Prospective MBAs seek out AI content in curriculum

Prospective students are looking for their MBA to cover AI more than any other topic, alongside content on business and the financial environment, suggests new global survey

AI is now the most in-demand topic from prospective MBA students, according to a new study of 1,658 individuals from more than 30 countries.

Sought by 31 per cent of respondents, AI is the joint number one topic that students are looking for in any MBA degree, alongside ‘business and financial environment’ in the latest Tomorrow’s MBA study.

Other topics in high demand are ‘business law’ (sought by 25 per cent of respondents), ‘corporate finance’ (sought by 23 per cent) and ‘data analytics and decision-making’ (sought by 20 per cent). Teaching on ‘climate change’ is now sought by 16 per cent of respondents, placing it eighth among the top topics and the first time that it has made the top 30 in this annual study.

“The rise of AI content is a direct reaction to the rapid impact of this technology in recent months. It has to be a fundamental part of any business schools’ curriculum. While sustainability has been on the agenda of many schools for a number of years, it is now being widely added into degrees. Students recognise the ever-pressing need to tackle climate change and the work of many employers to address this issue, driving schools to make it an integral part of an MBA education,” said Andrew Crisp, author of a study that is produced by CarringtonCrisp in association with EFMD.

Limits to international study motivations

Nearly half (46 per cent) of prospective students said that their preferred business school is outside their home country. However, many are held back from studying internationally, with 43 per cent unable to leave their job, while 34 per cent face personal circumstances that mean they can’t travel internationally. An identical percentage (34 per cent) simply can’t afford to travel to study overseas.

The desire and restrictions relating to international study represent an opportunity for business schools to develop blended options that don’t involve full-time study overseas. Blended learning is sought by 28 per cent of respondents and is therefore growing in popularity. However, full-time on-campus study is sought by 40 per cent and remains the most popular form of MBA study.

Three years on, Covid-19 continues to influence the decisions of prospective students. Two-thirds (66 per cent) agreed that “the pandemic has made me more likely to pursue an MBA”. However, 60 per cent agreed that they are now considering study options other than an MBA to support their career. This reflects the growing popularity of other study routes, including specialised masters or short courses focused on specific career needs.

“The current MBA market is an interesting challenge for business schools. On the one hand, student demands around topics are changing quickly. On the other hand, there are more and more alternative learning opportunities. The keyword for business schools is ‘imagination’, thinking about how the world is changing, regularly reviewing their curriculum, offering flexible delivery and creating MBAs for tomorrow,” Crisp concluded.

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