SOURCE: Graduate Management Admission Council

September 20, 2016 00:01 ET

European Schools Have Rebound Year in Competitive Market for B-School Applicants

Schools Continue to Fill Classrooms With Qualified Candidates Despite Reduction in Applications to Select Types of MBA and Other Business Master's Programs

RESTON, VA--(Marketwired - Sep 20, 2016) - Nearly half (49 percent) of all graduate business programs received more applications in 2016 compared with 2015, according to a global survey report released today by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). European programs across the board, plus full-time one-year MBA, executive MBA, and online MBA programs appear to be experiencing stronger application growth, whereas full-time two-year, part-time, and flexible MBA programs worldwide are indicating declines this year.

"Business degrees continue to be one of the most sought-after educational credentials," said Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC. "With the creation of more tailored business programs such as the Master in Data Analytics, the demand for entrance into business school is spreading across a growing supply of programs. With the competitive landscape changing, applicants have more options from which to choose, creating a mixed picture for business schools today."

GMAC conducted its 17th annual Application Trends Survey from early June to mid-July 2016. The survey findings are based on a record number of responses from 335 business schools and faculties worldwide representing 872 graduate management programs, including MBA, non-MBA business master's, and doctoral-level programs. Participating programs received a combined total of 440,000 applications during the 2016 application cycle. Ninety-three percent of all participating programs report that the applicants this year are similarly or more academically qualified than candidates last year.

Key Findings: Program Application Growth

A key finding within the report reveals that European business programs -- which have seen stagnant volumes for several years -- are experiencing an influx in applications this year. Sixty-five percent of European programs (across all program types combined) grew their application volumes. Forty-six percent of U.S. programs and 41 percent of programs in East and Southeast Asia grew their application volumes as well. Further, European full-time one-year MBA programs stand out in this year's findings -- nearly 3 in 4 (74 percent) programs report year-on-year increases. Nearly half of U.S.-based programs (43 percent) and programs in East and Southeast Asia (45 percent) report volume growth in the full-time one-year MBA market.

Additional program types experiencing application gains include the full-time one-year MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, Master of Finance and the Master in Data Analytics.

  • A majority of all full-time one-year MBA programs (57 percent) report growing application volumes this year, building on the momentum of last year's results when 51 percent reported growth.

  • For the first time since 2008, a majority (51 percent) of executive MBA programs report growing volumes, 8 percentage points higher than programs that reported growing volumes in 2015.

  • For the second consecutive year, a majority (57 percent) of online MBA programs report growing application volumes, up from 50 percent of programs that reported volume growth last year. Survey responses also show that 9 percent of online programs are new in 2017, signaling schools are implementing programs that are of high interest to prospective students.

  • Also for the second year in a row, a majority of Master of Finance programs report growing volumes. More than half of the European (65 percent) and U.S.-based programs (55 percent) report growth this year.

  • One of the newest programs in the graduate management education space -- Master in Data Analytics -- continues to see growing demand. Nearly all (94 percent) of the 16 data analytics programs that submitted data comparing 2015 with this year report application volume growth in 2016. The survey also shows program growth in this area as nine new programs will be seating their first classes this year.

  • After three years of slowing growth, the Master in Management program holds steady in 2016 with a majority (51 percent) of programs reporting growing application volumes. More European programs (58 percent) report growth compared with half (50 percent) of U.S.-based programs.

Key Findings: Decreasing Volumes for Some Flagship Programs

A select number of program types realized fewer application submissions or held steady with last year.

  • For the first time since 2012, fewer than half of full-time two-year MBA programs (43 percent) experienced year-on-year application growth this year. This is the second straight year that the share of programs reporting growth is down from a high of 61 percent in 2014.

  • Part-time MBA and flexible MBA programs continue to exhibit the same application volume patterns seen over the past seven years since the end of the Great Recession. This year, just 43 percent of part-time MBA programs and 44 percent of flexible MBA programs report application volume growth.

  • Master of Accounting programs continue a trend of declining growth. Less than half (44 percent) of programs experienced rising application volumes in 2016.

Other Points of Interest: Candidate Diversification and Tuition Assistance

Business schools continue to diversify their outreach and recruitment efforts to broaden their appeal to targeted candidate segments. Seventy percent of full-time two-year MBA programs recruit international candidates. These candidates, especially those from China, India and the U.S., also are a priority for outreach and recruitment by a majority of full-time one-year MBA programs and master's programs in management and finance.

The most common form of tuition assistance that graduate management programs offer is merit scholarships. The majority of all program types offer financial aid, including 78 percent of full-time MBA programs. Two-thirds of programs (68 percent) report that the percentage of their incoming students receiving employer-based tuition reimbursement this year will be similar to 2015.

To download GMAC's 2016 Application Trends Survey Report and an overview of the survey methodology, visit: gmac.com/applicationtrends.

For supporting graphics, visit the GMAC News Center.

About GMAC: The Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®) is a nonprofit organization of 216 leading graduate business schools from around the world actively committed to advancing the art and science of admissions. The Council provides the solutions necessary for business schools and candidates to discover and evaluate one another to ensure that talent never goes undiscovered. GMAC owns and administers the Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®), used by more than 6,100 graduate programs worldwide, as well as the NMAT by GMAC™ exam, used for entrance into graduate management programs in India. The Council is based in Reston, Va., with offices in London, New Delhi and Hong Kong. Additional information about the GMAT exam is posted on mba.com. For more information about GMAC, visit gmac.com.