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
MBA applicants look set to defer their studies as India experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases. Yet there's support available for Indian b-school candidates
The Financial Times Executive Education Ranking has been replaced by directories listing many of 2021’s best executive education programs. Find out why and which b-schools feature in the list
Robert Dahlstrom from BI Norwegian Business School explains how the circular economy has been impacted by COVID-19, and how staying home has spelled disaster for sustainability
MBA students say they’re still getting a good return on investment despite the pandemic. Al Dea, author and founder of MBASchooled, spoke to MBAs at top US schools to find out more
Indian MBA Applicants Face Uncertainty Amid COVID-19 Surge
Admissions experts expect to see a drop in applications from India to international MBA programs in Round 1 of 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic devastates the country.
With many countries banning travel from India, and families dealing with the personal tragedy of the pandemic, applicants from India face uncertainty.
Even admitted students from India are reconsidering their options. Manish Gupta, a leading MBA admissions consultant and chief consulting officer at MBA Crystal Ball notes that admitted students have had to deal with mixed feelings.
“As schools the world over gear up for the next session, things are still quite unclear. The trend of students deferring remains a distinct one, as we witnessed in the last cycle,” he says.
However, amid the uncertainty, there is support on offer for Indian MBA applicants.
Support for MBA applicants
After deaths caused by coronavirus in India reached several thousand per day, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), a global association of business schools and administrator of the GMAT Exam, released a statement in support of Indian business school candidates.
GMAC is taking steps to protect our colleagues, their families and the candidate community. To ensure there are no disruptions to candidates’ pursuit of their graduate management education goals, we have implemented a range of precautionary measures.
Safety is the primary concern at our testing centers, and testing center staff are following enhanced health and safety protocols.
Most business schools require MBA applicants to submit a GMAT score. Since the launch of the GMAT Online Exam, MBA applicants in India can also take the test from home.
Given the situation, admissions consultants are suggesting Indian MBA candidates consider deferring their studies until 2022. “The world, as we all hope eagerly, is likely to be a much better place than what it currently is, a year out,” says Manish.
Barbara Coward, founder of 360 MBA Admissions, says candidates should put their personal lives first.
“Admissions staff familiar with operating under uncertainty so my advice is to keep the lines of communication open with the admissions office and update on your status if/as it changes,” she says.
MBA Students Fight COVID-19
The severity of the situation is not lost on admissions consultant and former MBA student Sam Weeks. He’s working with an Indian MBA applicant who moved back from Europe to India to care for his mother after she was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“He had signed up for a full 3-school application package with me, intending to apply to top European business schools in Round 1, 2021, but paused everything to travel back to India to take care of her. She’s on oxygen and struggling for her life,” he says.
As the pandemic devastates India, hundreds of incoming MBAs, together with some current MBA students and alumni from top schools, have banded together to help, launching Students Fight Covid.
They are offering their expertise in exchange for donations to Covid Relief agencies. Aspiring MBA students can share the receipt of their donation and then book consultations for resume and testing guidance, general essay and MBA application advice, and career coaching.
“There’s a big gap in demand and supply of medical equipment [in India]. A lot of organizations are working to bridge that gap, so we thought we could use our expertise to enable those organizations while helping other future applicants in the process,” says Shrey Malpani, one of the founders of the COVID-19 relief initiative.
Students Fight COVID was started by seven incoming Wharton MBAs and has spread to over 260 admits from top b-schools across three continents, including Kellogg School of Management, the Indian School of Business, NYU Stern, Columbia Business School, Oxford Saïd Business School, INSEAD, and Harvard Business School.
Over 200 mentees have benefited from the program and $15,000 has been raised to date.
“If we are able to get this going on a large scale, we could mobilize funds on a larger scale than each of us can do individually—that’s the main goal; to make a significant impact on the ground,” says co-founder Tarang Gupta.
