Ensuring that MBA programs are taught in ways that maximize engagement with students and do not conform to typical teaching models is the biggest challenge facing senior business school decision makers, according to a global study by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and the Education Center of Excellence at Parthenon-EY, a global strategy consultancy.

Among the range of potential challenges listed in the Global Business School Leaders’ Survey, ‘being innovative or creative in MBA delivery’ was ranked the most significant challenge by Business School leaders. Survey respondents cited this as a more significant challenge than other issues including: ‘recruiting sufficient numbers of students,’ ‘careers support,’ and ‘retaining high quality staff.’

The Global Business School Leaders’ Survey sought to identify key trends, challenges and regional perspectives on the future of post-graduate business education from leading Business School’s staff from across the world.

Opinions were collected via an online quantitative survey and a series of in-depth qualitative interviews. More than 170 Business School staff participated in the survey and 10 gave personal insights into the challenges, trends and regional issues affecting the MBA industry, through extended interviews.

The findings revealed that the second biggest challenge, cited by Business School leaders worldwide, was recruiting a sufficient number of students. This was particularly prevalent in responses taken from Business Schools in the Americas.

The survey also sought to identify where Business Schools are focusing their recruitment efforts and what specific attributes they desired most from applicants.

It found that approximately every $3 in $10 spent on marketing MBA programs to prospective students was spent on social media advertising. Interviews suggested that this was due to social media being the most targeted and effective in terms of return on investment. In contrast, more ‘traditional’ methods of student recruitment (such as MBA fairs) accounted for a substantially lower proportion of participating Business Schools’ marketing budgets.

When Business School staff were asked which attributes they desired the most in candidates when recruiting MBA students,prior experience in business or leadership positions was ranked the most desirable attribute. In contrast, forms of standardized testing - be that academic or Business School specific examinations - were ranked among the least desirable when making offers to prospective MBA students.

The survey also aimed to gain further information on the profitability of the MBA. Findings indicated that three-quarters of respondents indicated that their MBA programs made a profit, however only 47% of respondents from Business Schools in the UK stated that their MBA program surpassed breaking even – much lower than the 85% reported in the Americas.

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