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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How Is COVID-19 Impacting International MBA Students?

Travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have left international MBA students asking themselves one question: Should I stay or should I go?

While online learning means you can technically study from anywhere, a huge part of doing an MBA is the on-campus experience. Moving abroad to study gives you the chance to immerse yourself in different cultures, make personal and professional connections, and gain specific local business knowledge.

While studying abroad is a challenge right now, international students on the University of Hong Kong (HKU) MBA are proving that it’s not impossible. 

A center for trade, and a bridge between eastern and western markets, Hong Kong has been fast to get a handle on the pandemic, and remains a top destination for business professionals from around the world.

Here’s how five international students have found moving to Hong Kong to study during the pandemic.

1. Thierry Hardy-Lachance, Canada

The journey to get to Hong Kong was complicated. It took 30 hours to fly from Montreal to Hong Kong and spent two weeks in quarantine in a hotel. 

We were supposed to have field trips in Shenzhen and Shanghai, which sadly got cancelled. Otherwise, my studies have not been impacted too much by COVID-19. So far, my time in Hong Kong has been pleasant. There is much to learn from the professors and I appreciate my cohort.

I am glad I can go on campus and attend in-person classes. I find I am more productive on campus. I think my classmates who are studying remotely have it worse. So far, I have only been able to meet them virtually.

2. Hubert Streitler, Switzerland

It was a very long journey to Hong Kong from Switzerland, including a 14 hour stay at the airport waiting for my test!

Thankfully, the overall impact of COVID-19 at HKU is limited. I feel lucky to still have on-campus classes, while other universities have gone completely online, or postponed their courses. I get much more value from in-person learning, I like having to get up and look presentable, and interact with my cohort and professors.

The beginning of the program was intensive, but I’m now three months in and learning to manage the workload. Now feels like a good time to be doing an MBA.

3. Muhammed Manko, Africa

I flew into Hong Kong from Africa – it was a painful journey but smooth after I arrived!

I started the MBA online. For the first three weeks I was still in Africa, then I had a two week quarantine in Hong Kong. I chose to move to Hong Kong to meet my classmates and have the whole MBA experience. I much prefer face-to-face learning, and find I’m much more focused while with my cohort.

A lot of activities that usually come with the MBA are now limited, and I’d love to experience more, get out there and be with other people, especially as it’s my first time in Hong Kong.

The workload has been more than I anticipated, but it’s going well overall.

4. Medha Agarwal, India

I flew in, and had to delay by a few weeks as Hong Kong temporarily banned all flights from India. I found out I’d got a flight on the 7th September with two days notice to get my test results and say bye to everyone— everything changed so fast. I actually enjoyed my quarantine a lot since I was exhausted, it was good to relax after the long journey before starting such an intensive program.

COVID-19 has made things a bit difficult— originally my mom and sister were going to come to Hong Kong with me— instead it’s my first time staying away from my family.

But in terms of my studies, it’s not changed things that much and I didn’t do any online classes. We’re still getting face to face interactive lectures by professors. I always imagined doing my MBA in person, and HKU offers a great network to meet people, so I don’t want to miss a day.

I am super excited about spending this year with my cohort.

5. Nicole Yoo, South Korea

When I arrived in Hong Kong from Korea, the process was well streamlined, so I could get to the hotel within three hours of arriving. The coronavirus test process was easier and safer than I expected.

I took online classes until the middle of September, when HKU changed to the hybrid mode.

Online learning is famously flexible, especially for international students who had issues with flights and visas.

But, attending the classes in person allows me to interact with classmates and professors face-to-face, and makes me feel more responsible regarding meetings, assignments, and exams. I think it’s important to have a balance between both.

The switch to online has made me think about how to adapt and prepare for the smoothest transition into my future career. I was planning to attend forums and conferences on the Hong Kong luxury market, which have mostly been moved online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

With the online advantage, I am making my own network actively via social media to create a rich network of experienced professionals, and build a sense of community.

Executive MBA Salaries Rise Despite COVID-19 Impact

EMBA graduates in 2020 had compensation increases of 14.1%—including salary and bonuses—after program completion, despite the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the economy hard and risking a halt to salary rises.

That’s according to a survey by the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), which found that the average salary and bonus package for graduates in 2020 rose from $169,269 before the EMBA to $193,200 upon completion. 

