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:

GMAT Online Exam Allows Physical Whiteboard Option

Find using the virtual whiteboard on the GMAT Online Exam difficult? Good news! Effective June 11, candidates taking the GMAT Online Exam will have the option to use a physical whiteboard, online whiteboard, or both.

In a statement released today, Vineet Chhabra, senior director and head of the GMAT product at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), owner and administrator of the GMAT, said:

“As COVID-19 continued to shut down test centers around the world, we made a conscious choice to focus on speed and quality, delivering Online assessments that met our quality and test security standards while also empowering candidates to meet tight admissions deadlines in a virtual environment.”

“While we have seen GMAT Online exam score outcomes comparable to exams delivered in test centers, we’ve heard the market and are excited to provide candidates with options and additional flexibility, helping ensure they can be at their best on exam day.”  

GMAT testing appointments beginning June 11 will include the option to use a physical whiteboard for the GMAT Online exam as well as the Executive Assessment Online

Registrants should review and ensure their whiteboard meets the required specifications and that they have a functional dry erase marker, eraser, and are familiar with the exam day whiteboard experience and policies. 

GMAC has also announced a commitment to maintaining the availability of online exams throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and opened additional online test appointments for both the GMAT and the EA, currently through July 17. 

With uncertainty persisting in test center availability, GMAC will continue to open additional appointment dates as needed and continues to waive reschedule and cancel fees across both the online and test center exams to offer extended flexibility for test takers. 

The physical whiteboard option will come as good news for candidates who expressed concern over using the online tool. Candidates can only take the GMAT Online Exam once. However, those who tested without access to the physical whiteboard will be permitted to test again should they choose to do so.

Read more on the GMAT Online Exam:

GMAT Online Exam | FAQs With Vineet Chhabra

GMAT Online Exam | 13 Top Test Prep Tips

LIVE: Coronavirus Impact On GMAT Testing

Will Coronavirus Impact The Cost Of Your MBA?

For those applying for business school, the cost of an MBA degree will have crossed your mind. The BusinessBecause Cost of MBA Report 2020 breaks down every expense—from tuition and application fees to housing and healthcare—revealing how much it actually costs to do an MBA at a top-25 business school.  

At the top end, US schools MIT Sloan and Stanford tally up the highest total costs, while NUS Business School in Singapore offers the least expensive top MBA. 

But the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the global economy, and costs of an MBA are likely to have been impacted too. So how might coronavirus impact the cost of your MBA?

Impact on tuition and application fees

Cambridge Judge Business School, where all lectures will be online next academic year ©Poohz

Tuition remains the most significant contributor to the overall cost of an MBA. At top US schools like MIT Sloan and Stanford, this stands at around $150k over two years, around 65% of the total cost, according to our research. At UK schools Oxford Said Business School and Cambridge Judge Business School, tuition accounts for nearly 80% of the total cost of studying. 

But since the coronavirus outbreak, MBA programs have changed considerably—moving entirely online in the short term, and potentially towards blended formats in the long term. 

Cambridge Judge, for example, announced that lectures would be online for the duration of the 2020/21, with some smaller in-person classes. 

With these changing formats, many schools have come under pressure to refund or reduce tuition costs. At Stanford, an online petition demanding refunds for spring semester tuition was signed by 80% of the MBA class; similar petitions have surfaced at the Wharton School and Kellogg School of Management.

MBA360 admissions consultant Barbara Coward expects to see tuition freezing from many of the top schools. There will also be a renewed focus on added benefits to ensure MBA students are getting more for their money. 

“Instead of a decrease in tuition, students will look for schools to provide added value through additional guest speakers, expanded career services, and opportunities to connect with students at peer schools, for example.”

Impact on living costs

With lockdown still in place in many locations, and international travel still under restriction, business schools are likely to see candidates choose domestic study over travelling abroad.

This could have severe financial implications for business schools, who rely heavily on international student fees to survive. UK universities have warned of a “cash black hole”, left by a significant decrease on the 120,000 Chinese students (among other internationals) less likely to come to the UK to study. 

For students, however, studying domestically may come with a reduction in costs. 

Living costs, the second biggest contributor to the total cost of an MBA, is largely constituted by accommodation, especially given the price of rent in big cities like New York and London. But for some domestic students, living at home with parents or relatives could be an attractive option, diminishing costs considerably. 

This could also reduce costs for things like healthcare. Domestic students at UK or other European schools have access to free healthcare, compared to costly health cover in the US. 

Given the uncertainty around the future of the pandemic, and how long lockdown will last, costs may be saved elsewhere. Extra-curricular activities, socializing, and travelling are all rarer for online students, while even full-time students may be less inclined to spend on these add-ons. 

Impact on financial aid


Wider economic factors will also have an impact. As well as international travel bans, weaker exchange rates are making international study in some locations less enticing. 

Concerns over the cost of an MBA increased between February and April 2020. According to a recent candidate survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), those who answered that ‘costs may slightly or moderately impact their decision to study’ increased from 56% to 61% for domestic students, and up to 64% for international students. 

