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

Summary

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MBA Students Plan Study Abroad As COVID-19 Concerns Ease

Almost three quarters (70%) of business school candidates still want to study abroad despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to new Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) research released today.

The number of candidates who say they are very concerned about COVID-19 also fell from 41% to 33% between July and December in 2020, GMAC's latest Prospective Students Survey reveals. GMAC surveyed 2,515 candidates planning to enroll in a graduate business school program in 2021. 

Sangeet Chowfla, CEO of GMAC, said: “As vaccines become increasingly available prospective students around the world are seeing light at the end of the tunnel regarding the global pandemic.”


% of candidates reporting concerns over COVID-19

Figures relate to the percentage of survey respondents who reported having concerns over COVID-19 each month between July and December 2020.


International candidates reject remote study 

A major reason for international candidates’ not wanting to change their travel plans is the desire to live and work abroad during their careers. 

Over 40% of international applicants surveyed say their primary career motivation is to work abroad, while 38% cite living abroad as their main motivation. Many feel their plans would be affected by foregoing an international degree. 

While schools have adapted to offer remote learning, and business school applications have risen during the pandemic, some prospective students feel remote study does not offer the same career opportunities as an in-person qualification. 

28% of international candidates said remote courses offer fewer career opportunities, compared with 19% of domestic candidates. International students also often cite the on-campus experience as a major part of studying an MBA. 



Domestic candidates are more than twice as likely to consider online learning as their international counterparts. 31% are willing to study online compared with just 14% of international candidates.


Women more adaptable to online learning 

The survey found men and women differ when it comes to accepting studying online. 

Just 18% of women surveyed said they felt career opportunities were worsened by studying online, while 28% of men said the same. As a result, 50% of female respondents were willing to complete more than 30% of their program online, while just 43% of men agreed. 

Sangeet hailed the adaptability of the female respondents to the survey. 

“It is especially encouraging to find female candidates seeking advanced business degrees or career advantages despite the unique challenges and barriers they face due to COVID-19.”



While more men are worrying about career opportunities, a difficult post-pandemic job market has seen candidates increasingly feeling the need to enroll in a business school program to ensure they have the required skills and qualifications to be successful. 

Over a third of prospective candidates said the skills gap was their reason for applying to business school in 2021. Among business master’s applicants that number rose as high as 50%.  

Soojin Kwon, GMAC board director and managing director of the full time MBA program at Michigan Ross School of Business, believes candidates are well aware of the need to upskill. 

“COVID-19 has fundamentally disrupted the future of work and the skills that are required for future success,” he says. 

“This is something that business schools are fully aware of and adapting to as candidates seek to upgrade their professional and leadership skills to meet the demands of the rapidly changing workplace.” 


US remains candidates' preferred destination 

The United States remains the top country for business school candidates who are still looking to study their degree abroad in 2021. 

Students from Canada, India and the UK list the US as the primary country they would consider to study abroad. Another popular destination was France, with both Germany and Italy listing the country as their preferred foreign destination. 

Students from Greater China overwhelmingly chose the UK as their premier study destination, with 27% of applicants seeking to study there. 

21% chose the US, despite a recent uprise in anti-Asian hate and racism, while just 7% said they wished to remain in China.


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The Post-COVID World Needs Sustainable Leaders

Business schools around the world have had to adapt to the 'new normal', and Norway’s BI Norwegian Business School (BI) is no exception. 

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the school has pivoted to remote teaching, implemented a track and trace system, and changed how its campus is used. The priority was to keep campuses open to students as much as possible (respecting physical distancing rules) while classes were delivered remotely.

“Student and faculty safety was the priority, but we know students need an arena to work together face-to-face and socialize—but in a safe environment,” says Dr Janicke Rasmussen, dean for MSc programs at BI

“It’s been a very steep learning curve for everyone—both students and faculty, but everyone is adapting to the new reality,” she adds.

But these changes are only the beginning. Janicke predicts that in a post-pandemic world, there will be new opportunities for business school graduates, and a different set of skills will be needed to grasp them.

For her, to thrive in the coming years will take leadership skills, the ability to incorporate sustainable practices into your work, and an international outlook.