As the EMBA continues to grow in popularity–many schools have reported an uptick in applications—the survey found that 53% of EMBA graduates were also given new responsibilities after their program, highlighting the high return on investment the degree provides.

39% of EMBAs received a promotion during their program, with many crediting their coursework for aiding their leadership skills and other business acumen.

The Executive MBA Council facilitates the advancement of EMBA programs worldwide, with the research being pooled from more than 200 colleges and universities.

The EMBA and coronavirus 

The variety of changes that were made to programs this year, from adapting to hybrid models of learning to moving all operations online, caused uncertainty in terms of salary expectations and promotion for EMBA graduates.

But studying an EMBA is still worth it despite the challenges, thinks Michael Desiderio, executive director of EMBAC.

"Despite a year of unprecedented challenges that have impacted the global economy and workforce, the investment in an Executive MBA continues to be valuable to both students and companies,” Michael says.

“EMBA programs enrich students with new ways of solving business problems and provide them with tools to adapt in the face of adversity. Companies recognize how important these skills are now more than ever, and the increases in compensation and responsibilities given to professionals in these programs attest to that.”

As the world gears up for COVID-19 vaccinations, we’re on the way to businesses returning to some degree of normality. But to recover fully from the pandemic those same businesses will need to continue to draw upon the wealth of expertise provided by the world’s Executive MBA graduates.

Read next:

MBA Salaries Bounce Back After Coronavirus Uncertainty

COVID-19 Vaccine Gives Hope To International Students

In light of the COVID-19 vaccine news nearly a quarter of international students (21%) have said that they want to bring forward their plans to study abroad. That’s according to a new survey released by higher education company, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). 

The new research surveyed 887 prospective international students considering studying abroad from countries around the world including China, India, Pakistan, UK, and the US. 

This is good news for the state of business education. One of the key value propositions of graduate management education is offering students a classroom that reflects the world they’ll be graduating into. International students are a key part of that. 

International students returning to business school

News of three potential coronavirus vaccines—with the UK recently approving the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine—presents hope of a safer environment for international students to travel.

The QS study comes at a crucial point when international students are weighing up whether to stay at home or travel further afield for their education in 2021.

A return to normal levels of student mobility may not be imminent though. Nearly half (43%) of the prospective international students surveyed by QS said news of a potential vaccine has made no difference to their plans. 

Reasons given for this include the lack of clarity around when and to whom the vaccine would be available, or that they’re planning on studying from 2021 assuming normal practice will have resumed by then. 

Research carried out pre-vaccine news by QS also found that 45% of prospective international students said they would only feel comfortable travelling overseas to study when campuses are open and face-to-face teaching has resumed. 43% of respondents said they would travel overseas to study once a vaccine is developed and available.

Jessica Turner, the managing director of QS, explained that a significant proportion of current international students did not travel to their study destinations of choice this year because of lack of in person teaching or travel restrictions. 

And though the news of a vaccine has encouraged some international students to bring forward their plans to study abroad, it will likely take mass vaccination to push higher education back to pre-COVID normality.

“A COVID-19 vaccine will be able to significantly tackle both of these obstacles for prospective students planning to study abroad, which is encouraging news for the future of global higher education,” added Jessica.

How COVID-19 has affected the business school classroom

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) 2020 Application Trends Survey found that demand for business school places increased during the pandemic, with 67% of programs reporting an increase in application volume. 

The report found US application numbers were heightened across the board—up 29.9% for domestic candidates, and 14.7% for international applications. European schools saw a remarkable increase in domestic applications which were up by 50.1%. 

Though international applications were also up year on year in both Europe and the US, international students were also more likely to delay their studies until next year. There was a 15% deferral rate among internationals according to GMAC’s report. 

But the results of the QS survey could imply that international applications may increase further during the upcoming application cycle if vaccination allows for a return to safe student mobility. Along with deferred international candidates, the 2021-22 classroom could be strongly represented by internationals. 

A return to normality won’t be immediate. But news of a COVID-19 vaccine has had a positive impact on the way international students are thinking about the year ahead.

Whether further vaccine developments in 2021 allow for internationals to travel to campus or to consider applying to business school outside of their home country altogether, it looks like good news for higher education, and international and domestic students alike. 