Financial Times Scraps 2021 Executive Education Ranking
The Financial Times (FT) has decided to temporarily halt its annual Executive Education ranking for 2021.
In its place, the FT has published two directories of open-enrolment and custom executive education programs. These two directories—collecting information on over 100 schools—include data on the number of programs offered, the number of students enrolled, average tuition cost, among other criteria.
The FT explains the reasons behind the decision: twin factors of disruption to data collection, and the mounting pressure that schools are up against, both as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar factors caused disruption to the FT Global MBA rankings early in 2021, which saw the withdrawal of major business schools including Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Wharton School.
Which schools feature in the Executive Education directories?
Replacing the Financial Times Executive Education ranking with directories represents an interesting change of tact for the FT: providing general points of comparison rather than a competitive list.
Open-enrolment programs are available to anyone who meets their admissions requirements, while custom programs are designed specifically for certain organizations.
The open-enrolment program directory lists the number of advanced management programs (AMPs) and general management programs (GMPs) at each school, as well as information on tuition costs, and the names of their flagship programs. AMPs are for senior leaders looking to advance their skills and responsibilities, while GMPs are for functional or specialist managers, looking to broaden their leadership and management competencies.
Schools listed are all accredited by AACSB or Equis and can still be considered as offering some of the best executive education programs in the market today.
IESE Business School, which topped the custom executive education program rankings in 2020, features in both directories. The directory includes its two flagship AMP and GMP programs—the Programa de Dirección General (PDG) and the Programa de Desarrollo Directivo (PDD).
Other top schools featured include INSEAD, Cambridge Judge Business School, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, London Business School, and Stanford Graduate School of Business.
For every program, you’ll find information on what you can expect from each program, including average tuition cost, average teaching hours, and statistics on gender balance.
In terms of most students enrolled, Florida Atlantic University College of Business tops the list, with 78,506 students in 2020—even more impressive given it only has one AMP and one GMP program. This is closely followed by the Wharton School, with 65,706 enrolled.
Why is Executive Education so popular?
Technology and the rise of online learning has fuelled growth of executive education over the past several years. Business schools can now bring their world class education to professionals around the world, across shorter, condensed formats.
Employers have also seized on this format, where once they might have paid for employees to do an MBA or Master’s degree. It’s a win-win for companies willing to invest in their employees: free training for aspiring managers, and an increasingly skilled workforce for employers.
An FT survey published in conjunction with the Executive Education directories found that a quarter of companies plan to increase spending on executive education for their employees in 2021, while over half plan to keep spending at the same level.
Business schools will be pleased to hear this news too. Executive education is a strong revenue source for business schools (you can find revenue volumes in the FT directories), and increased investment will be a much needed cash injection after diminishing revenues during COVID.
It also demonstrates a renewed trust from companies that business schools are able to deliver on their primary function: providing top management and leadership training.
How COVID-19 Is Damaging The Circular Economy
Though the coronavirus pandemic has meant more of us are now working from home, travelling less, and shopping more locally, the environment has still taken a hit.
We have found new ways to create waste, explains Robert Dahlstrom from BI Norwegian Business School, and that’s had a negative knock-on effect on the development of the circular economy—an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.
Robert is an adjunct professor in the marketing department at BI and the Seibert professor of marketing in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University.
He has specific expertise in the circular economy, sustainable education, and green innovation. The school is at the forefront of research into sustainability and energy and the ways governments, NGOs, companies, and individuals can create less waste and be a more sustainable part of the economy.
More PPE, more plastic waste
Due to the contagious nature of the coronavirus, hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE)—masks, overalls, visors, and gloves—have become a top priority for people across the globe.
The issue is that PPE needs to be regularly disposed of. Items are also made of materials like polyester, latex, polypropylene, and polycarbonate.
“In terms of the industries that use a lot of plastics, there should be a movement away from these single-use plastics,” Robert explains.
These materials are not easily recycled. Sometimes they’re not recyclable at all. This shift towards single-use plastic protection, borne from necessity, with a long and widespread supply chain has proven problematic for the circular, waste-free economy.