The growing need for leadership skills

Leadership skills have always been crucial for long-term career success, but today’s masters graduates can expect to use their leadership abilities  much sooner, Janicke (right) notes. Dr Janicke Rasmussen, Dean for MSc programs at BI Norwegian Business School

“Historically, BI masters graduates go to consultancies or big companies, but increasingly they’re joining smaller companies with flatter management structures,” she explains.

“That’s why we try to facilitate leadership skills and business acumen in our pre-experience master’s programmes: so students can take on an influential role with these companies straight away.” 

To help students lead through the current crisis—and future disruptions—BI introduced a crisis management course for MSc students last summer.  

Equipped with leadership abilities, BI students are finding ample job opportunities throughout Norway, despite the coronavirus pandemic. In the summer of 2020, Janicke reports, twice as many masters students secured internships as usual—many of which were conducted remotely. 

Norway’s resilience in the face of COVID-19 has also ensured that companies are able to offer jobs and internships.

“Norway is a small country with a clear strategy for handling coronavirus,” Janicke notes. “It’s been proactive, and the economy is resilient. In addition, many Norwegian companies have had a lot of help [from the government] getting through the pandemic.” 

Building leadership skills requires social interaction, however, which can be limited in an online classroom setting. The solution, Janicke thinks, will be to change the way campuses are used. 

“We’ll prioritize keeping campuses open so students can study, access the resources they need, and socialize,” she says. “And starting February 18, campuses reopened to students.

“Because we’ve established a very good online platform for teaching, we’re prioritizing students being on campus for these reasons rather than attending lectures.”


New conversations about sustainability

The shift to online work and learning has also reinvigorated conversations about sustainability. Faced with national lockdowns that restrict travel and other carbon-emitting activities, many businesses have become acutely aware of their environmental impact, and been inspired to change.

In this landscape, it’s important for business masters graduates to leave their program with a keen understanding of sustainability issues, Janicke thinks.

“At BI, sustainability is an important part of our strategy, and Norway itself is at the forefront of discussions about creating a green economy and sustainability practices,” says Janicke.

“We want our students to understand the value of looking at more than the financial bottom line and short term results. They need to understand that organizations must have a long term outlook and need to measure results in three areas: social, environmental, and financial performance.” 

With this in mind, sustainability issues and practices are incorporated in all master’s courses. BI has also taken it one step further with the introduction of a new MSc degree, in Sustainable Finance.

“Interest has been strong so far, and the program also reflects the strong research interest in sustainability issues among BI faculty,” states Janicke.


Working in a globalized world

Along with strong leadership skills and a good understanding of sustainability issues, masters graduates need a global outlook to succeed in business. This is especially true for graduates working in Norway: a small, open economy that depends on global trade.  

“International graduates add value to Norwegian companies by offering a new perspective,” says Janicke.

This may be why such a large proportion of BI’s international students (around 70%) land jobs in Norway when they graduate. After the pandemic, Janicke expects that opportunities for these alumni will only increase.

“COVID-19 has made us realize that we are so dependent on an international society,” she reflects. “The students we educate must have this close to their chest and take this understanding with them into working life.”

With this in mind, she is currently working on new ways to help students gain global exposure, even when international travel opportunities are limited.

Working collaboratively with other business schools virtually is a crucial future trend—of this, Janicke is certain. 

“We can connect our students with students from other schools much more easily now and they can develop their global network from the comfort of their home campus,” she explains.  

“We don’t want to look at our international counterparts as competition, but as an opportunity for cooperation.

“We’re committed to being part of an international network of business schools and universities. This is not only good for students, but also enhances opportunities to collaborate on research to move society forward.”

This Warwick Executive MBA Is Leading Vaccine Innovation At GSK

Developing vaccines isn't a simple process, especially in a race against a global pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies continuously look for new ways to accelerate research, development, and manufacturing to ensure that vaccines can have as wide an impact as possible.

Dr Lisa Banks recognized how technology can enhance scientific and medical innovation, especially around vaccines, and was keen to pursue a technology-led role within the pharmaceutical industry. For Lisa, the Executive MBA (EMBA) at Warwick Business School (WBS) was an opportunity to strengthen her business acumen and prepare her for this career transition.

