Five MBA Trends for 2015

The MBA is always changing

Andrew Main Wilson
Monday 23 February 2015 16:24

Ever since its inception in the late 19th century, the Masters in Business Administration is the one academic postgraduate qualification that has never stood still. The constantly evolving requirements of employers, the changing demands of students, and the revolutionary changes caused by waves of new technologies have been met by a willingness by the best business schools to change the what, the how, and (increasingly) the where they teach.

Alternative funding sources for MBA studies

The AMBA 2012 Salary Survey showed that 29 per cent of respondents received some form ofcorporate sponsorship towards their studies; by 2014 the same survey showed a drop to 21 per cent. New funding sources, such as crowd funding and peer-to-peer lending have evolved over the last couple of years, and are likely to increase in popularity - and are certainly going to become a trend in 2015.

Crowd funding is where prospective students borrow capital from those interested in supporting MBA studies as an investment. Several are available, such as Prodigy Finance and SoFi. Prodigy now provides loans to MBA students at 18 AMBA-accredited schools, with more in the pipeline. Investors, primarily alumni of these schools, invest in one class of students. Rather than focusing on credit history, Prodigy uses a predictive model that calculates borrowers’ potential future income. Peer-to-peer lender SoFi (Social Finance) only offer tuition loans to employed graduates – so whilst not ideal for all, they are ideal for anyone who wishes to study for an EMBA on a part-time basis.

Wider range of specialisations

Highly popular about 10 years ago, MBA specialisations are making a comeback. However, those now being offered have changed. Previously, most were still related to established MBA topics - Finance, Marketing, Strategy and Technology – all of which are still highly-popular. However, new ones have emerged over the last few years – such as Luxury Goods, Healthcare, Aviation, Education and Energy. But just as employers demand more specialised graduate hires, the students are going to demand a broader range of specialisations to choose from. According to MBA recruiters from major companies, likely areas of demand will be Human Resource Management, Project & Programme Management and Marketing. Another specialisation that is also becoming popular globally is Supply Chain Management. As worldwide, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 26 per cent increase in logistics roles by 2020.


Heavily related as a growing specialisation in its own right, the trend for an Entrepreneurial MBA shows signs of becoming increasingly popular by both students, who are considering starting their own business venture, and also by employers. London Business School and HEC Paris are just two of the leading schools that have seen a major shift towards MBA students pursuing entrepreneurial careers. Whereas in the past, big employers might have been reluctant to hire MBA graduates with significant entrepreneurship coursework for fear that the new recruits would use the job to learn the ropes before leaving to start ventures of their own, today’s large firms are increasingly recognising that innovation and entrepreneurial skills are vital to enable them to compete.

Curriculum changes

Schools have learned that changes to the global economic environment should mean a change in the "what" and the "how" students are taught. Changes to core curricula will be designed to respond to this trend to ensure that schools maintain their role in business education. Among the most significant changes to the new core curriculum are likely to include more focus on leadership, entrepreneurship, a broader range of specialist electives (see above), inculcating even greater corporate/social responsibility into each module, introducing multi-viewpoint analysis, managing big data, global/multi-cultural communications and the aforementioned entrepreneurship.

Flexible delivery and learning

Advancements in technology, allied to a greater demand from students for flexibility in the way in which they learn, will see new innovations in the way MBA programmes are delivered. Multiple programme entry points throughout the year will become increasingly common. As will blended learning programmes which take the best from online and classroom based teaching, peer interaction, team exercises, and real world (on the job) exercises. Self-paced study will become more readily available as students ask for the flexibility to extend their studies to ensure a good life/work/study balance – or indeed to accelerate their studies to graduate more quickly.

Multiple locations will become increasingly common as employers seek graduates with a more international/global outlook. This is already becoming more prevalent with the rise of an EMBA delivered across multiple geographic locations joining full-time MBA programmes that are spread across several countries – such as the Mannheim MBA where modules can be taken in Germany, UK, Spain, France, China and India.

Andrew Main Wilson is the Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs (AMBA), the international impartial authority on postgraduate business education and the only global MBA-specific accrediting body.

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