BI is trying to tackle this issue and is involved in earthresQue, a center for research and innovation. The project is running until 2027 and is researching the technologies and institutional frameworks necessary for sustainable management and treatment of earth materials.
Unemployment and unsustainable consumerism
Coronavirus closures have led to widespread unemployment which in turn has affected sustainable decision-making. Workers since the start of the pandemic have been hit by furlough schemes, stimulus cheques, and unemployment. In the US unemployment reached a soaring high of 14.9% in April 2020 and 6.7% in December 2020.
But unemployment has not only affected the wallets of individuals and the broader economy, it has also hit sustainability and the green economy.
“A lot of jobs that we took for granted have been lost and those people have lost their livelihood,” explains Robert. “The service industries have been hit particularly hard, people who work in the hotel industry, people who work in the restaurant industry, they have really been challenged by this.”
The ways people spend and live have had to adapt to tighter purse strings. Sustainable and reusable consumer products can be more expensive than more easily disposable items.
“If people don't have jobs, then they tend to downgrade in terms of their consumption,” Robert adds, “and a lot of that consumption tends to be non-sustainable. When people are not gainfully employed, they're less likely to be concerned about the long-term effects on the environment.”
The acceleration of food delivery
2020 was a year of growth for food delivery companies like Deliveroo and Foodora, as nationwide lockdowns and closed restaurants led consumers to order in their favorite takeaways throughout the pandemic. The chief executive of Just Eat Takeaway, Jitse Groen, said the delivery group registered 588 million orders in 2020, a growth of 42% on the year before.
As our consumption habits have changed, the number of polystyrene containers and plastic delivery bags filling our trash has grown. However, there are ways in which food delivery can be made more sustainable through marketing and research—a focus for academics at BI Norwegian Business School.
“When you order food online, inform them that you're delivering this to your house. Tell them you have paper products, you have utensils, and you want them to send you as little as possible—I want the food and nothing else,” Robert explains. “And that's one thing that marketing can do.”
Sustainable marketing is an area of keen interest at BI, and a considerable amount of the school’s research focuses on changing attitudes to waste and manufacturing through education to create a truly circular economy.
Sustainability is a priority at BI, with their MSc in Sustainable Finance combining an ethical finance education and important sustainability issues and the Executive Master of Management in Energy which focuses on the future of the energy industry, geopolitics and risk management. These courses center the green agenda and the circular economy, educating for a greener future.
The pandemic might have temporarily damaged sustainability and the circular economy, but with education and information, the damage doesn’t have to be permanent.
MBA Students Get Strong Return On Investment Despite COVID-19
Al Dea is author of the book MBA Insider: How to Make the Most of Your MBA Experience and founder of MBASchooled. He spoke to US MBA students to find out how they’re getting the best possible return on their investment during the pandemic.
MBA students have found themselves operating under fast changing and challenging circumstances due to COVID-19.
After talking with hundreds of MBA students over the past year, I’ve found many are asking themselves tough but honest questions about the ROI of the MBA, and how to make the most of the MBA experience.
Despite these challenges, I’ve come across a number of examples where students have found ways to continue to get value out of the MBA.
Brad Vonick, University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business (’20)—Finding The Silver Lining
Brad came to business school with a desire to expand his career options within the marketing function.
While his MBA experience at Texas McCombs was almost entirely traditional in his ability to build new skills, develop meaningful relationships with his classmates, and open new career opportunities, like all MBA students in March 2020 Brad’s final few months were impacted by COVID-19.
Despite these shortfalls, he still found ways to benefit—some personal, with friends and classmate connections that stayed longer in Austin, and others for experience, communicating online with McCombs alums and employers across time zones.
He’s turned this perhaps unfortunate series of events into valuable knowledge. “As a result of COVID-19, I had to hustle even harder for my job search, which allowed me to explore other types of marketing that I don’t think I would have done otherwise without being forced to do.”
