Live Updates: Coronavirus Impact On Business Schools

What is the impact of coronavirus on business schools? We bring you the latest updates including campus closures, changes to MBA admission requirements, and more


Latest features:

COVID-19 Vaccine Gives Hope To International Students

In light of the COVID-19 vaccine news nearly a quarter of international students (21%) have said that they want to bring forward their plans to study abroad. That’s according to a new survey released by higher education company, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). 

The new research surveyed 887 prospective international students considering studying abroad from countries around the world including China, India, Pakistan, UK, and the US. 

This is good news for the state of business education. One of the key value propositions of graduate management education is offering students a classroom that reflects the world they’ll be graduating into. International students are a key part of that. 

International students returning to business school

News of three potential coronavirus vaccines—with the UK recently approving the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine—presents hope of a safer environment for international students to travel.

The QS study comes at a crucial point when international students are weighing up whether to stay at home or travel further afield for their education in 2021.

A return to normal levels of student mobility may not be imminent though. Nearly half (43%) of the prospective international students surveyed by QS said news of a potential vaccine has made no difference to their plans. 

Reasons given for this include the lack of clarity around when and to whom the vaccine would be available, or that they’re planning on studying from 2021 assuming normal practice will have resumed by then. 

Research carried out pre-vaccine news by QS also found that 45% of prospective international students said they would only feel comfortable travelling overseas to study when campuses are open and face-to-face teaching has resumed. 43% of respondents said they would travel overseas to study once a vaccine is developed and available.

Jessica Turner, the managing director of QS, explained that a significant proportion of current international students did not travel to their study destinations of choice this year because of lack of in person teaching or travel restrictions. 

And though the news of a vaccine has encouraged some international students to bring forward their plans to study abroad, it will likely take mass vaccination to push higher education back to pre-COVID normality.

“A COVID-19 vaccine will be able to significantly tackle both of these obstacles for prospective students planning to study abroad, which is encouraging news for the future of global higher education,” added Jessica.

How COVID-19 has affected the business school classroom

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) 2020 Application Trends Survey found that demand for business school places increased during the pandemic, with 67% of programs reporting an increase in application volume. 

The report found US application numbers were heightened across the board—up 29.9% for domestic candidates, and 14.7% for international applications. European schools saw a remarkable increase in domestic applications which were up by 50.1%. 

Though international applications were also up year on year in both Europe and the US, international students were also more likely to delay their studies until next year. There was a 15% deferral rate among internationals according to GMAC’s report. 

But the results of the QS survey could imply that international applications may increase further during the upcoming application cycle if vaccination allows for a return to safe student mobility. Along with deferred international candidates, the 2021-22 classroom could be strongly represented by internationals. 

A return to normality won’t be immediate. But news of a COVID-19 vaccine has had a positive impact on the way international students are thinking about the year ahead.

Whether further vaccine developments in 2021 allow for internationals to travel to campus or to consider applying to business school outside of their home country altogether, it looks like good news for higher education, and international and domestic students alike. 

Read next: 

INSEAD Students Tackle Coronavirus Pandemic

Innovative Thinking Helps Emlyon MBAs Handle Impact of COVID-19

To say coronavirus has changed the world would be an understatement. We’ve switched offices for living rooms, pub visits for Zoom calls, and faced the challenge of adapting fast to the new normal.

Business schools have not escaped the need to swiftly pivot. Vital aspects of the MBA experience like internships, speaker events and networking must suddenly be conducted in a virtual environment.

It’s a shift that Emlyon Business School has made remarkably well, pivoting the program to focus more on a new type of learning which embraces the pandemic restrictions–and challenging students to adapt–whilst keeping the focus on the full-bodied MBA experience. 

BusinessBecause spoke to Emlyon Business School's MBA admissions and academic team to hear how they've adapted to COVID-19, and how learning fresh and relevant skills is becoming increasingly important.

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Professor Rhoda Davidson (pictured right), program director at Emlyon, emphasizes that an MBA is a valuable option in the new, more digitally focused world. Remote learning is undoubtedly an unpredictable challenge. 

In response, Emlyon altered their courses to include new ways to work on real business problems in a virtual world. Company executives were brought in – via online platforms – to give students the opportunity to discuss business challenges and pitch their own solutions, digitally.

