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Specialised MBA courses in demand

Full-time MBA programmes across the world reported a decrease in applications this year, while specialised courses saw a surge

education Updated: May 22, 2012 20:32 IST
HT Education Correspondent

More than two-thirds (67%) of two-year full-time MBA programmes that participated in the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) application trends survey reported a decline in application volume in the 2010-11 intake from the 2009-10 season. The survey included a sample size of 649 MBA programmes from 331 business schools, representing 45 countries.

“Applications to two-year full-time programmes are coming off historic highs in 2008,” says Ashish Bhardwaj, director of GMAC’s South Asia region. “In the beginning of the economic recession, people are likely to go back to school to retool and be ready for when the economy rebounds. But in this prolonged downturn, people are much more hesitant to leave their jobs and go back to school because they are unsure if they will be able to renter the workforce at the right level when they graduate. The improvement on the economic front has been patchy and in the absence of a clear trend towards recovery, candidates are hesitating to make the time and cost commitment towards a two-year full time MBA programme.”

However, there’s been a surge in applications to specialised management programmes, such as finance and accounting. The masters in finance programmes led the trend with 83% increase in applications, followed by the masters in management programmes at 69% and masters in accounting programmes at 51%. Academics say that specialised knowledge amounts to better employability, which may be a cause for this trend. “I believe that having an in-depth knowledge in a particular field gives one a competitive advantage to those who come from a general MBA background,” says Bhargavi Kakunuri, a student at XLRI.

Some reasons for the trends observed

* A specialised MBA has a better chance of giving you Industry-ready knowledge that employers will want.“In the industry, specialised knowledge is valued more than a generalised knowledge, hence, after graduating in personnel management, I will have an edge over those with a general MBA degree,” says Bhargavi Kakunuri

* It keeps you well placed in the market thanks to your expertise — even during bad times. Your knowledge adds value to the company even when it’s going through a rough patch, which bodes for better job retention

* The demographics associated with specialised MBAs is different from general MBA applicants.“They are younger, have less work experience; and have different expectations in terms of their career prospects,” says Ashish Bhardwaj, director of GMAC’s South Asia region

* Another trend that is putting specialised masters programmes at an advantage is the higher education /skills requirements of employees across most
industries; and worldwide demand for higher education

Key findings
Two-Year Full-Time MBA Programmes:
More than two-thirds (67%) of participating two-year full-time MBA programmes reported a decline in application volume in 2011 compared with 2010, continuing a trend that began in 2009

One-Year Full-Time MBA Programmes:
More than half (57%) of one-year full-time MBA programmes received fewer applications than last year. The decline was most prevalent among non-US programmes, where 62% reported a decline compared with 49% of US programmes

Specialised Master’s Degrees:
Specialised master’s programmes reported an increase in application volume over last year. Master’s in finance programmes led the trend with 83% reporting an increase, followed by master in management programmes at 69% and master of accounting programmes at 51%

Internationalisation of the Applicant Pool:
Across all degree types, 46% of programmes in 2011 reported growth in applications from foreign students

Applicants from Asian-Pacific (APAC):
Countries (mainly China and India) were the largest source of foreign applications for full-time programme types around the world

Increased Academic Quality of Applicants:
All programme types report that applicants and their academic credentials are higher in 2011 than for applicants in 2010