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Most Deans Expect A Top Five B-School To Launch An Online MBA Within Two Years

A Gies professor teaches in a live online class in one of the school’s six studios.

The most elite business schools that commonly sit atop the major MBA rankings have been slow to enter the online degree space. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business only announced in July that it would offer an online option in its part-time MBA program next fall. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, currently the school with the highest ranked full-time MBA in the online MBA market, saw its first student complete its online MBA in August.

But the top five programs–Stanford, Chicago Booth, Wharton, Harvard and Northwestern Kellogg–have yet to even publicly express an interest in launching an online version of their MBA programs. Nonetheless, a new survey of more than 80 business schools deans finds that 61% anticipate that a Top 5 ranked business school will offer a fully online MBA within the next one to two years. The percentage soars to 89% when the timeframe moves to three to four years (see chart below).

“If this happens as anticipated,” concludes the higher education consulting firm Eduvantis, which conducted the survey, “it will further accelerate the disruption and market share shifts that have already been set in motion.”

Source: Edvantis survey of business school deans September of 2021


The survey represents the views of more than 80 B-school deans from what the firm calls “a representative sample of the various types of U.S. business schools (public, private, large, small, elite ranked and distributed across the rankings hierarchy). Only a mere 1% of the responding deans told Eduvantis that they did not think a Top 5 ranked school would get into the Online MBA market over the next 20 years.

The deans also believe that disruptively priced Online MBA programs, such as those currently offered by the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business for $22,500 and Boston University’s Questrom School of Business for $24,000, are here to stay and will prove to be a sustainable business model for some players. Fully half of the responding deans believe these under-$25,000 MBA programs will continue to proliferate and will ultimately represent a large portion of the Online MBA market. At Gies, the iMBA now has an enrollment of more than 4,200 students from an initial cohort of just 263 students in 2016 (see iConverge: A Love Fest Of Passionate Believers For Gies’ iMBA).

Some 28% of the deans had a different view, however, agreeing that there will only be a handful of these programs that operate at large scale and will represent a small portion of the online MBA market (see below chart). Just 13% of the responding deans believe that the business models that support low-cost online MBA programming will not be sustainable.

Eduvantis survey of business schools deans September of 2021


The pandemic, which abruptly forced most business schools to shift their in-person classes to online instruction last year, will have an enduring impact on how business learning gets delivered in the future, according to the survey of deans. Seven of ten responding deans believe they will see at least a moderate toward online learning, a change that will result in a fundamental change in revenue streams and business models (see chart below).

Just 27% of the deans, however, say graduate program-level course delivery tilt substantially more toward distance learning. The largest group–43%–think the mix will tilt moderately toward more online learning. Just 7% say it will more or less be what it was before the pandemic hit.

Source: Eduvantis survey of business school deans September of 2021

The survey also found that more schools are now allowing students to switch between in-person and online classes in their MBA programs, with nearly 60% of the deans saying that their tuition rates remain the same whether a student takes their classes online or in-person (see below chart). “What used to be differentiating — the ability for students to easily migrate between online and in-person courses — is now mostly commonplace,” concludes Eduvantis.

Source: Eduvantis survey of business school deans September of 2021