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


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MBA Programs Exceed Expectations Despite COVID-19 Disruption

Despite COVID-19 causing huge disruption to higher education during the past year, 84% of MBA students say their business school experience is either exceeding or living up to their expectations, according to new research from the Association of MBAs (AMBA) & Business Graduates Association (BGA).

That’s despite many business schools shifting to online learning and social distancing impacting the interactive elements of an MBA. 

The findings, from a survey of 752 MBA students, highlight how business schools are weathering the storm in the face of unprecedented changes to learning.

The shift to online learning 

Not only are students pleased with the overall MBA experience so far, but in terms of teaching, 25% of students surveyed rated their teaching as excellent, 43% as very good, and 23% fairly good. This comes as lecturers and tutors had to quickly adapt to online learning too and faced their own challenges in doing so.

Only 2% of students said that the quality of teaching has so far been fairly poor, very poor, or terrible–a good sign for prospective MBA candidates considering online teaching may be here to stay long term.

“The findings reveal that, for the most part, the class of 2020 was riding the chaos of the current global uncertainty and making the most of their unique MBA experience,” says David Woods-Hale, director of marketing and communications at AMBA & BGA and author of the report.

“Participants also recognize the work being done by their schools to mitigate the challenges caused by social distancing and remote learning, with several remarking that the continuity arrangements were impressive, allowing them to still enjoy their experience, despite the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns, that were out of the hands of their schools."


MBA value for money

While 84% of students’ expectations are being met, 69% of survey participants felt that the delivery and content of their MBA program could still be improved. 

Under a third of students (32%) said their degree had so far provided very good value for money, with 48% saying it had provided fairly good value. Meanwhile, half of students surveyed think there could be better networking opportunities at their schools. 

It is important to note that the survey was carried out at the peak of lockdown and travel restrictions in relation to COVID-19. However, networking is another factor of education that can be carried out online. 

In terms of MBA development and keeping up with the zeitgeist of business trends, 43% of students think the partnerships between business schools and companies could be improved; equally, 43% also suggested improvements for teaching modern business trends like AI and data. 

MBA careers and COVID-19

There are many reasons for choosing to study an MBA. The most popular reason cited among students—with 70% choosing this option—was ‘to acquire more skills and knowledge about the business world’; closely behind at 69% was ‘to expand my area of expertise’. 

Other reasons cited were ‘to get a broader understanding of how business should be managed’ (53%); ‘to change career’ (51%); and ‘to help differentiate myself in the job market’ (49%).

All of the above contribute in some way to enhancing a candidate’s career post-MBA. But although teaching is holding up amid COVID-19, there are mixed results when it comes to career support.

48% of respondents said they were engaging with careers support at business school, with 49% saying they were not.

For the 322 participants that said they were using their school’s careers service, 80% rated the service either excellent, very good, or fairly good—this looked at the advice candidates received in terms of job applications, CVs, and interview prep.

Just under two-thirds of the participants (65%) rated their school’s networking with employers as excellent, very good, or fairly good. Job search facilities are also received positively by the sample, with 65% rating them as excellent, very good, or fairly good.

Though a strong performance among candidates who used them, school’s career services will no doubt be under pressure amid the damage caused by the pandemic to the global economy.


Post-MBA options, post-COVID

The current MBA students surveyed will be graduating into a world still coming to terms with COVID-19. 

And despite employment worries, 54% of those surveyed do not intend to return to the job they held prior to the MBA; 33% are planning to move to a new company in the same sector as they already operate, and 29% plan on moving to both a new company and different sector. 

On the entrepreneurial side, 16% of the students plan on kickstarting their own businesses upon graduation.

In terms of location, more than half of students (55%) intend to stay in the same country as their school, 24% plan to move elsewhere and a fifth of students (21%) are unsure yet where their MBA will take them geographically.

MBA experiences remain as varied as ever, and fortunately, expectations are continuing to be met overall, despite the current situation. 

DOWNLOAD our MBA Application Guide 2020-21 


These MBAs Set Up A Women In Leadership Club During COVID-19

COVID-19 has meant changes to business on all levels. But how has it effected women in particular?

At the beginning of the pandemic, the prospect of working from home was seen as a potential equalizer for women, allowing employers to hire from a more diverse pool of candidates, and offering more flexibility for female employees.

