Enrolments in flexible MBA programmes in the UK have significantly increased, as business schools adapt their programmes to suit a challenging economy, new research shows.

A report carried out by the Association of MBAs (AMBA), which accredits MBA courses across the world, showed that there were significant positive trends in the provision of part-time programmes, and a large increase in part-time enrolments. As well as reporting a significant increase in part-time MBAs, business schools also saw a large drop in full-time enrolments. Around 2,000 students enrolled in full-time programmes - the lowest figure since 2008.

AMBA point to a growing number of factors that might explain why full-time MBA applications and take-up in the UK has dropped. The vast majority of students on full-time MBAs in the UK are international students, and as the economic recovery continues to falter, the UK is becoming more unappealing as a place to study. UK business schools struggle to compete with business schools in other countries which are now able offer an equally high-quality MBA education.

Chief Executive Sharon Bamford said: “it is understandable that factors such as the UK economy, immigration and the growth in high quality MBA education in their own countries are starting to have an impact on enrolments to full-time MBAs in the UK.”

Students who were considering full-time courses may have decided to go part-time, which would explain the shift in numbers between the two modes of study. Potential students are increasingly wary of missing out, both financially and in terms of professional experience, if they choose to study an MBA and take a year out. A flexible MBA, which will enable students to continue working as well as studying, is consequently increasingly appealing.

However, despite the large increase in the number of people who apply for part-time MBA programmes, distance-learning still remains the most popular mode of study for MBAs in the UK, and has been consistently popular since the beginning of the economic downturn. Eight of the world's leading distance-learning programmes are in the UK, and this is an indicator of why this mode of study is perhaps more attractive. Sharon Bamford added: “There is a continued trend towards flexible learning, as the part-time MBA attracts a growing number of applicants.”