Live Updates: Coronavirus Impact On Business Schools

What is the impact of coronavirus on business schools? We bring you the latest updates including campus closures, changes to MBA admission requirements, and more

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INSEAD, LBS, Bocconi & 8 More Top Business Schools On The Impact Of COVID-19

As Europe adapts to the impact of COVID-19, some business master’s courses have moved online, while others have adopted hybrid models combining online and socially-distanced face-to-face learning.

When researching the best business master’s for you, you’ll want to know what the pandemic means for the programs you’ve got your eye on. How are students currently studying and how has coronavirus impacted the business school experience?

To find out, BusinessBecause caught up with admissions directors from 11 top European schools and here's what they said:


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Imperial College Business School

Amy Duckworth, Director of Admissions

At Imperial we’ve introduced a ‘multi-mode’ teaching model, so students have the flexibility to move between on-campus and remote learning. 

Study spaces have been redesigned so students can participate in class debates and discussion, whether joining remotely or in person. 

In 2005 Imperial launched an Edtech lab to explore how to increase the use of techonology in the classroom, and this has been instrumental to ensuring our proactive, safe, and flexible approach. 


BI Norwegian Business School

Shani Pearson, International Recruitment

The biggest change to student experience at BI is that classes must be followed online. We’re hoping to start teaching on campus in the spring semester 2021, but we’re preparing for a hybrid or fully online alternative just in case. 

Students still have access to the campus, including the library, but realistically there are fewer in person social and professional development activities as a result of COVID-19. 


WHU

Hannah Page, Marketing & Admissions Manager

WHU initially adopted a hybrid approach, but later went fully online due to the German lockdown. 

Luckily we formed a center of digitization a few years ago, so it wasn’t all new, and our professors have adapted quickly to this new style of teaching with online lectures. We also moved careers fairs and information sessions online, to recreate the feeling of our cancelled in-person events. 

Long-term, we don’t want stay a fully-online program, as the highlight of our MSC is the on-campus experience, with all the connections and networking that it brings.   


INSEAD

Virginie Fougea, Global Director of Admissions and Financial Aid and Scholarship.

While we have the tools and the experience to make a seamless shift to online instruction, we understand learning as a social process, and our students have told us their preference is being on-campus. 

So, we’ve worked with our Student Council to resume in-person education wherever and whenever possible.

Students are now on campus in Singapore, but in France we’re back online due to their second lockdown. 

We’ll staying online until we can ensure the safety of our students and are looking into hybrid model for the future. 


IESE Business School

Tomofumi Nishida, Associate Director, MBA/MiM Admissions and MBA Career Development Center 

IESE one of the few schools in the world still implementing in-person classes for vast majority of Master’s students, on our Madrid campus. 

We’re offering a hybrid model for flexibility, but we know with face to face is best due to our focus on interactive discussion. 

To ensure safety, we have a number of measures inplace, including testing and social distancing. 

Other parts of the master’s experience, such as Spanish classes, and networking events, have been much better suited to going online than the teaching, so we’ve focussed on that too. 


Bocconi University

Veronica Sullo, International Recruitment Coordinator

72% of our international students decided to come to Milan for their master’s programs this fall, and we believe the on-campus experience is the most enriching way to learn. 

We successfully ran blended model in place, with on-campus students working in small groups and rotating between online and in-class teaching, and students outside of Milan joining online. 

From late October we felt it was safest to go online fully, but with our careful planning and access to regular testing we’re reassured we can return to our blended model soon. Until then we’re making the remote experience as interactive as possible, with careers events, mock interviews and networking opportunities all going online.  


ESCP Business School

Leon Laulusa, Executive Vice-President, Dean for Academic Affairs and International Relations 

ESCP is running a hybrid model for all teaching and support services.

We’re now offering asynchronous lectures, live broadcasting, and tutoring sessions for application alongside some in person learning where possible. 

Our students have adapted remarkably to moving online, participating in class discussions, and group projects, even taking online exams. A big plus is being able to re-watch all their courses when revising. 


