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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How Coronavirus Is Affecting MBA Students

Margherita Nostro was only supposed to be home in Italy for Chinese New Year, but after the coronavirus (or Covid-19) outbreak hit and business schools in China closed, her plans to fly back to Shanghai were scuppered. 

The current MBA student at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) has been in Italy—the worst hit country in Europe—since January 21st. Then, the virus was restricted to China, and quarantine and mask wearing had not yet become the norm. 

CEIBS got in touch with its students at the end of January, when the situation was beginning to get out of hand. They were told to postpone their travel back to Shanghai and to await further news. 

It was then that the virus began to take hold outside China. There was not much Margherita could do, apart from stay put. CEIBS contacted students and informed them all classes would be delivered online from the start of February, using Zoom technology.


Taking the MBA Online

Margherita explains that she first took some trial classes online, and when her and her classmates didn’t encounter any technological issues, the new online MBA timetable was confirmed. 

It’s one of the ways business schools are being impacted by coronavirus and having to adapt to ensure students don’t miss out on their MBA education. They log in to Zoom, and all classes are streamed live.

Margherita says it’s made her think a lot about her future career, and how many meetings can be shifted online. Technological innovation has meant virtual meetings can be run as smoothly as if you were meeting face-to-face. 

But one thing she credits to the smoothness of the transition is the relationships she has built with her MBA peers on campus since the start of the degree. 

“We have built something between us and now when we interact online it’s good because we already have established personal relationships,” she explains. 

She thinks that you would miss out on building those relationships on a wholly online MBA. At the moment she says she’s experienced a good balance between on campus and virtual learning—it’s taught her the importance of building relationships face-to-face. 



What is the situation like in Venice?

Margherita lives 30km outside of the center of Venice. She isn’t in one of the designated red zones, but with the whole of the country in effective lock down, she says she is resigned to her apartment and the surrounding area. 

Most commercial activities have been stopped, though supermarkets and pharmacies remain open. Gyms and swimming pools have been closed too, and Margherita says she is kept busy by CEIBS’ efforts to keep classes running.

Her advice to other MBAs in a similar situation is to remain positive and collaborate. 

“This is the most important thing,” she says. “We’re here to work together and collaborate. Everyone is doing his or her best, not only students but all the admin staff and all the professors. 

“I think we should act as a collective team, a community, and this should be the rule for all the other business schools and institutions around the world.” 


How are other business schools coping?

Schools in Europe have been impacted in the same way—students from MIP Politecnico di Milano have been forced to stay at home. Activities planned for face-to-face interaction have also been moved online.

It’s a good test of business schools’ ability to adapt to the demands of the digital age. A refined online system for delivery of the MBA is a must for any business school taking themselves seriously in 2020. 

But the hope is that the impact of coronavirus will subside in the coming months. As good as it is to be able to deliver courses online in the interim, students who’ve paid for the full-time course experience want to get back to campus.

They want to take advantage of networking opportunities, international trips, and consulting projects abroad—all of which have been restricted since the virus outbreak.

On the flipside, in the coming application cycle, online programs may benefit from an increase in applications, as students seek safety alongside other advantages of online learning like flexibility and cost the programs offer. 

Coronavirus: Chinese Business School Contributes $573 Million To Relief Effort

Since the first case emerged in December 2019, the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan has had a profound impact in China and beyond. 

The virus, officially known as COVID-19, has quickly spread from its point of origin to affect 76 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Efforts to prevent the virus from spreading came quickly, with the closure of schools and universities across China from the beginning of February 2020. The country’s top business schools have also closed their doors, and are expected to remain shut until at least the end of March. 


Chinese business school shows its support

Despite these closures, schools are doing everything they can to minimize disruption for their students. At the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), for instance, students are being offered online classes while staff work from home, so they can keep up with their studies. 

The CKGSB community has also been instrumental in tackling the worst effects of the virus. 

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has presented significant challenges to both China and the global community,” explains a CKGSB spokesperson. “But the CKGSB community has come together to provide and gather support for those affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.”

To date, CKGSB’s student and alumni community has been able to raise a total of over $573 million in cash donations and goods. 

Most of these donations come from companies headed by CKGSB alumni—50% of whom are CEOs or chairpeople. 

In fact, the school’s alumni network represents 25% of China’s most valuable brands, including 60 of Fortune China’s top 500 list. 

Along with cash, donations from these alumni include four million masks and five million pairs of medical-grade gloves. 

CKGSB’s Hubei Alumni Association have been especially prominent in this area, purchasing $1.2 million worth of masks, goggles, and protective suits to help prevent the virus’ spread in Hubei province, where it originated.