But the reality has not been that simple. The Harvard Business Review found that women are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men to lose jobs during this pandemic. Women make up of 39% of global employment but, as of May 2020, they account for 54% of overall job losses.

However, it's also been a time of innovation and change, especially among female business school students. 

“It’s in women’s DNA to be adaptable, and get around circumstances like COVID-19”, says Huyen Nguyen, an MBA student at  ESMT Berlin, and current VP of events at the recently founded Women In Leadership Club.

Setting up the club in a pandemic 


The Women in Leadership Club at ESMT Berlin was founded as the pandemic began, and has adapted to the challenges of COVID with impressive speed. Its mission is to develop and empower the women to take on leadership roles, and build a community of advocates, supporters, and allies of advancing women. The club comprises of not only women, but also 30% men. 2e763800b5fe496fb082793acb85bdb4bb2b4c04.png

During the lockdown, the club set up events online and organised small group networking and talks with female industry leaders via Zoom, where these women shared their experiences and suggested how to face the work challenges they've been met with. 

The club has also expanded its awareness on various social media channels such as Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook to share inspiring stories of women in business, in lieu of being able to meet them face to face.

One of the clubs initiatives is the ‘Lean-in-Circles Program’, which gives students a safe space to talk openly about everything from the challenges they face, to how to rally together in tackling them. “I did not know anyone in Germany before coming to ESMT,” says Madhusmita Triparthy (pictured right), one of the co-founders of the ESMT Women in Leadership Club. "The group members of my circle are like my family, and my go-to people here.”

Since COVID-19 measures started to ease in Germany, the club has already managed to have a face to face event- “Chat& Connect"- that helped the members to connect to the alumnae of the school.

 They’ve also doubled down on their ambition to expand beyond ESMT, connecting to other Women in Leadership clubs across other business schools in Europe and creating a sustainable community.

How has COVID-19 affected female business school students?

The Women in Leadership Club is far from the only aspect of business school to be affected by the pandemic. Though many students are now back in the classroom, COVID-19 meant thousands of MBAs studied from home, and hybrid programs mixing on campus learning with online sessions are becoming normalized as a result of the pandemic. 

The team behind the ESMT Women In Leadership Club describe mixed feelings about studying online. On one hand, they found it easier to communicate with the professors and studying at their comfort zone. But on the other hand understanding difficult concepts online was challenging with several technical issues cropping up every now and then and there was no fellow classmate to go to for clarifications.

“At times I kind of felt alone.” Madhusmita says. “I really missed that human touch and those important conversations with fellow classmates.”

“I have undervalued myself at work in the past—I wasn’t confident when presenting myself, and I know I’ve missed some opportunities in professional development because of that,” says Huyen (pictured right). 0f08a1597ced65a4b76f52b0fc751d49379678fe.png

“Meeting other women who have experienced the same issues as you in the workplace is often a catalyst for change. COVID-19 means less chances to go out and talk to people in a casual environment and share your previous experiences,” Huyen explains. Informal, face to face networking is vital to progress, but it can be hard to recreate these meaningful relationships on zoom.

“Being a WIL club member made me realize about the different challenges women face on daily basis depending on from where they are” adds Beatriz Meythaler, fellow MBA student at ESMT Berlin, and VP- Communications of Women In Leadership Club. 

"In Germany," she continues, "you can see women walking alone at night without fear. They can be independent and free at night. In Ecuador, where i'm from, the situation is completely different. As a woman, you cannot do that without putting your life at risk."

“Some Latin American friends, male and female, have shared with me how their perception about gender has changed through this club after becoming aware of the psychological challenges women face at work. Back at home they used such expressions as ‘you play like a girl’. Now, they are aware of the negative impact of using such expressions and avoid them”. Beatriz adds.

48 students represent 24 countries in the 2020 ESMT MBA cohort, and 40% of the class are women. The internationality of the cohort brings diverse perspective and enriches the classroom discussion at ESMT. 

Though diversity in the classroom may be a harder resource to tap into in remote learning situations, initiatives like those of the Women In Leadership Club at ESMT are ensuring that progressive conversations and perspective sharing is still happening. 

READ: 4 Ways An MBA Can Help You Navigate Uncertainty 

How has COVID-19 effected women in the workplace?