ESMT Berlin

Boban Sulic, Senior Admissions Manager

Since the restrictions in the fall, most of our events have been entirely online, but this has not negatively affected us. 

We not only welcomed the largest master’s class at ESMT amidst pandemic, but we also just launched our new part-time blended MBA to great success.

In 2021, we hope to offer as much in-classroom teaching as possible, but will adjust according to the developing situation.


ESSEC Business School

Anne-Flore Maman Larraufie, Academic Director Advanced Masters in Strategy & Management of International Business

At ESSEC, we see online teaching as an opportunity to reinvent the learning experience. Teaching has become more interactive, with fewer case studies and more online projects based on discussion and collaboration. Another plus is there is no limit to our class numbers now, so students have the chance to attend more courses. 

The main downside not being able to travel to other campuses or go on business trips, we’ve had to think hard about how to recreate the international experience from home. 


Rotterdam School of Management 

Amy Janssen-Brennan (pictured right), assistant director Recruitment & Admissions

RSM has decided that all of our MSc programmes for the 2020-2021 academic year will be offered 100% online, to ensure the safety of both our staff and students, especially international students. 

We’ve managed to switch quickly from in-person to online and got a lot of positive feedback from our students so far.


London Business School 

Stephanie Thrane, Recruitment & Admissions Director

A big change is to recruitment and admissions, with our normal face to face interviews going online, which has been an advantage for international students. Going remote has also made us utilise our alumni network much better and broaden our global reach, and we’ve been able to host speakers online who would never have been able to fly into London normally. 

Course-wise we’ve gone hybrid, for the flexibility. It’s been a huge shift, but as a small school, and with lots of effort and investment in advanced technology, it’s been really successful so far.


LSE Graduates Help African Businesses Survive Coronavirus

The economic impact of coronavirus on developing countries has been especially harsh. In Sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 has seen small businesses—vital to the region’s economy—struggle with a drop in income, tricky containment measures, and a lack of funding.

The United Nations Development Program expects developing countries to see $220 billion worth of income loss due to coronavirus, while analysis by McKinsey suggests as many as one third of jobs in Africa could be lost. 

Drew von Glahn, executive director of the Collaborative for Frontier Finance (CFF), found the pending crisis impossible to ignore.


Finding new perspectives

With the help of Elisabeth Prager, an experienced strategy consultant with prior success in the financial services and healthcare sectors, Drew created a bridging facility to support local capital providers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Throughout the project, Drew and Elisabeth have drawn on the insights they gained studying the Executive Global Master’s in Management (EGMiM) program at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Drew and Elisabeth came to the EGMiM program in 2015. Although Drew was confident in his technical knowledge, he was seeking an opportunity to hear new perspectives.

“Too often we get caught up in the rote of what we do in our job, and our ability to expand and perform better over time is limited,” he reflects. Drew von Glahn

Drew began his career in corporate banking, before pivoting into impact investment. In 2010, he co-founded Third Sector Capital Partners, which advises nonprofits, government agencies, and impact funders.  

Shortly later, he joined the World Bank as a senior advisor, working on social enterprise portfolios across emerging economies. After graduating from the EGMiM, Drew continued his journey by founding CFF—an initiative that aims to increase access to capital for small and growing businesses in emerging markets.

For Elisabeth, on the other hand, the EGMiM offered a great opportunity to explore her next career step. 

After working with asset management firms, such as Standard Life and Coutts, for eight years, she wanted to expand her expertise and seek out new career options.

“And it worked,” she says with a laugh. “After graduating, I moved into a boutique consulting firm in London, and then I moved to India to join the Tata Trust, Asia’s largest philanthropic trust, as director of strategy for a cancer care program they were running.”


Tackling a global issue

The EGMiM program laid the foundation for Drew and Elisabeth’s current project with CFF.

Drew’s second year dissertation explored how small, dynamic capital providers can solve certain problems that larger institutions seem unable to address—particularly in emerging markets.

