Earlier this week, the FT came out with dramatic headlines about the UK’s top business schools seeing their MBA numbers fall dramatically. The graph below demonstrates the point.
The cause is down to a ‘perfect storm’ of different factors converging. The UK has had a concerted campaign to reduce the number of immigrants. To do this it has tightened border controls and visa applications. It has had the unintended consequence of making this country less welcoming to overseas students. Theresa May may have announced that 1,000 extra places will be added to UK net migration caps for MBA graduates who plan to start a business in the country, but it will have little effect on visas for the 2013 MBA recruitment market.
We are of course in a global recession – and this recession has been longer and deeper than any other in decades. In the past, MBAs have been counter-cyclical. Managers have used their savings to study for an MBA while the economy was flat and they may have lost their job, poised ready to take advantage of the upswing.
This recession has been different. One of the biggest issues has been lack of loans and funding and people are reluctant to spend what savings they have.
And of course, new business schools are springing up in India and China – attracting a market that would once have gone to the UK and America.
Our own business school has seen numbers decline along with our competitors – ironically, just as we achieved the AACSB accreditation, giving us the ‘Triple Crown’ and putting us into the world’s top 58 of business schools.
But businesses across the world have faced similar challenges to ours and our teaching helps them to apply transformational strategies, despite recessions and increased competition. So we are now applying our own teaching to ourselves.
Here is just a snapshot of what we are doing to ensure we retain our position among the world’s top business schools and deliver for our students and alumni.
1. Flexible learning modules
Many of our students are concerned about the long term commitment of an MBA when they can’t be certain of the economy or their plans.
Our distance learning MBA has grown significantly and we expect that to continue. We have worked hard over the last two years to ensure that anyone studying an MBA at Bradford can move seamlessly between full time, part time and distance learning MBA.
Our modules are also run simultaneously across the world – so students could study strategy in Singapore, finance in UK and HR in Dubai.
2. MBAs for the future
Perhaps our greatest innovation has been to create an MBA with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to reflect business and business models of the future. The circular economy has become a hot topic, recently mentioned in EU policy documents, and is seen as a way of gaining competitive advantage for organisations and economies. The circular economy MBA has been designed with the likes of Renault, B&Q and National Grid and will appeal to those working in large corporates as much as those wanting innovative digital businesses of the future
3. Specialist Masters
The MBA may not be growing at the same pace as before, but the specialist Masters field definitely is. Earlier this year we launched a trading room for students on specialist finance MScs – where they can practise trading on Thomson Reuters Eikon software as well as gain insights into ethical dilemmas.
4. Working with professional institutes
Last year we launched a new employee relations postgraduate programme designed with the help of international companies including BP and HSBC.
The new course is designed in partnership with the Employee Relations Institute (ERI) and businesses and trade unions such as UNITE have all contributed ideas to make the programme practical and relevant to employers.
5. New overseas partnerships
Of course, many businesses have a strategy based on ‘if you can’t beat them, join them (but do it better)’. We are exploring new partnerships for delivering Bradford degree programmes in high growth markets such as China.
This is a business school that is practising what it preaches – finding new avenues for new futures.
If you were in our seats, where would you focus your efforts for the future – and where do you see the MBA market going?
Where do you see future opportunities for our School?