Read next: 

INSEAD Students Tackle Coronavirus Pandemic

Innovative Thinking Helps Emlyon MBAs Handle Impact of COVID-19

To say coronavirus has changed the world would be an understatement. We’ve switched offices for living rooms, pub visits for Zoom calls, and faced the challenge of adapting fast to the new normal.

Business schools have not escaped the need to swiftly pivot. Vital aspects of the MBA experience like internships, speaker events and networking must suddenly be conducted in a virtual environment.

It’s a shift that Emlyon Business School has made remarkably well, pivoting the program to focus more on a new type of learning which embraces the pandemic restrictions–and challenging students to adapt–whilst keeping the focus on the full-bodied MBA experience. 

BusinessBecause spoke to Emlyon Business School's MBA admissions and academic team to hear how they've adapted to COVID-19, and how learning fresh and relevant skills is becoming increasingly important.

Innovative thinking 

Professor Rhoda Davidson (pictured right), program director at Emlyon, emphasizes that an MBA is a valuable option in the new, more digitally focused world. Remote learning is undoubtedly an unpredictable challenge. 

In response, Emlyon altered their courses to include new ways to work on real business problems in a virtual world. Company executives were brought in – via online platforms – to give students the opportunity to discuss business challenges and pitch their own solutions, digitally.

From offering logistics recommendations to Walmart to the considering new technology with Euronews, Emlyon MBA students have been able to adapt to new innovative ways of learning– echoing the school’s ‘early makers’ culture.

Emlyon students are encouraged to be proactive and agile, and the pandemic offered the opportunity to push these practices into a new focus. Throughout their time in the program MBA students are encouraged to apply and adapt what they learn to realistic and current situations.

“The pandemic has given us a preview of the future of work. Remote projects and teamwork will become the norm. Companies will operate more like the gig economy than in rigid hierarchies,” she says, “and this crisis gives our students the chance to practice these skills.”

Emlyon has homed in on ‘experiential learning’—a way of adapting quickly and sourcing new opportunities—as a method of succeeding in the current situation, which has been reflected in students’ abilities to find jobs.

Rhoda has even seen an increase in the number of graduates applying for jobs in highly digital businesses and e-commerce. “We gave students a taste of these new ways of working on real business issues and we found that people are much more at ease being interviewed for jobs in the new economy,” she adds, “and much more successful at securing these jobs as well.”

How Emlyon adapted

Emlyon also added to the program in order to assist MBAs in combatting the effects of COVID-19 on businesses.

Stephanie Ousaci (pictured left), MBA development manager at Emlyon, details the steps taken when the pandemic took hold. 

“We adapted the MBA program to be able to convey the current situation and make sure our participants could work through the crisis both professionally and personally,” she explains, “this included a series of webinars covering topics such as crisis and risk management, remote working, stress management and well-being. Personal coaching was offered on request.” 

Not only did Emlyon change the program content, but they also moved the academic year to start in January.

“Hopefully, the availability of vaccines in Spring 2021 will reduce the students’ exposure to the virus,” said Stephanie. 

Rhoda emphasizes that while some students were able to find employment in summer 2020, others have found it is taking a little longer as the job market begins to open up again. In response, Emylon extended their academic and careers services up to the end of the calendar year, “to make sure they were feeling positive and confident in their abilities in the situation.”

“There are plenty of companies still hiring. The pandemic has accelerated underlying industry trends, such as digital transformation.”

Emlyon was also able to hold more high-profile speaker events with business leaders explaining how they are adapting during the pandemic.

Lessons for future MBAs

To make it through a global pandemic is an achievement. Future leaders can learn a lot from how business schools adapted during this time. 

“Living through a global crisis like this can create a lot of uncertainties and anxiety," Lisa Homer-Rulliere (pictured right), recruitment manager at Emlyon, adds. “We are living in a world where everything is changing very quickly, and in this context, it is becoming very hard to plan anything.”

But the current situation has also spurred business school candidates to think twice about career paths.

“What do I really want to do for the rest of my life? What are my dreams? How can I improve my chances of having my dream job?” These are the questions Lisa has seen prospective students begin to consider. 

“Doing an MBA is also the opportunity to take a break to focus on what really matters,” she adds, “and to be more attractive in a very complicated job market.”

By thinking outside of the box and being open to fresh ideas, new ways of working and uncertain possibilities, students can equip themselves with the skills needed to not only survive but succeed in our new world.

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