Oct 13, 2009

The MBA and the recession - FAQs

Is there more MBA interest and applications during periods of economic crisis?
MBA education is counter-cyclical, meaning that during an economic downturn such as we're facing today, there are several ambitious professionals considering their positions and how best to progress their careers for when the inevitable upswing occurs. QS, as the world's leading experts in theMBA and career space, as well as most of the schools attending the QS World MBA Tour, have reported a significant spike in interest in and applications for MBA programs. This shows us that the MBA is just as relevant now as ever before.

Why would one do an MBA during a period of economic crisis?
As people leave jobs, particularly in finance but also in other industries, as a result of the economic crisis, anMBA is a fantastic option to put ambitious leaders in a stronger position to secure a better management position in a year or two. Some see this as "riding out the storm" in business school, but for most people it's a lot more strategic than that. If you have lost your job as a result of the downturn, or perhaps simply see that in a year or two the economy is going to need more business leaders than ever before, which is probable, getting into business school is more than a viable option. The QS World MBA Tour is the place to start your search.

Where do applicants come from?
MBAs come from all walks of life and for all sorts of reasons. Naturally there is a high proportion of people from within finance and consulting and other fields in business. At the same timeMBAs come from medical, legal, media and broadcasting, self-employed, insurance, and all sorts of fields. Doctors want to learn how to run their surgeries more efficiently, lawyers their chambers. TV production managers want to run TV studios. Entrepreneurs want to improve several aspects of their businesses. There are people who want to continue in their professions at a higher level, those who want to learn about business practices within their industry and those who want a complete career change.

Do the contents of an MBA adapt to the economic crisis context?
It is clear that during a recession, the content of courses is bound to change. This is partly due to the fact that professors involved inMBA courses will create case studies or discussions on real-life situations that failed, such as Enron or the sub-prime lending in the US. Also, MBA programs are centred around the students attending the courses as peer-to-peer teaching is valued highly at business school. As most students on this year's programs will have experienced the downturn to a greater or lesser extent, this is going to rapidly alter the tone and content of the debates that form such a large part of the MBA experience.

Regarding financing an MBA, what is the context today? Anything new?
How to finance an MBA is the question QS experts are asked most often. Our research suggests that schools are, generally, cutting down the amount of money they are providing in scholarships this year, and perhaps into 2010. This makes business sense of course, and is undoubtedly a short term situation. However scholarships do still exist. The QS World MBA and World Grad School Tour is offering US$1.6million to attendees at our events, to some of the best schools in the world, including Wharton, Chicago, Cass and IE. As for banking loans, the indication is that, while it is harder to secure loans in some places, MBA graduates are largely considered safe bets so banks are not seeing them as a risk and loans should still be possible to find.

Which are the most prestigious MBAs and for what reason?
QS conducts an annual survey of MBA employers around the world - QS Global 200 Business Schools 2009: The Employers' Choice - to ask them to identify the schools from they target to recruit the best MBAs. The results demonstrate that MBA employers around the world are increasingly targeting a broader selection of regionally strong business schools from which to hireMBA graduates. This trend may be accelerated by the recessionary environment, even as overall MBA hiring numbers fall.
The schools securing the most employer votes by region are: Harvard, Wharton and Columbia in North America; INSEAD, London Business School and IESE in Europe; INSEAD Singapore, Melbourne Business School and National University of Singapore in the Asia-Pacific region; EGADE in Latin America.

How are MBA rankings usually created? What are the criteria that you or other publishers consider when working on them?
All rankings use different sets of criteria, a methodology that the ranking's creators will spend a lot of time thinking about beforehand. One publisher may think that the quality of academic staff is the most important, and so will bias the rankings accordingly. Another may suggest that the post-MBA salary or success rate for career placement is the most important. The Aspen Institute's Beyond Grey Pinstripes website ranks MBA programs according to the amount of time and effort put on teaching sustainability issues on the course, for example.
Although you often see the same schools appear time and again, the methodology of each ranking is important and candidates must look closely at them and bear that in mind. Increasingly, QS research such as the TopMBA Applicant Survey shows that rankings are decreasing in importance year on year. Instead, MBA aspirants are keen on focusing on personalizing their MBA searches. QS has therefore created an innovative web search tool called Scorecard which allows candidates to rank business schools according to their own criteria and what suits them. How can Wharton or MIT or Harvard be the best schools for you if you don't want to study in the US.
This is a good question and is not one that can be answered scientifically with an exact figure. The simple fact is that in virtually 100 per cent of cases where an MBA wants to increase their salary (and the QS Applicant Survey shows that "increasing salary" is only fifth out of seven most important reasons for doing an MBA) then that increase will happen. In some cases it will double or treble, especially for those who have moved from a relatively low-paid position into a consultancy or investment banking position, but in most cases the increase will be more moderate.

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