Though innovations in the ESMT Women In Leadership Club are encouraging, women at the workplace have still been hit badly by the effects of COVID-19 on businesses. This is particularly true for working mothers. 

A recent survey in the UK found that 81% of mothers needed childcare to be able to return to work, but only 51% of those women were able to access it.

“Society is changing, but progress has been very slow” says Beatriz (pictured right). “COVID-19 has made the progress even slower."

For mothers who can return to work, there are still obstacles. “Women are always treated as the primary caregiver of children,” says Madhusmita. “If everyone is working from home, it’s women who are compensating for childcare more than men.”

This is known as the invisible workload, where women are seen as the manager of the household, and therefore expected to stay on top of chores and childcare, creating what some call a ‘second shift’ in the home. fa82acfb17a21b49963788780fa1ee15fa2c5e5b.jpg

“We’re already overcompensating by putting extra efforts at work to ensure our managers do not feel that we are any less than our male counterparts. So adding the extra pressures in the form of unpaid-care is tough on women,” adds Madhusmita. She founded the club after witnessing the dearth of female leaders in her previous workplace at a top automotive company in India. This experience inspired her to work to change the patriarchal mindsets of fellow male colleagues.

When it comes to climbing up the ladder, doing everything online poses further challenges.  Many businesses have successfully maintained the status quo through remote working, but are yet to get around how to best assess, promote and hire fairly during a pandemic.

Moreover, working from home has increased the burnout rate among women who are juggling between office responsibilities and other duties at home, resulting in increased stress levels.

But such issues have only encouraged the Women In Leadership Club to double down on their ambitions. The next goal for club is to organize a women in leadership conference next year, that would have a greater scope, attract a larger audience and host top women leaders across different industries. 

“If we want to promote an inclusive mindset and gender equality at work,” Madhusmita concludes, “we need to come together and speak about it.”

Applications To Business Schools Increase Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Business school applications tend to be countercyclical to the state of the economy: more people apply to MBA and master's programs when the economy and the jobs market recedes; fewer people apply when the economy is strong. 2020 is no exception. 

67% of business schools saw an increase in applications in 2020, according to the new Application Trends Survey published today by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which tracks demand for MBA and master's programs. The total volume of applications to global business schools increased by 2.4%.

This is a significant rebound from 2019, which saw overall applications fall by 3.1%, as well as over half of schools reporting a decrease in applications. 

GMAC CEO Sangeet Chowfla puts this down to the effect a receding economy has on the business school decision in candidates’ minds. 

“The opportunity cost of leaving a job to pursue an MBA or business master’s lessens as economies begin to regress. As a result, we are now seeing more people thinking about b-school to grow or improve their career prospects," he says.

US business school applications rebound 

After years of falling demand, applications to US business schools have seen a 20.6% spike in 2020. 67% of US programs reported increases in applications, a big improvement on a figure that has remained below 40% since 2017. 

US application numbers have been boosted largely by increases in both domestic applications, which were up 29.9% this year, and international applications, up by 14.7%. That’s good news after 2019’s 13.7% drop in international applications to the US, which triggered an open letter penned to the President


Growing numbers among domestic students is particularly important for the US, where they make up 63% of the total application pool. 

Demand for program types in the US has seen changes. Online MBAs have seen the biggest percentage growth—with 86% of programs reporting growth. This a response to the increasing online orientation of business schools, as well as uncertainty over travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19. 

Two-year full time MBAs have also rebounded in popularity, with 75% of programs reporting growth overall. This is particularly high among top-ranked MBA programs, whose reputation and reliability remains consistent in the face of a changing business school landscape.

Sky-rocketing European business school applications


2020 has been a stellar year for European applications, with business schools in Europe reporting a 24% increase overall, up from a 0.9% increase in 2019. 

Considering European programs tend to rely heavily on international applications, their performance has been largely bolstered by an increase in domestic applications, which have increased by 50.1% in 2020. International applications have also increased by 20.8%—these account for four-fifths of total applications.  

Among these international applications, around a fifth come from central and south Asia, with an additional fifth from east and southeast Asia. This perhaps accounts in part for the decline in domestic applications to Asia Pacific.

However, applications to Asia Pacific fall


Business schools in Asia Pacific have seen a growing demand over recent years, often credited with pulling candidates away from the US. In 2020, however, Asia Pacific has seen a 7.1% decline in overall applications. 