From offering logistics recommendations to Walmart to the considering new technology with Euronews, Emlyon MBA students have been able to adapt to new innovative ways of learning– echoing the school’s ‘early makers’ culture.

Emlyon students are encouraged to be proactive and agile, and the pandemic offered the opportunity to push these practices into a new focus. Throughout their time in the program MBA students are encouraged to apply and adapt what they learn to realistic and current situations.

“The pandemic has given us a preview of the future of work. Remote projects and teamwork will become the norm. Companies will operate more like the gig economy than in rigid hierarchies,” she says, “and this crisis gives our students the chance to practice these skills.”

Emlyon has homed in on ‘experiential learning’—a way of adapting quickly and sourcing new opportunities—as a method of succeeding in the current situation, which has been reflected in students’ abilities to find jobs.

Rhoda has even seen an increase in the number of graduates applying for jobs in highly digital businesses and e-commerce. “We gave students a taste of these new ways of working on real business issues and we found that people are much more at ease being interviewed for jobs in the new economy,” she adds, “and much more successful at securing these jobs as well.”


How Emlyon adapted

Emlyon also added to the program in order to assist MBAs in combatting the effects of COVID-19 on businesses.


Stephanie Ousaci (pictured left), MBA development manager at Emlyon, details the steps taken when the pandemic took hold. 

“We adapted the MBA program to be able to convey the current situation and make sure our participants could work through the crisis both professionally and personally,” she explains, “this included a series of webinars covering topics such as crisis and risk management, remote working, stress management and well-being. Personal coaching was offered on request.” 

Not only did Emlyon change the program content, but they also moved the academic year to start in January.

“Hopefully, the availability of vaccines in Spring 2021 will reduce the students’ exposure to the virus,” said Stephanie. 

Rhoda emphasizes that while some students were able to find employment in summer 2020, others have found it is taking a little longer as the job market begins to open up again. In response, Emylon extended their academic and careers services up to the end of the calendar year, “to make sure they were feeling positive and confident in their abilities in the situation.”

“There are plenty of companies still hiring. The pandemic has accelerated underlying industry trends, such as digital transformation.”

Emlyon was also able to hold more high-profile speaker events with business leaders explaining how they are adapting during the pandemic.

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To make it through a global pandemic is an achievement. Future leaders can learn a lot from how business schools adapted during this time. 

“Living through a global crisis like this can create a lot of uncertainties and anxiety," Lisa Homer-Rulliere (pictured right), recruitment manager at Emlyon, adds. “We are living in a world where everything is changing very quickly, and in this context, it is becoming very hard to plan anything.”

But the current situation has also spurred business school candidates to think twice about career paths.

“What do I really want to do for the rest of my life? What are my dreams? How can I improve my chances of having my dream job?” These are the questions Lisa has seen prospective students begin to consider. 

“Doing an MBA is also the opportunity to take a break to focus on what really matters,” she adds, “and to be more attractive in a very complicated job market.”

By thinking outside of the box and being open to fresh ideas, new ways of working and uncertain possibilities, students can equip themselves with the skills needed to not only survive but succeed in our new world.

INSEAD, LBS, Bocconi & 8 More Top Business Schools On The Impact Of COVID-19

As Europe adapts to the impact of COVID-19, some business master’s courses have moved online, while others have adopted hybrid models combining online and socially-distanced face-to-face learning.

When researching the best business master’s for you, you’ll want to know what the pandemic means for the programs you’ve got your eye on. How are students currently studying and how has coronavirus impacted the business school experience?

To find out, BusinessBecause caught up with admissions directors from 11 top European schools:


Virginie Fougea, Global Director of Admissions and Financial Aid and Scholarship.


While we have the tools and the experience to make a seamless shift to online instruction, we understand learning as a social process, and our students have told us their preference is being on-campus. 

So, we’ve worked with our Student Council to resume in-person education wherever and whenever possible.

Students are now on campus in Singapore, but in France we’re back online due to their second lockdown. 

We’ll staying online until we can ensure the safety of our students and are looking into hybrid model for the future. 

London Business School 

Stephanie Thrane, Recruitment & Admissions Director

A big change is to recruitment and admissions, with our normal face to face interviews going online, which has been an advantage for international students. Going remote has also made us utilise our alumni network much better and broaden our global reach, and we’ve been able to host speakers online who would never have been able to fly into London normally. 