“The global scope of COVID-19 impact on the world economy means that financial considerations will rise in importance for prospective students in the immediate short term,” says Rahul Choudaha, director of industry insights at GMAC.

“Schools need to address tuition cost concerns for a segment of price-sensitive students," he continues.

One way schools might consider this is through offering more generous and extensive scholarships to students for whom tuition fees might be a barrier. Many schools extended, and continue to accept, scholarship applications for the coming intake. 

Scholarships will likely be more competitive, with more students requiring financial assistance, but Barbara imagines this will trigger a renewed focus on fundraising. “Deans will be back on the road and connecting with alums in person as soon as they can.”

Some schools have also taken steps to waiver application fees as a way to encourage interest. 38% of schools surveyed by GMAC reduced or waived their application fees amid the pandemic. 

Organizations which help students fund their studies are taking extra steps to ensure that their financial support they offer is responding to the crisis. Prodigy Finance, a leading business school loans company, is freezing interest on its loans for the next three months. For those whose program end dates have been extended, Prodigy is pushing back the date when applicants have to start repaying their loans.  

Why cost shouldn’t impact your decision

Cost has always ranked highly among reasons influencing business school decisions, and that's truer now than ever. But immediate cost shouldn’t overshadow long term gains. 

“One of the challenges with cost is that it is immediate and easy to measure. However, benefits are over a more extended period and also less tangible,” Rahul explains. 

Business school remains a long term investment with almost guaranteed payoffs. Those who studied and graduated from business school around the time of the last global financial crisis will testify to the enduring impact their MBAs had on their careers and lives to date. 

Read the BusinessBecause Cost of MBA Report 2020

5 Reasons You Should Study An Online MBA In 2020

Remember earlier this year when you could take classes with your peers, on campus, in a classroom? 

Coronavirus has impacted higher education as strongly as it has the global economy. Students have been consigned to their homes, and social distancing has meant we’ve waved goodbye to traditional campus education, albeit temporarily—now could be time to look at studying an online MBA. 

The pandemic has forced higher education to innovate and adapt to the pressures of delivering online. Schools moving their campus education online could serve as a blueprint for the future of distance learning. When coronavirus subsides it’s not out of the question to suggest online education will be the new normal. 

Distance learning MBAs are serious business in 2020. The recent QS ranking of the best online MBA programs in the world shows that there are an array of programs out there that are competing with their on campus counterparts.

Birmingham Business School’s 100% Online MBA was the first of its kind to receive accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and was this year ranked 17th in the world by QS—the school was ranked 12th for the standard of faculty and teaching. Students graduating from the program receive a degree that is identical in value to the full-time MBA. 

With coronavirus hitting business school campuses hard, here are five reasons you should study an online MBA this year. 

1. The distance learning MBA network

A key reason some students study an MBA is for the network. Alongside the accelerated career and the knowledge gained, an MBA network is inherited for life. It grants students access to a cohort of high performing professionals on whom they can draw throughout their studies and their careers. 

Daniel Chicksand, the director of the distance learning MBA at Birmingham Business School, says that conversations with students on the program have revealed vast WhatsApp networks where students and graduates continuously talk and discuss their careers and business problems, as well as generally keep in touch. 

Since inception, the Online MBA at Birmingham Business School has been made up of 67% international students from more than 70 countries. They come from a range of industries covering IT, education, automotive, healthcare, as well as an array of functions like marketing, sales, and research. There have been CEOs, CTOs, and directors of companies too. 

“When groups work together in the online environment they’re forming bonds. It’s the bonds that in the future will open up doors for new business opportunities,” Dan explains.

2. Online MBA cost

An online MBA is typically more affordable than its on campus variant. Birmingham Business School’s Online MBA comes in at approximately $25,000. Students who opt for the online degree are getting the same education on their graduate certificate as those who graduate from the campus MBA, in a diverse environment, with the added flexibility of distance learning education. 

READ MORE: What Is Studying For A 100% Online MBA Really Like?

Gayan reveals what like on an Online MBA is really like

3. Intercultural management

As is identified by the diversity of the cohort, students have the opportunity to work with peers from over 70 countries on the online MBA at Birmingham. 

They are also learning online, and developing the ability to work in diverse groups digitally, which mirrors the situation many global business professionals work with in reality, with teams all around the world.  

“During the COVID pandemic, I’ve been talking to people from Nigeria to Cameroon to Canada, and you just don’t quite get that level of diversity in other programs,” Dan explains. “You have really talented candidates who might not be able to take time out of their job or afford to relocate to the UK for the MBA.”

4. Job prospects

The post-coronavirus job market might become more competitive, thinks Dan, so upskilling could give you the edge when it comes to the post-pandemic career opportunities. 

“People realize maybe having the degree will give them the competitive edge,” he adds. “People who will also be having career breaks or looking for the opportunity to develop new businesses, I think they’ll be looking for online programs to support their learning.”

