The most diverse class in school history. That’s the claim made by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business on the release this week of its MBA Class of 2023 profile — and they have the numbers to back it up.
Forty-seven percent of the class holds international citizenship, up from 38% last year. Twenty-five percent identifies as underrepresented minorities, up from 23%. Forty-five percent identifies as minority, up from 38%. And perhaps the most momentous number, Fuqua took another step toward gender parity with 48% women in this year’s intake — a school record.
Impressive numbers — but the school isn’t planning to rest on its laurels, says Shari Hubert, Duke Fuqua’s associate dean for admissions.
“We are never satisfied with our diversity numbers,” Hubert tells Poets&Quants. “At Fuqua we are focused on creating the business leaders the world needs. Business benefits when talent is diverse, bringing a wide variety of perspectives to solve problems in companies and organizations. Business schools must provide talent from populations who are underrepresented in the field of business in order to help organizations reach their full potential.
“While we have made great progress at Fuqua in yielding increasingly diverse cohorts, there is still much work to be done, and we remain committed to recruiting and developing students from a wide variety of backgrounds.”
FUQUA'S NEWEST MBA CLASS IS ALSO NEARLY ITS LARGEST
Duke Fuqua's new MBA cohort isn't just the school's most diverse. It's also nearly its biggest-ever at 447 students, the result of another jump in applications, from 3,356 to 3,762, a 12% increase. It's the second year in a row Duke has received more apps than the previous year after a big dip in 2019. In the 2019-2020 cycle, as the chaos of coronavirus impacted the later application rounds at most business schools and led to some, including Fuqua, creating a fourth round to handle a sudden uptick in demand, Duke reversed a slide in apps with a jump of more than 10%.
The bigger class — up from 408 last year, a 9.6% increase — is second only to the 450 MBA students Fuqua enrolled in 2015. And it's not happenstance. Deferments played a role — admits who deferred during the pandemic have enrolled this year — and, Shari Hubert says, moves by the admissions team also had a big impact.
"We were excited to have received close to the highest volume of applications in our history," she says, noting that the highest came in 2017: 3,796. "Our applications grew 12% over last year and I believe a number of factors were in play: We made it easier for applicants to re-apply by cloning their application data form and recommendations; we increased our events (international, domestic and diversity) virtually; we saw greater international interest resulting from the U.S. administration change; and with the development of a vaccine we saw a renewed interest in retooling skills to take advantage of the post-pandemic economy and job opportunities.
"We saw Team Fuqua in action and in overdrive as our admissions team, along with our current students, faculty, and staff, worked as a village to ensure our admitted students remained connected to our community and received invaluable resources and attention, prior to arriving. For example, we hosted a separate admitted student weekend just for our deferrals, and hosted our first annual International Symposium for international prospective students."
Add it all up and Duke Fuqua not only dropped its acceptance rate below 20% (from 25% last year), it also set a school record for yield: 61%, up big from last year's 48.7% and eclipsing even the school's best mark of 56.8% in 2019.
A RECORD AVERAGE GMAT
The good news doesn't end there for Fuqua. The school also set a new record for average GMAT score, which skyrocketed to 713 from 702 last year.
"At Fuqua, we aren’t trying to hit a specific average test score," Hubert says, echoing her counterparts at every elite B-school. "We are looking for students who can handle the academic rigor of the program, and more importantly, those who will find belonging in our unique community. If you look at the median GMAT score between this year and last, it’s actually the same, a 710. So while we may have had a few more higher test scores or a few less lower test scores, overall the class is very similar to prior classes."
She credits the jump to multiple factors, most stemming from the ongoing pandemic.
"With the pandemic, students may have had more time to focus on test preparation, for example," Hubert says. "The rise in MBA applications overall this year, an influx of pent-up demand from the market, may have also played a role, as we had people who delayed their applications by one year due to the pandemic come into this year’s applicant pool. Fuqua does not waive test score requirements for applicants, but we do accept GMAT, GRE, and Executive Assessment, so we have three test options for students. While we didn’t have a significant change in the number of GRE or EA scores submitted by our applicants, giving students three test options does allow students the opportunity to choose the test that is the best fit for them, which is going to overall lead to higher average test scores over time, for all test types."