Business schools around the world are increasingly diversifying their offerings as applications for traditional MBA courses flag, according to a report.
In its annual report on applications and enrolments, the Association of MBAs found that the average number of applications to courses it accredited fell by 11 per cent year-on-year, and the average number of enrolments fell by 7 per cent.
The findings, based on a survey of 230 AMBA-accredited business schools around the world, follow two consecutive years of reported growth in applications and enrolments across AMBA-accredited MBAs, DBAs and master’s degrees.
However, at a school level, applications in 2017 fell by only 1 per cent and enrolments grew by 2 per cent. This reflects the fact that schools have increased the average number of programmes they offer by 14 per cent year-on-year, meaning that institutions are teaching more courses but to smaller cohorts.
“Our schools are increasing the breadth and specialisms of the programmes they are delivering,” said Will Dawes, research and insight manager at AMBA. “It’s not a singular approach; it is dependent on the local markets and needs, such as through online flexible programmes or modular programmes that students take in intense bursts.”
The analysis reports significant growth in the proportion of courses that were delivered through blended online and classroom-based learning, from 10 per cent in 2016 to 16 per cent in 2017.
The expansion of programmes and the adoption of new ways of working is a “response to more challenging economic situations”, according to Mr Dawes. “Business schools are being forced to innovate, but what it shows is that they are able to adapt and think differently to be relevant,” he said.
Applications at a school level varied between regions: in the UK, applications to AMBA-accredited schools climbed by 43 per cent, while applications to schools in China and Hong Kong, the rest of Asia and the Middle East rose by 5 per cent.
Schools in North America and the Caribbean reported a 5 per cent drop in the number of applications. Latin America, Africa and India reported decreases of 6 per cent, 30 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.
Applications decreased in Europe by 10 per cent at the school level in the past year; however, the average number of enrolments has increased by 26 per cent.
The greater breadth of programmes offered by business schools is economically viable only if they can foster sufficient demand for places, AMBA said. Mr Dawes said that newer programmes often had smaller numbers but that schools would expect to see an increase over time.