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MBA applicants driven by entrepreneurship; ROI still top priority

The desire to set up a business is now the top motivating factor for one in five students to pursue an MBA, according to a survey by CarringtonCrisp. The research also shows the value students put on career outcomes and ROI, and that savvy business schools would be wise to take note of men and women’s differing priorities when it comes to career services.

Photo: CarringtonCrisp.

72% of women said help finding an internship is important or highly important, compared with 60% of men

Entrepreneurship was listed as the fifth most valuable piece of course content in this year’s Tomorrow’s MBA study from the education market research and consultancy firm, up from 10th last year.

“Schools should think about what they teach, career services provided and how they align programmes with this growing demand”

“Given this interest, schools should think about what they teach, career services provided and how they align programmes with this growing demand,” the report counsels.

The Tomorrow’s MBA study is based on a survey of 1,000 students who are considering taking an MBA. They come from 82 countries, 12 of which had more than 20 respondents: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, UK and USA.

The number one reason respondents gave for doing an MBA is improving earning potential, followed by increased employability and a desire to work internationally.

In a related finding that demonstrates the ever-growing emphasis on return on investment, nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents said they wanted to know how career planning and job search are integrated in to the student experience on an MBA.

“Career services are no longer an add-on, but are considered integral to the student experience and can differentiate one school’s MBA offer from another,” says the report.

Internships, knowing which employers recruited graduates from the course and the chance to speak with alumni to understand their career routes were among the top resources prospective students want to receive from their MBA’s career services.

The study also revealed that the number of women who are considering an MBA is on the rise. Women made up 42% of respondents to the survey, who were contacted by MBA programmes where they had applied, via business schools’ social media pages and by a research company. This figure has not risen above 38% and has been as low as 26% in past surveys.

The rise could well reflect the growing flexibility of provision, according to Andrew Crisp, the report’s author and owner of CarringtonCrisp.

“The successful schools are going to be the ones that are smart about marketing to both male and female applicants”

“There’s probably a perception that technology is the nerdy teenage boy, but actually what is happening is the flexibility that online offers makes it much easier for people like women who’ve come out of the labour force for a while – maybe they’ve been having children – to do an MBA without having to sit in a classroom of men who are trying to get into a finance career, with everything that goes with the culture of some of the big finance houses,” Crisp told The PIE News.

Because of this, the study notes: “The successful schools are going to be the ones that are smart about marketing to both male and female applicants and then meeting their study needs where they do differ.”

For example, women valued help finding an internship more highly than men, with 72% ranking it as important or highly important, compared with 60% of men. Over two-thirds (71%) of women ranked having profiles of successful graduates on a school’s website as important or highly important, compared with 52% of men.

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The greater flexibility of courses now on offer – with distance learning and blended options – was also reflected in the results which showed that the MBA is moving to become an “MBA 2.0” as demand shifts towards a greater interest in entrepreneurship and employability.

“And, of course, technology is shaping more and more of the approach to learning,” it adds.

Just over a quarter – 26% – said they would prefer a blended or online MBA while the two-year MBA, a constant in the US, was the favoured option for just 24% of respondents.

The full-time, one-year MBA followed closely behind, at 23%, while 20% said they would prefer a part time or Executive MBA.

“It’s not necessarily the longest running programmes that are going to be the best; it’s going to be the ones that are quickest to adapt, that embrace the new technology, that use it to best effect to deliver a really outstanding online experience,” added Crisp.

“It certainly becomes a lot harder to deliver traditional programmes in a market that is anything but traditional nowadays.”

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