The learning environment on the Online MBA also mimics working in the digital sphere, as students learn to collaborate and lead across digital barriers. 

That mirrors the situation of many global business professionals today who collaborate with teams around the world—after the pandemic, those who are able to move seamlessly into the digital sphere will stand out.

READ MORE: The Pros & Cons Of Online Learning

What are the pros & cons of online learning?

5. MBA skills

The skillset you develop as part of the program is a key reason you should study an online MBA this year. As mentioned above, the post-coronavirus jobs market will be competitive.

With remote working highly likely to increase after the pandemic, the degree equips students with a strong set of digital communication skills, which will remain a highly sought-after skill in the workplace.

The Online MBA at Birmingham Business School also equips students with the language of marketing, sales, accounting, operations, and the tools with which to communicate with the entire business ecosystem. 

“With the flood of data and information today, what we want to do through teaching and tools and techniques is to give them those analytical tools so they can cut through all of that noise and get through to making difficult decisions with lots of information,” Dan explains. 

The MBA gives students a critical mindset, he adds, a way to make sense of a complex and uncertain world—the online degree also hones students’ time management skills in a way an on-campus degree might not, due to the nature of balancing work, study, and social life.  

“It provides a helicopter view of business. As [professionals] move up through their organizations they become generalists, and you need to understand the language of operations, supply chain, HR. I look at an MBA as a jigsaw puzzle, and all of these parts fit together.”

INSEAD Gets Multimillion Dollar Gift & Women Are More Concerned Than Men Over COVID-19

End of week roundup:

Coronavirus could turn women off business school

Female representation in business schools has improved over the last decade. Between 2009 and 2019, the share of global GMAT exams taken by women climbed steadily from 40% to 47%. However, latest research from GMAC shows the coronavirus pandemic may impact how many female candidates pursue a business school degree.

Female candidates are more likely to report that they are very concerned or extremely concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their pursuit of graduate management education (GME) compared to male candidates.

By April 30, more than half of women respondents to GMAC’s latest candidate survey (55%) were very concerned or extremely concerned due to the impact of COVID-19, while the degree of concern for male candidates ranged from 33% to 37% between March and the end of April. In response, women are more likely than men to delay their pursuit of GME.

INSEAD receives $66 million gift from alum

INSEAD has nabbed a €60 million ($66.6 million) gift from an anonymous alum, the largest gift INSEAD has received from an individual donor in its 60-year history.

The funds have been designated to grow the school’s endowment, finance research and fund other long-term strategic investments. The donor has pledged €40 million to the INSEAD endowment to drive innovation and excellence in research, and €20 million to enable strategic investments that solidify the school’s independence.

READ: The benefits of online learning that can’t be recreated on-campus

IESE Business School Campus To Open in June

IESE Business School plans to gradually resume in-person classes at its Madrid and Barcelona campuses from June 15. In a statement, the school said:

‘We are preparing a number of extensive health and safety measures (beyond what is required by the health authorities) to make this possible. For example: obligatory testing of employees and participants before coming to campus, temperature controls, reduced occupancy of campus, mandatory use of masks and social distancing, among others.’

See how IESE alumni are responding to COVID-19:

Degree Apprenticeships for UK MBA students in September

While there are reports that the UK government is set to pull the plug on the popular degree apprenticeships scheme, Teesside University Business School is planning to welcome the next intake of part-time MBA students on its MBA Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship (SLMDA) in September.

Business professionals on the program are encouraged to ramp up their critical thinking and managerial decision-making skill in response to COVID-19, says course leader Noel Dennis.

“Each year we have 25-to-30 part-time learners per cohort, with three intakes per annum, on the SLMDA. These range from business executives to educationalists, engineers and NHS senior clinicians and nurses developing their leadership and management skills. Current and aspiring leaders combine their work with studying for a business qualification. The value of the SLMDA is that what we cover reflects what is happening in the world at the time of delivery,” he says.

The SLMDA will continue to be structured around up to eight days per year of face-to-face group learning alongside online delivery, as part of the two-year program.

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Dealing with COVID-19 | Jim Berry, MBA director at UCL School of Management

“Before the virus shutdown most in-person teaching at UCL was supported by an online learning system (we use Moodle, primarily). The speed of the shutdown forced many lecturers to quickly adapt their materials for online delivery. The next challenge is addressing the possibility of a whole term moving online in the Fall.

“We are facing this challenge by leveraging our internal expertise in teaching (UCL Arena) but also some pilot programs the University has launched in the past years such as the UCL MBA program (a classroom-based MBA delivered online) 

“The UCL MBA was an opportunity for the School of Management to build an MBA program from the ground up for classroom based online delivery. This allowed our faculty to reimagine the learning journey and make use of technology natively in the design of the program. 

“We took two years designing the integrated learning approach and our faculty take up to a year to create engaging modules that blend video, simulations, dialog and live classroom (1.5 hours a week per module) interaction into a holistic program. This program is high touch and is focused on the interactive learning of digital classrooms where students interact together and with faculty with and amazing 18-to-one ratio. “

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