Report: Covid-19 Accelerated MBA Programs’ Online Migration

While only 12% of global MBAs intended to deliver their programs online in 2020, a full 43% ended up teaching them that way, according to a new AMBA report. 

Covid-19 closed MBA classrooms, boosted applications and increased class sizes as business schools adjusted to the unprecedented disruption to their operations. A new study from the Association of MBAs confirms what many suspected all along: The pandemic — surprise surprise — caused a giant jump in online delivery of the education.

The AMBA Application and Enrollment Report 2021 found that while only 12% of global MBAs intended to deliver their programs online in 2020, a full 43% ended up teaching them that way. However, in a bit of good news, the report also found that the upheaval didn’t dampen demand for the graduate degree. It seems to have increased, in fact. Each AMBA-member business school increased by a worldwide average of 7% from 2019 to 2020 while volume of applications increased by an average of 9%. 

“This year’s study paints the most up-to-date picture of the profile of the AMBA network, and how AMBA-accredited schools are performing in the MBA market,” says Andrew Main Wilson, CEO of AMBA and its sister organization Business Graduate Association. 

Location of AMBA member business schools. (Courtesy)


“The Covid-19 pandemic began to impact business schools just weeks into the calendar year of 2020, and the data included in this report provides precious insight from a time of great uncertainty in the global economy and the geopolitical landscape.”

The Association of MBAs and the Business Graduates Association are accreditation bodies representing mostly B-schools outside the United States. Its largest numbers of schools are located in Europe (40%), followed by Latin America (14%) and China (12%). Just about 3% are located in the U.S. This report includes survey data collected from 244 AMBA-accredited programs during the 2020 calendar year.


To see the extent that the pandemic forced MBA instruction online, just look at the numbers. Between 2019 and 2020:

  • Classroom instruction decreased by 55 percentage points while online instruction increased by 36 percentage points (up to 43%) in 2020. 
  • While 76% of MBA teaching was intended to be classroom-based at the start of 2020, only 29% of courses were ultimately taught this way.
  • Reversely, 41% of courses were carried out online when only 11% were originally intended to be taught online. 

“Comparing the intended mode of delivery in 2020 to that used in 2019 shows some evidence of programmes moving away from a classroom approach to blended or online teaching, even before the impact of Covid-19 is considered,” the report says. “If programmes had been taught in the way they were intended in 2020, the classroom teaching mode would have decreased by eight percentage points, from 83% to 75%.”

However, classroom teaching is still the preferred method for MBA education around the world. More than three-quarters of schools around the world (76%) had intended to use the method before the pandemic. That includes a high of 93% in Chinese B-schools and a low of 58% in the United Kingdom. The report also found that 13% of schools intended to use a blend of in-classroom and online teaching in 2020 and 11% intended to use online instruction only.

Comparison of how regional B-schools intended to deliver MBA education in 2020 to how they actually delivered it.

Next page: Applications soared, women enrollment holds stead

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