While coronavirus has sharply disrupted the world of business education this year just as it has other parts of the global economy, so far it has left demand for masters in management (MiM) courses and their reputation among alumni largely unscathed.
Business school faculty and students alike have made considerable sacrifices and been forced to adapt to the pressures of the pandemic. But the Financial Times 2020 MiM ranking shows continued strong performance for the degree and its variants (sometimes called international management, strategy, business, organisation, analysis or entrepreneurship), with little radical shift in the positions of the leading institutions.
With many employers cutting costs and recruitment, a MiM is a way for those who have recently finished undergraduate study to defer entry into an uncertain job market and pursue a professional qualification while deepening technical skills and enriching their networks. That appeal is reflected in indications from many schools of stable or even rising demand for places this autumn.
Those admitted will face the prospect of far more online study than in the past even if they can overcome travel restrictions to study on campus. We offer insights on how students can adjust to digital learning by taking the initiative, speaking up and planning their time. They will need to adapt to restrictions on face-to-face assignments, placements and international visits, but in the process will build resilience and learn new ways of working that are being adopted by employers around the world.
By drawing heavily on data reported by alumni three years after graduating, the FT MiM ranking smooths the effects of Covid-19 felt by the most recent class of students, and provides longer term insights on the developing careers of those who are already working.
The reasons most cited by alumni for taking the MiM are better career opportunities, personal development and improved earning potential. Consultancy, finance and banking — the highest paid sectors — remain the most popular career destinations, but in what may be partly a sign of the effect of Covid-19, their reported pay has dipped in 2020 compared with 2019. The pattern of stagnant or slightly lower wages also holds across work in marketing, IT and industrial roles, although those in consumer products continued to report increases.
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The individual data points which feed into the overall ranking provide valuable insights as prospective students decide whether and where to study: from location, duration and cost, to class size and composition, careers advice, aims achieved and overall satisfaction.
In aggregate, among business schools, St Gallen in Switzerland, followed by HEC and Essec in France, retain their leading positions, with only modest repositioning this year among the top dozen schools. The most highly ranked institutions continue to be European, reflecting the historic base and continued tradition of the qualification on the continent. In the US, it is also making inroads, although some schools are modifying and marketing MBAs as an alternative immediately after an undergraduate qualification. Among the highest quality institutions in the top 50, there are also schools based in China, India and Russia.
For the first time this year, we have separately analysed the differential benefits of alumni who participated in two leading alliances of business schools. Cems, the former Community of European Management Schools, is now offered in 33 schools around the world, while QTEM (Quantitative Techniques for Economics and Management) has 24 member schools. Selected applicants receive training from at least two business schools and with a corporate partner, and successful graduates receive an additional qualification on top of the MiM and higher average salaries.
Alongside coronavirus, there are two other pressure points on business schools, as in so many other parts of society. The first is diversity, highlighted by the Black Lives Matters movement. This has driven more scholarships, curriculum changes and new recruitment methods to vary the backgrounds of students and faculty alike.
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Schools have already made considerable efforts to increase their intake of women in recent years, although a stark gender gap remains in the workplace: our alumni survey shows that women still earn significantly less than men holding MiM qualifications, with the largest differential in the consulting sector.
A second transformational factor under way is societal impact, and we report on initiatives by students to raise the profile of topics including climate change and sustainability and for schools to embed them into the curriculum and in placements and projects. As we report also, MiM graduates are engaged in an ever broader range of activities, not least around Covid-19 and public health.
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