Brad now combines roles as a global partner marketing manager at Visa and as head of marketing for a golf technology startup.
Willie Sullivan, Emory University Goizueta Business School (’21)—Forging New Opportunities and Relationships
Willie struggled initially with the transition to studying online during the pandemic, but after taking a step back and reflecting, he realized there were new opportunities on offer.
“I was so focused on the career benefits that I did not initially understand the value of growing my network more generally. I have had so many great experiences and made so many meaningful connections outside of recruiting and academics,” he says.
After the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Willie wanted to do something to push racial equality and human rights to the forefront of business, which resulted in creating The John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition.
Despite planning the entire case competition virtually and the challenges with COVID-19 throughout his second year, Willie believes that seeking an MBA is still absolutely worth the struggle he overcame.
“I have had so many opportunities that I would have never dreamed of had I not come to do an MBA. Getting an MBA has not just changed my career trajectory; it has changed my life.”
Becca Jordan Wright, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (’21)—Leading and Innovating in Unchartered Territory
Becca came to UNC Kenan-Flagler to build her leadership skills. Amid the pandemic, those were undoubtedly tested but she managed to go beyond simple survival; she thrived.
Becca took over as president of Carolina Women in Business right as she and her classmates found out they would be remote for the rest of the quarter.
Becca knew she had a duty to serve her members but instead of jumping in, it meant listening first. “As type A, go-getters, we have a bias for action. But my team had to step back and listen to our members, to identify what programming was most needed at the time.
“I learned resiliency, and have plenty of personal experiences to talk about in interviews because of my experience as a student leader,” she says.
With the help and resources of the Adams Apprenticeship, a program for aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as her classes and the UNC community, Becca also spent her time building her food startup Piedmont Pennies, and plans to continue scaling the business after she graduates.
“Starting Piedmont Pennies was the best and most impactful decision I made during the full-time MBA program,” she says.
Mitch Guber, University of Rochester Simon Business School (’22)— Expanding Opportunities
Mitch started his career in the hospitality industry managing several luxurious hospitality properties across the country. He decided to pursue an MBA after being furloughed from his job.
“I had great expertise in certain aspects of business and in the hospitality industry, but in order to grow in my career I knew I needed more, and that is where an MBA came into play,” he says.
Mitch knew prior to enrolling in business school that he’d be faced with a hybrid learning environment, and to date, the experience has far exceeded his expectations. While he’s done his best to attend as many in-person classes as possible, he’s says the virtual learning experience allows for in-context discussion that may not happen otherwise.
“We absolutely miss the opportunity to chat in the hallway between classes, or in larger gatherings, but I can’t help but feel fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by classmates, professors, advisors, and administrative staff who have worked tirelessly to give us the best experience possible,” he says.
What is the ROI of an MBA?
Since the full-time MBA is typically a two-year experience that can cost a significant amount of money as well as the opportunity cost, it is often a target of criticism and ire from pundits and experts. Despite this, many students see the value in the MBA still exists.
“I understand the concerns about the diminishing value of an MBA, but I think the value comes from what you personally hope to gain from the experience,” Mitch notes.
As a career switcher, Mitch has relied on the education and insights he’s learned thus far to help him transition to a new career. He’s confident his MBA will allow him to “pivot more quickly and have more opportunities” than not having an MBA.
Getting a strong ROI from an MBA is about more than a post-MBA job and a salary boost—although MBA salaries remain high despite the pandemic.
“The MBA experience is more than the lessons you learn in the classroom. It is the industry understanding you gain through recruiting; the time-management skills you sharpen as you balance your personal and professional goals; and it is the extensive network you build in the program that stays with you long after business school,” says Becca from UNC Kenan-Flagler.
Outside of the short-term career transition, the MBA degree provides students with management skills that they will take with them for the rest of their career—and most MBA graduates will have multiple post-MBA careers.