It is business as usual for robust global winner

February 8, 2002

THES reporters find out how enrolments on MBA courses around the world have fared in the face of slowing economies and the aftermath of September 11.

Michael Vitale, dean of the Australian Graduate School of Management in Sydney, has seen no softening of demand for MBAs since September 11.

In fact, applications for Sydney's part-time MBAs are 20 per cent up, and applications for the full-time programme have risen 70 per cent.

Half a world away, business education is equally buoyant at Leeds University. Allan Bolton, general manager of Leeds Business School, said:

"Our full-time programmes began in the immediate aftermath of September 11. Within an overall international recruitment of 330 and an MBA programme with 158 students of 35 nationalities, just one student deferred entry by 12 months.

"Since then, applications have continued to rise. Compared with the same stage last year - itself a record year for us - our MBA applications are up by 36 per cent and the specialist masters degrees are up an average 39 per cent."

At Henley Management College, "one or two" people pulled out of programmes after September 11, and one programme was postponed.

But Stephen Watson, its principal, said: "Overall we do not see our business affected. In fact, we are predicting an increase in business volume for the year just started of about 3 per cent."

After September 11 it is no surprise that Loughborough University Business School is experiencing strong demand for its postgraduate distance-learning courses in security management.

Tom Mulhall, of the university's Centre for Hazard and Risk Management said: "We have two intakes per year. Last October we saw one of the largest intakes of students for many years."

The Open University Business School, the country's biggest provider of undergraduate and MBA courses by distance learning, reports "business as usual".

Overall, the direct impact seems to have been slight. At least two Americans cancelled their MBA places at Nottingham University Business School. At the University of Gloucestershire, students from the United Arab Emirates cancelled or postponed applications after the attacks. But Steve Mitchell, senior lecturer in marketing at the business school, remains hopeful. "We have maintained contact and it appears that they may be looking to join us in September 2002."

Cambridge and Manchester business schools were hit when US universities pulled out of a series of fairs across Europe and the Middle East.

Chong Ju Choi, Cambridge's MBA director said: "The data up to now show no impact on Middle Eastern applications."

But Argentine applicants have been pulling out of the Cambridge programme after the collapse of their country's economy.

At the top end of the market, exclusive Global MBA courses are still sought after. These are expensive, and nearly all students are company sponsored. Fees for the London Business School/Columbia EMBA are $102,000 (£72,000).

Peter Calladine, education services manager of the Association of MBAs, said: "I have heard of no reports indicating a decrease in interest in the Global MBA. The events of September 11 might have made some nervous about flying, but one would not expect international players suddenly to decide to cease doing business."

Mr Calladine's research shows that the recession of the early 1990s put the MBA market on an expansion path from which it has never turned back.

China, recently admitted to the World Trade Organisation and hungry for business education, is seen as the new frontier.

At the World MBA Tour fairs in China in November, Mr Mitchell saw dozens of US schools recruiting students. "The demand from China is huge," he said.

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