Course-wise we’ve gone hybrid, for the flexibility. It’s been a huge shift, but as a small school, and with lots of effort and investment in advanced technology, it’s been really successful so far.

Bocconi University

Veronica Sullo, International Recruitment Coordinator

72% of our international students decided to come to Milan for their master’s programs this fall, and we believe the on-campus experience is the most enriching way to learn. 

We successfully ran blended model in place, with on-campus students working in small groups and rotating between online and in-class teaching, and students outside of Milan joining online. 

From late October we felt it was safest to go online fully, but with our careful planning and access to regular testing we’re reassured we can return to our blended model soon. Until then we’re making the remote experience as interactive as possible, with careers events, mock interviews and networking opportunities all going online.  

Imperial College Business School

Amy Duckworth, Director of Admissions

At Imperial we’ve introduced a ‘multi-mode’ teaching model, so students have the flexibility to move between on-campus and remote learning. 

Study spaces have been redesigned so students can participate in class debates and discussion, whether joining remotely or in person. 

In 2005 Imperial launched an Edtech lab to explore how to increase the use of techonology in the classroom, and this has been instrumental to ensuring our proactive, safe, and flexible approach. 

ESCP Business School


Leon Laulusa, Executive Vice-President, Dean for Academic Affairs and International Relations 

ESCP is running a hybrid model for all teaching and support services.

We’re now offering asynchronous lectures, live broadcasting, and tutoring sessions for application alongside some in person learning where possible. 

Our students have adapted remarkably to moving online, participating in class discussions, and group projects, even taking online exams. A big plus is being able to re-watch all their courses when revising. 

BI Norwegian Business School

Shani Pearson, International Recruitment

The biggest change to student experience at BI is that classes must be followed online. We’re hoping to start teaching on campus in the spring semester 2021, but we’re preparing for a hybrid or fully online alternative just in case. 

Students still have access to the campus, including the library, but realistically there are fewer in person social and professional development activities as a result of COVID-19. 


Hannah Page, Marketing & Admissions Manager

WHU initially adopted a hybrid approach, but later went fully online due to the German lockdown. 

Luckily we formed a center of digitization a few years ago, so it wasn’t all new, and our professors have adapted quickly to this new style of teaching with online lectures. We also moved careers fairs and information sessions online, to recreate the feeling of our cancelled in-person events. 

Long-term, we don’t want stay a fully-online program, as the highlight of our MSC is the on-campus experience, with all the connections and networking that it brings.   

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Amy Janssen-Brennan, assistant director Recruitment & Admissions

RSM has decided that all of our MSc programmes for the 2020-2021 academic year will be offered 100% online, to ensure the safety of both our staff and students, especially international students. 

We’ve managed to switch quickly from in-person to online and got a lot of positive feedback from our students so far.

IESE Business School

Tomofumi Nishida, Associate Director, MBA/MiM Admissions and MBA Career Development Center 

IESE one of the few schools in the world still implementing in-person classes for vast majority of Master’s students, on our Madrid campus. 

We’re offering a hybrid model for flexibility, but we know with face to face is best due to our focus on interactive discussion. 

To ensure safety, we have a number of measures inplace, including testing and social distancing. 

Other parts of the master’s experience, such as Spanish classes, and networking events, have been much better suited to going online than the teaching, so we’ve focussed on that too. 

ESMT Berlin


Boban Sulic, Senior Admissions Manager

Since the restrictions in the fall, most of our events have been entirely online, but this has not negatively affected us. 

We not only welcomed the largest master’s class at ESMT amidst pandemic, but we also just launched our new part-time blended MBA to great success.

In 2021, we hope to offer as much in-classroom teaching as possible, but will adjust according to the developing situation.

ESSEC Business School

Anne-Flore Maman Larraufie, Academic Director Advanced Masters in Strategy & Management of International Business

At ESSEC, we see online teaching as an opportunity to reinvent the learning experience. Teaching has become more interactive, with fewer case studies and more online projects based on discussion and collaboration. Another plus is there is no limit to our class numbers now, so students have the chance to attend more courses. 

The main downside not being able to travel to other campuses or go on business trips, we’ve had to think hard about how to recreate the international experience from home.


