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How COVID-19 Changed Business Schools Forever

Carlson Classroom

How COVID-19 Changed Business Schools Forever

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly every industry.

Business schools, in particular, were hit hard and the impact of the pandemic will have lasting effects. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some positive changes as well. Chris Stokel-Walker of Bloomberg recently spoke to experts on how the pandemic has changed B-school operations for good.


The pandemic forced business schools to close their campuses in March 2020. Universities varied in their tactics for a return to campus. For the most part, class sizes shrunk as hybrid learning models and social distancing were prioritized.

At Oxford Saïd, class sizes were cut in half – from 80 to 40 students per class – to enable proper social distancing. As universities and colleges open their campuses this fall, Oxford has decided to keep class sizes small.

“That’s in line with how Oxford sees teaching, which is very much conversation- and discussion-based, and very interactive,” Kathy Harvey, associate dean of the MBA and executive degrees at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, tells Bloomberg.

According to Harvey, some teaching will stay asynchronous and in-person meetings will be used to promote engaging discussions.

“We found a better way, and we don’t anticipate that we’ll stop,” she tells Bloomberg.

While students found half empty classrooms to be strange and intimidating during the pandemic, many now say they welcome a smaller class size and the benefits that the environment promotes.

“However, soon we realized that smaller classes brought new opportunities for equality and quality of interaction,” Martina Sokolikova, an MBA student at Oxford Saïd, tells Bloomberg.


During the pandemic, a vast number of B-schools chose to waive standardized tests for admissions – a silver lining for MBA applicants.

Some 67 of the top 100 B-schools are now fully test-optional or allow for test waivers.

“There are just so many stories from students all over the world that it made the decision easier,” Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, says. “Even though test centers have reopened, getting to one and feeling safe in one is another story. And even though students can take the online test, taking a standardized test at home is challenging because some students are being disrupted by friends or family or have had internet connections slow down. So it is hard to perform best in those conditions.”

Sources: Bloomberg, The Harvard Crimson,  Time, P&Q

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