This is a combination of a 7.2% fall in domestic applications, and 5.9% decrease in international applications. 

The demand for two-year full time MBA programs remains strong, however. 61% of these programs reported growth, compared to just 40% of one-year MBA programs, and 43% of post-graduate programs (PGPs), the Indian equivalent to an MBA. 

Experts blame a rocky year for Asia Pacific’s decline in applications. One admissions officer, in the report, cites the Hong Kong protests, followed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, for Asia’s weaker performance in 2020. India, which is the region’s largest applicant pool, has faced different extents of national lockdown which could be set to continue. 

Changing demand for MBA vs Masters

2020 has also seen changing demands towards the popularity of certain types of programs. 

Reversing a clear trend, full time MBA programs have experienced a surge in popularity. Over a third (37%) of full time MBA programs experienced ‘significant growth’ (over 20% increase). This is almost triple the number in 2019. 

Business master’s programs have also fared well in 2020. Two-thirds of master’s programs recorded growth, with master in management and master of finance programs recording the higher increases. 

As the economic outlook remains uncertain for the short to medium term, reinvesting in education and applying to business school seems to be at its most popular in nearly a decade. 

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GMAT Online Exam Appointments Extended Into 2021

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), owner and administrator of the GMAT Exam, has announced that appointments for the GMAT Online Exam will be available until the end of February 2021.

The GMAT Online Exam was initially launched as a temporary solution to support candidates applying to business school during the coronavirus outbreak, which forced the closure of GMAT test centers.

Now, with coronavirus seemingly here to stay and the world shifting to life online, the online GMAT will serve candidates looking to enroll in MBA and master’s programs beyond this year.

The Executive Assessment Online, a GMAT-style test for Executive MBA candidates, will also be available to take into 2021.

Vineet Chhabra, senior director and head of the GMAT product at GMAC, says: “We are committed to offering candidates the flexibility to test in either format, in a test center where safe and available, or online. As the market evolves, so too will GMAC and its portfolio of assessment products.”


GMAT Online Exam vs. Test Center GMAT

Although GMAT test centers have re-opened in some countries, many elsewhere remain closed or with limited capacity. It’s also trickier for candidates to plan ahead or travel to test centers with the ongoing threat from COVID-19.

In terms of content, the only difference between the online GMAT and the test center version is the exclusion of the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section from the online test. This section, known as the ‘essay section’, consists of a 30-minute writing task. 

The online GMAT has the same structure, number of items, and duration as the test center exam. It also uses the same scoring algorithm and score scale for the Section Scores and Total Score.

Candidates were initially unhappy that they weren’t permitted to take physical notes during the GMAT Online Exam, but GMAC was quick to address this and test-takers are now able to use a physical whiteboard as well as the online whiteboard tool.

The test is available in impacted markets globally, excluding markets limited by regulatory restrictions: Mainland China, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea. 

The GMAT Online Exam costs $250 globally and is hosted on mba.com, where you can also register for the test.

Note: The GMAT Online Exam now allows a physical whiteboard option.

GMAT Online Exam | A permanent solution?

While there’s no current news on testing appointments beyond February 2021, the GMAT Online Exam looks set to stay. GMAC itself says it will continue to open up availability, and some admissions consultants are calling for a permanent solution to provide added flexibility for business school candidates.

In order to match the quality of the test center GMAT however, Piyush Ranjan, founder of the admissions consultancy Management Masters, says there needs to be more flexibility on test-taking policies.

While the physical whiteboard option is a step forwards, he says his clients want to use pen and paper when taking the GMAT Online Exam; something permitted by alternative test providers.

GMAC says it has seen widespread acceptance of the GMAT Online Exam from business schools. Both GMAT and GMAT Online scores are valid for five years.

“Since April, candidates representing 124 countries have sent scores to more than 2,000 business school programs around the world,” said a GMAC spokesperson contacted by BusinessBecause.

“Schools globally have been very comfortable and confident utilizing the GMAT Online exam to evaluate their applicant pools. 

“The purpose, construct and scoring structure of the online assessment is comparable to the exam delivered in test centers and GMAC has observed scoring outcomes comparable to exams delivered in test centers.”

Applying To Business School During COVID-19?

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GMAT Online Exam: Everything You Need To Know

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GMAT Test Center Updates | Coronavirus

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