She now leads digital innovation for global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Vaccines in Belgium, where she identifies and evaluates emerging technologies to support the vaccine lifecycle. She credits her Warwick Executive MBA with arming her with the leadership skills and confidence she needed to succeed in a rapidly developing sector, enabling her to thrive as a female scientist and technologist in a traditionally male-dominated industry


Embracing leadership through an Executive MBA

Lisa researched various business schools that offered executive MBA programs, but WBS' high teaching standards, the array of modules on offer, and the school’s stellar reputation immediately drew her to the program.

Knowing that strategic leadership would form a significant part of her role in the pharmaceutical industry, Lisa was also attracted to the Warwick Executive MBA’s emphasis on this component.

“The strategic leadership development module taught us how to understand what characteristics we needed for effective leadership in various situations and how to build your adaptive strengths to your leadership style,” notes Lisa.

This adaptive leadership style has helped Lisa work in digital innovation, which requires navigating changing and often ambiguous situations. “Understanding how to apply these leadership skills has been crucial for my role,” she says.

Part of the strategic leadership module, Lisa says, is about learning how to bring team members with you to drive the change forward. “I found it interesting to learn about the potential barriers to change and how leaders can respond by building teams that will help them to deliver that change,” she says.

Working on enhancing the lifecycle of a vaccine is no small feat. Lisa must respond to changes affecting vaccine technologies as efficiently as possible, which may sometimes require utilizing team members' insight to bring about an effective solution.


Applying business knowledge to real-world issues

Knowing that she wanted to remain within the pharmaceutical industry after her Warwick EMBA but wishing to improve her skill set, Lisa turned to WBS’ CareersPlus’ Executive Career Coaching. This is where experienced executives work one-on-one with students to help fine tune their career plans.

“Coaching helps me to prepare and plan for my next career steps. I would set aside time before each session to think through what I wanted to get out of it, which aided in furthering my understanding of my career direction,” notes Lisa.

The EMBA Consultancy Project was a great chance to leverage her new-found confidence and practically apply the business knowledge she’d acquired. Students can apply theories, concepts, and frameworks learned throughout the program to a business issue.

Lisa completed the project with GSK, who she’d recently joined partway through her Warwick Executive MBA, looking into barriers to artificial intelligence adoption within her organization. “Not only was I able to apply the frameworks to a real business challenge, but the experience created great networking opportunities, interviewing GSK employees to inform my research,” says Lisa.

Through applying her learnings from the Warwick Executive MBA to tackle a complex business issue, Lisa has been able to advance her understanding of the organization she works for and further her career.



Thriving as a female technologist

Working in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Lisa felt it was important to study an EMBA at a business school that values female leadership.

WBS partners with the 30% Club, a campaign aiming to achieve 30% female board representation, offering scholarships for female leaders. As a high caliber female EMBA candidate, WBS awarded Lisa one of these scholarships. As a result, she recognized the advantage the Warwick EMBA would provide her to succeed in her future career.

Supplementing her experience with theoretical knowledge from the Warwick EMBA has further developed Lisa’s confidence. “It’s important to have several different tools you can call upon in certain situations, and a diversity of thinking, preventing you from defaulting to the same method each time,” she comments.

Aspiring to be a positive force of change within a male-dominated environment, Lisa understands the value a gender diverse workforce brings to scientific innovation. Leveraging diverse leaders' unique perspectives enables rich discussions and better decisions, she notes.

“When you're designing either an organization, a process, or a product, it’s important to understand the end-user at the outset, and thinking of this end-user from a diversity angle is essential for it to be successful,” Lisa concludes.

How Vancouver Retained Its Reputation As An MBA Destination Through COVID-19

Given its proximity to bustling tech hubs Seattle and Silicon Valley, Vancouver is becoming an innovation epicenter. On top of all this, the Canadian west coast city consistently ranks amongst the best places to live globally.

As one of the world's best cities for MBA careers in tech, Vancouver's economic growth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is partly due to their flourishing technology sector.

As a result, Vancouver continues to attract MBA students enticed by the ample job opportunities available in their burgeoning industries.


Growing tech sector

Over the years, Canada's tech sector has gone from strength to strength, growing at an average rate of 6% every year. 2020 was no different: 50% of British Columbia's tech companies recruited throughout the pandemic.

