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Deans, Faculty Agree: MBA Alternatives Will Continue To Grow

A new survey from MBA Roundtable shows that most schools believe strongly in the importance  to students — and to their own bottom line — of MBA alternatives. Investopedia

The MBA degree has had its ups and downs in recent years, there’s no doubt about it. Though news of its demise is a bit premature, if not misplaced altogether, there are increasingly popular alternatives to the flagship business school degree — just look at the explosion of specialized master’s degrees in the last 10 years. But what about smaller, easier-to-launch-and-manage, yet also revenue-generating programs that produce certificates and “microcredentials”? New data shows that those most in the know — B-school deans, directors, and faculty — expect that not only will schools offer even more of these alternatives to the MBA in coming years, but also that an increasing number of schools with fewer such alternatives will get on board the fast-moving train.

The MBA Roundtable, a global association of more than 140 B-schools dedicated to curricular and co-curricular innovation in graduate management education, today (April 27) released a new report, Alternative Credentials In Graduate Business School, that captures a snapshot of current attitudes about certificates, badges, microcredentials, and more, and offers a hazy window on the near future. The nonprofit surveyed 112 deans, directors, and faculty at 85 graduate business schools around the world in March, and found that seven in 10 (70%) agree or strongly agree that alternative credentials are a required strategy for business schools.

Overall, 71% agree or strongly agree that alternative credentials are a required strategy to remain competitive in graduate management education. Directors (40%) are more likely than deans (21%) to strongly agree with the sentiment, but they are equally likely to agree or strongly agree, MBA Roundtable found. And respondents at both private and public institutions are of similar opinion.


The good news for business schools is that most already do, in fact, offer alternative credentials: Overall, 64% of those polled by MBA Roundtable currently offer alternative credentials, and 91% offer certificates. Few offer badges (15%) or so-called microcredentials (13%). Of those that do not currently offer alternative credentials, 28% plan to do so in the next two years.

Public institutions (70%) are significantly more likely than private, nonprofit institutions (48%) to offer alternative credentials, the association found; within the next two years, nine out of 10 private institutions will offer alternative credentials — 48% offer them today and 42% will offer them in the next two years. And while the vast majority of both institution types offer certificates, public institutions are more than twice as likely to offer badges and microcredentials — albeit a small percentage of private institutions offer badges (17%) or microcredentials (17%).

Data analytics is the most common alternative credential at graduate business schools today: Overall, a majority (63%) report that their B-school offers data analytics as an area of study for an alternative credential. Nearly half (46%) offer an alternative credential in leadership. About a quarter or more of the B-schools offer alternative credentials in entrepreneurship (38%), finance (29%), supply chain (29%), and marketing (26%).


Most alternative credentials at graduate B-schools are credit-bearing and have a formal admissions process, MBA Roundtable found. A majority (64%) report that all alternative credentials offered at their B-school are credit-bearing, and 59% report a formal admissions process for all alternative credentials offered. One-third (33%) report that all alternative credentials are stackable to an MBA degree, and 29% report that some are stackable to an MBA. Nearly a quarter (24%) report that all alternative credentials are stackable to a master’s degree, and 36% say some are stackable to a master’s degree.

Why would schools offer these alternatives to their top money-producing programs, which in most cases is the MBA? Meeting market demand and offering lifelong learning opportunities are the most common reasons given. Nearly three-quarters of respondents report that alternative credentials are offered to meet market demand (74%) and to offer lifelong learning opportunities (71%). In addition, a majority of respondents report that alternative credentials are used to remain competitive (68%), for marketing and recruiting purposes (68%), and for revenue generation (58%).

Nearly half (49%) use alternative credentials for curriculum development. Private, nonprofit institutions are more likely than public institutions to report the use alternative credentials for revenue generation (87% versus 60%), revenue diversification (73% versus 40%), and to fill empty seats in degree program courses (40% versus 19%).

The MBA Roundtable recently presented a Forum on The Growing Role of Credentials, Badges and Certificates in Graduate Management Education, on April 7, 8 & 15 with over 170 attendees. Find its full report here.