Report: AI Is Now A Top Priority For Prospective MBA Applicants 

Report: AI Is Now A Top Priority For Prospective MBA Applicants 

Advances in artificial intelligence over the last year have undoubtedly pushed the conversation in academic and tech crowds. From Open AI’s ChatGPT-4 to Bard, the newest chatbot released by Google, some wonder whether the language models or AI assistants are the newest form of search. Others want to consider the implications of bad actors.

A future with AI brings perplexing wonders and plenty of unknowns, and prospective MBAs are leaning in to capitalize. In a report released by a UK-based consulting firm CarringtonCrisp, AI appeared at the very top of a list of what students are seeking a degree in. Of more than 1,000 respondents surveyed for the annual Tomorrow’s MBA study, 31% say AI is their number-one choice of study, sharing the top spot with past favorite Business and Financial Environment.

Other top content includes the usual reported preferences like concentrations in Business Law, Corporate Finance, Data Analytics and Decision Making and Economics. Nearly 1-in-6 surveyors said Climate Change was a valuable piece of content in the MBA, and for the first time it ranked a high eighth on the list. AI reached the second in the most-valued degree options in last year’s report where four of the top seven MBA subjects were tech related. It’s furthering a point that’s similarly emphasized in the study: 52% of prospective students said business school is not just about business, but a specific field of business.


CarringtonCrisp’s report makes an effort to mention the MBA isn’t going away. But similar to curriculum, results show mindsets, and perhaps even the MBA brand, constantly changes. For instance, consequences of the pandemic have paved ways for new desires around flexibility. The report emphasizes a similar tone correlated elsewhere where more and more students desire content that is updated and reflecting trends happening now in the world.

CarringtonCrisp partnered with the management development network EFMD to develop the report. They analyzed responses of 1,658 individuals from 30 countries – about 60% were male and 39% were female. The data was collected during November and December of 2022, intending to further reflect attitudes and desires toward MBA programming. Just under half of participants say they had been researching MBAs and are likely to apply to program within 12 months.

It’s no surprise then to the study’s author Andrew Crisp that the focus on AI is only increasing. Last year, bridging technology with management became a main priority for companies forced to embrace digital transformations as part of their day-to-day operations. Not to mention this year there’s constant internet chatter around things like ChatGPT, like whether it should be banned or utilized as another tool in classrooms or whether it stacks up to all the hype.

“The rise of AI content is a direct reaction to the rapid impact of this technology in recent months,” Crisp says.

Andrew Crisp of CarringtonCrisp: “(AI) has become a fundamental part of any business schools’ curriculum.” Courtesy photo

In the month of January alone, reports show ChatGPT became the fastest-growing consumer application, reaching 100 million users.

About 44% of respondents say they want to get an MBA because they see it as the main driver in advancing their desired careers to the next stage. Adopting professional networking skills and the entrepreneurial vision were other factors bringing on the consideration. However, about 27% named personal circumstances as a deterrent in getting the right MBA they want, another 23% noted costs were far too high. Especially in the U.S., fees for on-campus living have grown substantially, the study found, making the cost of living unattainable for some applicants.


Business-forward issues around the climate’s health continue to be widely popular among business schools. Nearly 16% said they are seeking a degree in it.

Most B-Schools offer entire concentrations on sustainability or the climate and pursue additional outreach, like participating a yearly summit or focusing not just on the climate, but the business of energy.

On the same note, an overwhelming number of students indicate they expect classes centering around responsible management, ethical leadership and global challenges, furthering notion that business schools must adapt to the social climate. Again, similar to last year, 7-in-10 respondents reinforced this idea.

“The current MBA market is an interesting challenge for business schools. On the one hand, student demands around topics are changing quickly. On the other hand, there are more and more alternative learning opportunities,” Crisp says.

The pandemic also created a new surge in those seeking short courses specific to their career as opposed to the two-year, fully-fledged master’s degree. Crisp notes: “The keyword for business schools is imagination, thinking about how the world is changing, regularly reviewing their curriculum … offering flexible delivery.”


The report messages the same themes as last year in a weary reminder to B-Schools: While the pandemic likely brought on more applicants, nearly 60% say they are considering other study options to support their career.

Some respondents said they didn’t find the MBA pathway the easiest when deciphering applications for prospective schools. Not only is it personal circumstances, but at least 1-in-5 respondents say a poor return on investment and again fees were reasons not to pursue an MBA.

For those pursuing the degree, however, full-time study on campus is the most popular model. About 40% of respondents chose being full-time and in person over 11% who chose the online MBA, despite the rise of online offerings over the last years.

About 28% of respondents preferred a blended mix of campus and online study, just under half stating that the ‘block study’, or a period of five or six days every few months, was preferred over attending classes on weekends once a month.

Learn more about a New Ranking That Measures ROI At The Top 30 U.S. MBA Programs.


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