not always mean the cheapest degree around, students will be very focused on outcomes.”