When it became clear that coronavirus would have a profound effect on small businesses in these markets, he realized that working with these smaller, local capital providers would be the most effective way to reduce the pandemic’s impact.

“These providers know the market, they know the risks, they know their portfolio companies—they can see opportunities and risks better than outside investors,” explains Elisabeth.Elisabeth Prager

In spring 2020, Drew proposed a bridging facility to prevent a liquidity crisis for local capital providers and their portfolio of small and growing businesses.

With grant funding from partners including the Visa Foundation, the fund is currently targeted to close around $50 million in early 2021.

Drew soon asked Elisabeth to join the project, and she jumped at the opportunity. The pair quickly recognized its potential to solve a wider, system issue: the funding gap that small businesses face, and its particularly harsh impact on women.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely to be employed in small businesses, but businesses owned by women face a $42 billion funding gap.

“A crisis like Covid impacts women disproportionately, which is why we decided to take this slant of looking at gender,” Elisabeth explains.


Funding in emerging markets infographic


Leveraging a collaborative mindset

Establishing the bridging facility has been a challenging experience, but Elisabeth and Drew are drawing on the skills they honed at LSE to overcome key hurdles.

The most pressing challenge is working with diverse stakeholders around the world, from government agencies to local capital providers and their portfolio businesses.

“When you have multiple stakeholders, the biggest challenge is establishing a common sense of what the problem is,” Drew reflects.

On the EGMiM, working with a diverse, international cohort helped them prepare for this kind of collaborative challenge.

EGMiM students also have the chance to visit Beijing and Bangalore, further expanding their knowledge of the global business landscape.

“Having that variety of perspectives and ways of thinking was amazing,” Elisabeth recalls.

Equipped with these insights, Elisabeth and Drew are optimistic that their bridging fund will be a success, and create a roadmap for addressing funding issues in the future.

“We have an opportunity to use this crisis to make material changes. We’ve seen Covid create a sense of urgency to resolve global issues,” Drew concludes.

MBA Programs Exceed Expectations Despite COVID-19 Disruption

Despite COVID-19 causing huge disruption to higher education during the past year, 84% of MBA students say their business school experience is either exceeding or living up to their expectations, according to new research from the Association of MBAs (AMBA) & Business Graduates Association (BGA).

That’s despite many business schools shifting to online learning and social distancing impacting the interactive elements of an MBA. 

The findings, from a survey of 752 MBA students, highlight how business schools are weathering the storm in the face of unprecedented changes to learning.


The shift to online learning 

Not only are students pleased with the overall MBA experience so far, but in terms of teaching, 25% of students surveyed rated their teaching as excellent, 43% as very good, and 23% fairly good. This comes as lecturers and tutors had to quickly adapt to online learning too and faced their own challenges in doing so.

Only 2% of students said that the quality of teaching has so far been fairly poor, very poor, or terrible–a good sign for prospective MBA candidates considering online teaching may be here to stay long term.

“The findings reveal that, for the most part, the class of 2020 was riding the chaos of the current global uncertainty and making the most of their unique MBA experience,” says David Woods-Hale, director of marketing and communications at AMBA & BGA and author of the report.

“Participants also recognize the work being done by their schools to mitigate the challenges caused by social distancing and remote learning, with several remarking that the continuity arrangements were impressive, allowing them to still enjoy their experience, despite the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns, that were out of the hands of their schools."



MBA value for money

While 84% of students’ expectations are being met, 69% of survey participants felt that the delivery and content of their MBA program could still be improved. 

Under a third of students (32%) said their degree had so far provided very good value for money, with 48% saying it had provided fairly good value. Meanwhile, half of students surveyed think there could be better networking opportunities at their schools. 

It is important to note that the survey was carried out at the peak of lockdown and travel restrictions in relation to COVID-19. However, networking is another factor of education that can be carried out online. 

In terms of MBA development and keeping up with the zeitgeist of business trends, 43% of students think the partnerships between business schools and companies could be improved; equally, 43% also suggested improvements for teaching modern business trends like AI and data. 