LSE Graduates Help African Businesses Survive Coronavirus

The economic impact of coronavirus on developing countries has been especially harsh. In Sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 has seen small businesses—vital to the region’s economy—struggle with a drop in income, tricky containment measures, and a lack of funding.

The United Nations Development Program expects developing countries to see $220 billion worth of income loss due to coronavirus, while analysis by McKinsey suggests as many as one third of jobs in Africa could be lost. 

Drew von Glahn, executive director of the Collaborative for Frontier Finance (CFF), found the pending crisis impossible to ignore.

Finding new perspectives

With the help of Elisabeth Prager, an experienced strategy consultant with prior success in the financial services and healthcare sectors, Drew created a bridging facility to support local capital providers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Throughout the project, Drew and Elisabeth have drawn on the insights they gained studying the Executive Global Master’s in Management (EGMiM) program at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Drew and Elisabeth came to the EGMiM program in 2015. Although Drew was confident in his technical knowledge, he was seeking an opportunity to hear new perspectives.

“Too often we get caught up in the rote of what we do in our job, and our ability to expand and perform better over time is limited,” he reflects.  d73b0066570e8510248962de1cc8ea792db97933.jpg

Drew began his career in corporate banking, before pivoting into impact investment. In 2010, he co-founded Third Sector Capital Partners, which advises nonprofits, government agencies, and impact funders.  

Shortly later, he joined the World Bank as a senior advisor, working on social enterprise portfolios across emerging economies. After graduating from the EGMiM, Drew continued his journey by founding CFF—an initiative that aims to increase access to capital for small and growing businesses in emerging markets.

For Elisabeth, on the other hand, the EGMiM offered a great opportunity to explore her next career step. 

After working with asset management firms, such as Standard Life and Coutts, for eight years, she wanted to expand her expertise and seek out new career options.

“And it worked,” she says with a laugh. “After graduating, I moved into a boutique consulting firm in London, and then I moved to India to join the Tata Trust, Asia’s largest philanthropic trust, as director of strategy for a cancer care program they were running.”

Tackling a global issue

The EGMiM program laid the foundation for Drew and Elisabeth’s current project with CFF.

Drew’s second year dissertation explored how small, dynamic capital providers can solve certain problems that larger institutions seem unable to address—particularly in emerging markets.

When it became clear that coronavirus would have a profound effect on small businesses in these markets, he realized that working with these smaller, local capital providers would be the most effective way to reduce the pandemic’s impact.

“These providers know the market, they know the risks, they know their portfolio companies—they can see opportunities and risks better than outside investors,” explains Elisabeth. 076272915acacb118bff0d4ea3f9e3b0aa26e67e.png

In spring 2020, Drew proposed a bridging facility to prevent a liquidity crisis for local capital providers and their portfolio of small and growing businesses.

With grant funding from partners including the Visa Foundation, the fund is currently targeted to close around $50 million in early 2021.

Drew soon asked Elisabeth to join the project, and she jumped at the opportunity. The pair quickly recognized its potential to solve a wider, system issue: the funding gap that small businesses face, and its particularly harsh impact on women.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely to be employed in small businesses, but businesses owned by women face a $42 billion funding gap.

“A crisis like Covid impacts women disproportionately, which is why we decided to take this slant of looking at gender,” Elisabeth explains.


Leveraging a collaborative mindset

Establishing the bridging facility has been a challenging experience, but Elisabeth and Drew are drawing on the skills they honed at LSE to overcome key hurdles.

The most pressing challenge is working with diverse stakeholders around the world, from government agencies to local capital providers and their portfolio businesses.

“When you have multiple stakeholders, the biggest challenge is establishing a common sense of what the problem is,” Drew reflects.

On the EGMiM, working with a diverse, international cohort helped them prepare for this kind of collaborative challenge.

EGMiM students also have the chance to visit Beijing and Bangalore, further expanding their knowledge of the global business landscape.

“Having that variety of perspectives and ways of thinking was amazing,” Elisabeth recalls.

Equipped with these insights, Elisabeth and Drew are optimistic that their bridging fund will be a success, and create a roadmap for addressing funding issues in the future.

“We have an opportunity to use this crisis to make material changes. We’ve seen Covid create a sense of urgency to resolve global issues,” Drew concludes.

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