In Wuhan itself, the city where the first case of coronavirus was identified, another CKGSB alumna has managed to provide 400 beds for patients with coronavirus symptoms in Yaxin Hospital, which she oversees.

In response to these significant donations, CKGSB’s founding dean, Xiang Bing, has expressed his support in a letter to the school-wide community. 

“I’m extremely proud to see the CKGSB community coming together in recent weeks to provide support through donations big and small,” he says.


Coronavirus relief effort: CKGSB


The impact of coronavirus

Along with these relief efforts, the CKGSB community has also been at the forefront of research into the economic and social impact of the virus—and how this can be reduced. 

“Our professors will continue to release data and analyses in the coming weeks,” Xiang explains. 

CKGSB professors Ouyang Hui and Ye Dongyan have already released an analysis of the outbreak’s impact on the Chinese economy, and some economic predictions for the recovery process.

“COVID-19 will have a greater impact than SARS [did in 2003], and recovery will likely take longer,” they suggest.

This is partly because China is still dealing with the fallout of its recent tariff war with the US, meaning that profits from exports are down. Back in 2003, exports helped China to recover from the impact of SARS quickly, but the economic recovery from coronavirus could be slower, Ouyang and Ye believe. 

To help minimize the effects of the coronavirus disease on China’s economic outlook, they recommend quick action. “The government should urgently reduce taxes and expand investment in infrastructure, scientific research, environmental protection and healthcare,” they advise.


The outlook

Outside assistance could also be part of the solution. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently made $50 billion available to support emerging economies through the crisis. This fund is designed to help member countries finance public health initiatives on the front-line. 

The IMF are confident that the virus will eventually retreat, allowing economic recovery in both China and the world at large to begin. 

In the meantime, initiatives like those carried out by the CKGSB community will continue to limit the economic impact that coronavirus is having, and save lives.

“Fundamental to the core of CKGSB’s vision is to cultivate transformative business leaders with a strong sense of social responsibility,” Xiang explains.

How Will Coronavirus Impact Business Schools?

On the usually busy campus of MIP Politecnico di Milano, the lecture rooms are empty. MBA students are working at home on their computers. Coronavirus (or Covid-19), which started Wuhan, China, is spreading globally and much of northern Italy is on lockdown.

Already, the coronavirus outbreak has impacted business schools and students around the world; closing business schools in China, disrupting study trips, and causing concern for school administrators who fear a downturn in applications.

So what if coronavirus continues to spread?


Applications will decline

Problems are likely to arise even before students are admitted to business school. Every year, thousands of b-school candidates globally take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), a key quality indicator for business schools when measuring a candidate’s suitability for an MBA or master's program.

But GMAT test centers are closed in mainland China until the end of March. Testing is also suspended in cities in northern Italy, South Korea, and other countries affected by the coronavirus. Testing for GMAT alternative, the GRE, is also suspended in multiple locations.

Western business schools, reliant on large application volumes from China, may also see a drop in Chinese applications as candidates who haven’t taken the GMAT, GRE, or a language test, before January 2020 will now struggle to find a test center.

According to George Iliev, director at the b-school accreditation body AMBA, potential Chinese applicants for masters  who are due to complete their bachelor's degrees in summer 2020 will also face a challenge as the spring semester of the current school year in China has been postponed, so graduation will be postponed too this year.

International applications to schools are likely to be impacted anyway, as people become wary of travelling to hotbed areas, or travelling at all.

Chinese schools, who already struggle to attract internationals, are ramping up their marketing activities to counter the reputational damage caused by coronavirus. China has had the vast majority of cases (over 80,000 of 94,000 worldwide) and over 3,000 deaths as a result of the virus.


Locations with confirmed cases of coronavirus (March 4th 2020) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Most of these are in China.

Locations with confirmed cases of coronavirus (March 4th 2020) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Most of these are in China.


Admissions requirements will change

To counter these challenges, business schools will relax their admission requirements.

INSEAD is reportedly granting conditional acceptances to candidates pending the results of GMAT or GRE tests, and has become more flexible with application deadlines, deferral requests, and payment plans.

The GMAT often acts as a first filter for schools when vetting candidates, so issues with test-taking will put a higher workload on admissions teams, but they could also allow candidates who struggle with standardized testing to get a foot in the door; apply first and do the GMAT later.

Business schools have long said that admission is based on a holistic profile, so schools face a test to live up to their claims and assess more candidates solely based on admission essays and interviews, which will be increasingly conducted online.