MBA careers and COVID-19

There are many reasons for choosing to study an MBA. The most popular reason cited among students—with 70% choosing this option—was ‘to acquire more skills and knowledge about the business world’; closely behind at 69% was ‘to expand my area of expertise’. 

Other reasons cited were ‘to get a broader understanding of how business should be managed’ (53%); ‘to change career’ (51%); and ‘to help differentiate myself in the job market’ (49%).

All of the above contribute in some way to enhancing a candidate’s career post-MBA. But although teaching is holding up amid COVID-19, there are mixed results when it comes to career support.

48% of respondents said they were engaging with careers support at business school, with 49% saying they were not.

For the 322 participants that said they were using their school’s careers service, 80% rated the service either excellent, very good, or fairly good—this looked at the advice candidates received in terms of job applications, CVs, and interview prep.

Just under two-thirds of the participants (65%) rated their school’s networking with employers as excellent, very good, or fairly good. Job search facilities are also received positively by the sample, with 65% rating them as excellent, very good, or fairly good.

Though a strong performance among candidates who used them, school’s career services will no doubt be under pressure amid the damage caused by the pandemic to the global economy.



Post-MBA options, post-COVID

The current MBA students surveyed will be graduating into a world still coming to terms with COVID-19. 

And despite employment worries, 54% of those surveyed do not intend to return to the job they held prior to the MBA; 33% are planning to move to a new company in the same sector as they already operate, and 29% plan on moving to both a new company and different sector. 

On the entrepreneurial side, 16% of the students plan on kickstarting their own businesses upon graduation.

In terms of location, more than half of students (55%) intend to stay in the same country as their school, 24% plan to move elsewhere and a fifth of students (21%) are unsure yet where their MBA will take them geographically.

MBA experiences remain as varied as ever, and fortunately, expectations are continuing to be met overall, despite the current situation. 


DOWNLOAD our MBA Application Guide 2020-21 


These MBAs Set Up A Women In Leadership Club During COVID-19

COVID-19 has meant changes to business on all levels. But how has it effected women in particular?

At the beginning of the pandemic, the prospect of working from home was seen as a potential equalizer for women, allowing employers to hire from a more diverse pool of candidates, and offering more flexibility for female employees.

But the reality has not been that simple. The Harvard Business Review found that women are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men to lose jobs during this pandemic. Women make up of 39% of global employment but, as of May 2020, they account for 54% of overall job losses.

However, it's also been a time of innovation and change, especially among female business school students. 

“It’s in women’s DNA to be adaptable, and get around circumstances like COVID-19”, says Huyen Nguyen, an MBA student at  ESMT Berlin, and current VP of events at the recently founded Women In Leadership Club.

Setting up the club in a pandemic 


The Women in Leadership Club at ESMT Berlin was founded as the pandemic began, and has adapted to the challenges of COVID with impressive speed. Its mission is to develop and empower the women to take on leadership roles, and build a community of advocates, supporters, and allies of advancing women. The club comprises of not only women, but also 30% men.

During the lockdown, the club set up events online and organised small group networking and talks with female industry leaders via Zoom, where these women shared their experiences and suggested how to face the work challenges they've been met with. 

The club has also expanded its awareness on various social media channels such as Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook to share inspiring stories of women in business, in lieu of being able to meet them face to face.

One of the clubs initiatives is the ‘Lean-in-Circles Program’, which gives students a safe space to talk openly about everything from the challenges they face, to how to rally together in tackling them. “I did not know anyone in Germany before coming to ESMT,” says Madhusmita Triparthy (pictured right), one of the co-founders of the ESMT Women in Leadership Club. "The group members of my circle are like my family, and my go-to people here.”

Since COVID-19 measures started to ease in Germany, the club has already managed to have a face to face event- “Chat& Connect"- that helped the members to connect to the alumnae of the school.

 They’ve also doubled down on their ambition to expand beyond ESMT, connecting to other Women in Leadership clubs across other business schools in Europe and creating a sustainable community.

How has COVID-19 affected female business school students?