During the pandemic, tech giant Amazon bolstered Vancouver's economic prospects by creating 3000 additional jobs in 2020, bringing the total number of employees in Vancouver to 8,000. 

Amazon VP and Vancouver site lead, Jesse Dougherty, says Amazon's announcement will ensure skilled professionals can take on world-class challenges for customers in Vancouver without leaving Canada for a thriving tech career.

"We continue to see interest from global companies expanding their operations in Vancouver. Amazon's presence in Vancouver attests to the strength of our tech sector and our local economy," notes Zaa Nkweta (pictured below), manager, recruitment, and admissions for the Full-time MBA at the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business.

The knowledge that, right on their doorstep, Vancouver has access to one of the world's most profitable tech companies will entice ambitious business students to UBC Sauder. 

MBA students interested in pursuing other career paths will be glad to hear technology isn't the only booming sector in the vibrant city. Reports of downtown Vancouver's limited office vacancy in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, reflects the growth of other business areas, too.

Zaa notes that MBA students pursue consulting, business development, financial analysis, account management, product management, and healthcare besides tech. After the pandemic, healthcare and finance are among the top sectors experiencing rapid demand for skilled professionals across Canada. 

Many UBC Sauder MBAs determine their career path by creating startups. MBA grad, Marc Wandler, leveraged his entrepreneurial mindset when he turned the problem of excess beer waste into a nutritional, and sustainable, snack ideal for diabetics.  

"We remain very optimistic regarding our UBC MBA candidates acquiring post-MBA employment opportunities," notes Zaa.



Practicing innovation

The MBA provides the analytical, leadership, and strategic acumen to thrive in growing business sectors.

Nestled in the heart of Vancouver—the birthplace of startups like Hootsuite and Slack—UBC Sauder provides students with great opportunities to work with startups. During your UBC Sauder MBA, you'll get involved in local ventures' business decisions through the innovation and entrepreneurship track, which educates students on market gaps and how to harness the power of innovation.

Zaa explains that the collaborative relationship between students and startups works two-fold. "Students effectively help to bring these startups to scale, and so the learning outcomes for our students, as well as the ability to become part of the local ecosystem before they graduate, speaks volumes in terms of the support Vancouver provides for students, both international and domestic."

UBC offers the technology and analytics leadership track for students intent on upping their knowledge of the latest tech and digital trends—such as fintech, customer analytics, AI commercialization, and automation—while learning leadership competencies.

Echoing the nearby tech industry's forward-thinking vision, UBC Sauder thinks beyond the MBA, helping students map out their career aspirations. "Students work individually with a coach to activate a career plan, and to also strategically align their journey through the program to match their career goals," explains Zaa.

Ultimately, the opportunity to tailor your MBA to suit your chosen career path gives you the best possible chance of landing your dream role.


Investing in the future

Ambitious business candidates with their sights set on working at the frontier of technological and digital projects should look no further than Vancouver.

In 2018, British Columbia's tech companies generated over $17 billion in GDP, with a tech professional population of 75,000 in Vancouver alone. 

Despite the pandemic, innovative businesses are still flocking to Vancouver. By the first half of 2020, venture capital firms in British Columbia received $555 million in investment, furthering the growth of Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

"Vancouver has a dynamic and robust entrepreneurial and innovative culture. The investment in innovation and entrepreneurship attracts a talented pool of professionals, securing companies' continued investment and presence in the city," comments Zaa. 

With opportunities to work with global tech companies in Vancouver, such as Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, as well as the Big Four accounting firms, the city attracts both domestic and international students.

Vancouver even offers startup visas to entice entrepreneurs to the west coast city. And there's positive news for international graduates, too. Canada prides itself on welcoming talented people from across the world. The Postgraduate Work Permit Program affords graduates from Canadian universities time to find work experience opportunities post-study, simultaneously boosting the economy. It's a win-win.

"When you compare Canada to the US, the system here is more geared towards providing students the opportunity to work post-graduation, and remain here permanently if they wish," considers Zaa.

Judging by how well Vancouver's burgeoning business sectors have coped throughout the pandemic, he says, the future looks bright for UBC students post-MBA.

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