MBA providers benefit from rise in pandemic intakes

Business schools have boomed during the pandemic with two-thirds reporting higher revenue in the 2020/21 academic year than in the previous 12 months and less than a fifth reporting a decline.

About four in ten of the 50 deans interviewed by the Chartered Association of Business Schools for a survey ahead of its annual conference on Monday said revenues were up significantly in 2020/21.

Despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic 78 per cent of respondents reported stable or increased research income in 2020/21 at their business school.

The financial success of these institutions is in marked contrast to the wider university sector, which has warned of financial difficulties caused by the additional costs of teaching through the pandemic with online classes.

Business schools have been more successful than other areas of academia in part because the higher fees their students pay — London Business School charges £92,735 for its MBA programme, for instance — and in part because they do not require expensive teaching equipment like other subject areas, such as medicine or engineering.

About 70 per cent of the schools covered by the CABS survey reported an increase in applications converted into enrolments, showing a strong commitment among business students to completing a degree course.

The success of the business schools will have a positive effect on those universities that have created such institutions, as many have done in recent years, with 82 per cent of schools represented in the CABS survey contributing more than half of their net income to a parent university.

“There is a strong correlation between a healthy business school and a healthy parent university,” Robert MacIntosh, chair of CABS said.

Three-quarters of the schools in the CABS survey recorded a lower number of new enrolments from EU undergraduates and postgraduates. However, these declines were more than matched by increases in numbers from the UK and other countries outside the EU.

53 per cent of the responding business schools reported slightly or significantly higher enrolments of UK nationals in 2020/21, rising to 59 per cent for students applying to undergraduate courses.

The performance was even stronger for non-EU international students taking up postgraduate courses with 71 per cent of schools surveyed reporting an increased conversion rate compared with last year, including 43 per cent that had a significantly higher increase.

The need to expand provision has increased the need for investment in online technology to teach more lessons remotely and increases to teaching staff numbers, according to MacIntosh, who as well as his role at CABS is faculty pro vice-chancellor for the faculty of business and law at Northumbria University.

“Several of the bigger schools are out recruiting staff and they are finding it harder to recruit and retain international staff with issues around visas and the paperwork flowing from that,” MacIntosh said.

“Increased income must be balanced against the increased cost because, as we know, there is no such thing as a free lunch.”