The admission process is in full swing at many schools and candidates have received admission offers for 2020-21. If students’ plans are disrupted by coronavirus, and cohorts on some programs are smaller, groups of students from different courses can be merged. AMBA accreditation allows electives courses to be taught to mixed groups of MBAs and other masters students.

But it’s how students study that faces the most disruption as a result of coronavirus.


WATCH: Coronavirus Update | Applicant Bulletin



mip politecnico di milano campus suffering from coronavirus

MIP's campus is closed and students are studying at home


Programs will go online

As students at Milan’s MIP are forced to stay at home, activities originally planned to take place face-to-face have been moved online.

Federico Frattini, the school’s dean, says online learning platform FLEXA, developed in partnership with Microsoft, has kept students on schedule. “Our main message to anyone who studies at MIP is that you will be able to continue learn and be part of our strong community through distance-learning,” he says.

ESCP Business School, which has multiple European campuses, has stopped face-to-face learning at its Turin campus and transferred all teaching online. The UK’s UCL School of Management, located at the heart of London’s Canary Wharf where panic arose recently due to the coronavirus, uses Zoom technology to recreate the classroom format for its online program and will use this same technology for its full-time program if the situation worsens.

Distance-learning will help schools in the short-term. For programs with visiting professors—many Chinese schools have visiting professors fly in from the US, for example—online platforms are especially useful.

However, full-time students want a full-time course experience, not an online course. They want the campus experience and the networking opportunities. They want international trips and consulting projects abroad; many of which have been cancelled due to travel restrictions.

With coronavirus essentially turning full-time programs into online programs, schools may have to consider how they price full-time versus online courses—which typically cost less—or even how they compensate full-time students.

At the same time, online programs will likely see increases in applications as, alongside flexibility and cost, safety is added to the advantages of online learning


Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts economic growth to slow

 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts economic growth to slow. Source: BBC


Business schools must act now

The business school community is standing strong against the coronavirus. London Business School has taken active steps to support its students and educate them on coronavirus symptoms.

Chinese schools are closed, but at Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), students, alums, and companies managed by its alums have raised $573 million for coronavirus victims.

Perversely, coronavirus may increase the number of candidates who apply to business schools in the longer-term. Schools tend to receive fewer applications when an economy is strong and people are happier in their jobs (in the US, for example). The global economy looks set to take a hit from coronavirus (see graph above) and more professionals may therefore be prepared to quit their jobs for a business school program.

With the patent danger of coronavirus, that’s not a prospect business schools will relish. To date, school’s actions are understandably reactive. But simply putting learning online is a short-term solution. It’s not something every school has the technology for and it’s not what full-time students want.

The future is uncertain, but schools need to take proactive steps to keep their current students happy and keep prospective students engaged.


Coronavirus Closes Chinese Business Schools

Chinese business schools will reportedly remain closed until the end of March 2020, as the country attempts to keep the Coronavirus contained. That's after an initial announcement on January 27th by the local government in Shanghai asked schools to remain closed until February 17th. 

The announcement affected universities, primary and secondary schools, secondary vocational schools, kindergartens, and nurseries, as attempts to contain the virus intensified. 

That includes in Shanghai schools like China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Jiao Tong University’s Antai College of Economics and Management, Fudan University Business School, and the Fanhai School of International Finance.

There were also closures in Beijing, affecting schools in the city like Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management, and the Beijing International MBA (BIMBA) at Peking University.

The initial announcement came in the midst of a week of celebration that saw in the Chinese New Year as well as a strong showing from business schools in Mainland China and Hong Kong in the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2020

CEIBS (5th), the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Business School (19th), Fudan (33rd), Jiao Tong (37th), Renmin University of China, Business School (38th), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Business School (50th) all performed strongly. 


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How could this affect MBA students?

The first announcement called for all kinds of enterprise in the municipality to resume work no earlier than midnight on February 9th. 

That was except those involved in water, gas, and power supplies, as well as enterprises involved in the prevention and control of epidemic diseases. So, the production and sales of medical devices and drugs. 

Supermarkets, stores, food production and supply enterprises have remained open, as well as those related to the national economy and people’s livelihoods, the announcement stated.

It added that those who recently returned to Shanghai from key areas of the epidemic could expect health inspection and monitoring. 

The extended closure comes as the government tries to control the spread of a virus that has killed more than 1,700 people, more than twice the number of the 2003 SARS outbreak. 

The hope is that students will be able to promptly return to business school and there will be no impact on applications to Chinese business schools who, if the latest MBA rankings are anything to go by, are continuing to establish themselves as serious players on the global stage.


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