The Women in Leadership Club is far from the only aspect of business school to be affected by the pandemic. Though many students are now back in the classroom, COVID-19 meant thousands of MBAs studied from home, and hybrid programs mixing on campus learning with online sessions are becoming normalized as a result of the pandemic. 

The team behind the ESMT Women In Leadership Club describe mixed feelings about studying online. On one hand, they found it easier to communicate with the professors and studying at their comfort zone. But on the other hand understanding difficult concepts online was challenging with several technical issues cropping up every now and then and there was no fellow classmate to go to for clarifications.

“At times I kind of felt alone.” Madhusmita says. “I really missed that human touch and those important conversations with fellow classmates.”

“I have undervalued myself at work in the past—I wasn’t confident when presenting myself, and I know I’ve missed some opportunities in professional development because of that,” says Huyen (pictured right).

“Meeting other women who have experienced the same issues as you in the workplace is often a catalyst for change. COVID-19 means less chances to go out and talk to people in a casual environment and share your previous experiences,” Huyen explains. Informal, face to face networking is vital to progress, but it can be hard to recreate these meaningful relationships on zoom.

“Being a WIL club member made me realize about the different challenges women face on daily basis depending on from where they are” adds Beatriz Meythaler, fellow MBA student at ESMT Berlin, and VP- Communications of Women In Leadership Club. 

"In Germany," she continues, "you can see women walking alone at night without fear. They can be independent and free at night. In Ecuador, where i'm from, the situation is completely different. As a woman, you cannot do that without putting your life at risk."

“Some Latin American friends, male and female, have shared with me how their perception about gender has changed through this club after becoming aware of the psychological challenges women face at work. Back at home they used such expressions as ‘you play like a girl’. Now, they are aware of the negative impact of using such expressions and avoid them”. Beatriz adds.

48 students represent 24 countries in the 2020 ESMT MBA cohort, and 40% of the class are women. The internationality of the cohort brings diverse perspective and enriches the classroom discussion at ESMT. 

Though diversity in the classroom may be a harder resource to tap into in remote learning situations, initiatives like those of the Women In Leadership Club at ESMT are ensuring that progressive conversations and perspective sharing is still happening. 

READ: 4 Ways An MBA Can Help You Navigate Uncertainty 

How has COVID-19 effected women in the workplace?


Though innovations in the ESMT Women In Leadership Club are encouraging, women at the workplace have still been hit badly by the effects of COVID-19 on businesses. This is particularly true for working mothers. 

A recent survey in the UK found that 81% of mothers needed childcare to be able to return to work, but only 51% of those women were able to access it.

“Society is changing, but progress has been very slow” says Beatriz (pictured right). “COVID-19 has made the progress even slower."

For mothers who can return to work, there are still obstacles. “Women are always treated as the primary caregiver of children,” says Madhusmita. “If everyone is working from home, it’s women who are compensating for childcare more than men.”

This is known as the invisible workload, where women are seen as the manager of the household, and therefore expected to stay on top of chores and childcare, creating what some call a ‘second shift’ in the home.

“We’re already overcompensating by putting extra efforts at work to ensure our managers do not feel that we are any less than our male counterparts. So adding the extra pressures in the form of unpaid-care is tough on women,” adds Madhusmita. She founded the club after witnessing the dearth of female leaders in her previous workplace at a top automotive company in India. This experience inspired her to work to change the patriarchal mindsets of fellow male colleagues.

When it comes to climbing up the ladder, doing everything online poses further challenges.  Many businesses have successfully maintained the status quo through remote working, but are yet to get around how to best assess, promote and hire fairly during a pandemic.

Moreover, working from home has increased the burnout rate among women who are juggling between office responsibilities and other duties at home, resulting in increased stress levels.

But such issues have only encouraged the Women In Leadership Club to double down on their ambitions. The next goal for club is to organize a women in leadership conference next year, that would have a greater scope, attract a larger audience and host top women leaders across different industries. 

“If we want to promote an inclusive mindset and gender equality at work,” Madhusmita concludes, “we need to come together and speak about it.”

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