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Record numbers apply to top business schools


Record numbers of students are remaining in full-time education to get a business masters degree across Europe despite a shift to online learning, as they defer entry into an uncertain job market.

All of the top-10 higher education institutions in the latest 2020 Financial Times ranking of masters in management degree courses have reported increases in applications compared with 2019.

Five of these — London Business School, HEC Paris, France’s Essec Business School, Imperial College Business School in the UK and Stockholm School of Economics — told the FT they had record rises.

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“Students are prioritising the continuation of their studies and delaying their entry into the working world, in the hopes that the economy will be better in one, two, or three years,” said Felix Papier, dean for pre-experience programs at Essec, where applications for the MiM course more than doubled this year compared with 2019.

Despite cost cutting by employers around the world in response to the disruption of coronavirus, salaries for MiM graduates three years after completing their studies had risen by summer this year on average to $74,125 compared with $70,186 in 2019.

Business schools have been shaken up by the need to introduce infection control measures, switch to remote teaching and limit placements and study trips, but the latest FT analysis shows little change among the mostly highly rated 13 providers.

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Zoë Chrysostom, who graduated with a fashion management degree from the London College of Fashion in July and began a masters in management course at London Business School this month, said: “The pandemic has definitely played a role in my decision to apply this year because of the uncertainty of the job market.”

Half the LBS class will attend lectures at the school’s Regents Park campus, with the rest logging on using the web conferencing service Zoom.

Students have been attracted to technology-savvy schools, able to offer a better online experience for those unable to start face-to-face lectures.

Applications were up 125 per cent year-on-year at Imperial College, which two years ago formed an alliance with five other leading business schools to invest in online teaching technology.

Only 28 per cent of Imperial’s incoming class will start the year on campus with the rest joining lectures online, although more are expected to be able to attend in person in coming months, according to Leila Guerra, vice-dean for education.

“We allow students to switch seamlessly between the two modes of study,” Ms Guerra explained.

Travel bans and quarantines imposed by countries to contain the spread of Covid-19 have not deterred business masters students from applying to schools across the world.

Milan’s Bocconi University reported a 4 per cent rise overall in applications to its masters in management degree programme, with those from other countries, including from China and the US, up 14 per cent.

Stefano Caselli, dean for international affairs at Bocconi, said: “Despite the fact that the concept of a global world without any barriers and opportunities is being challenged, higher education matters much more than ever.”

HEC Paris, which is number two in the FT’s global ranking, recorded a 52 per cent rise in applications this year compared with 2019. Applications from Germany and Italy roughly doubled and those from China and India were up 59 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.

“Students are making the choice to apply to the most recognised and established [university] brands,” said Julien Manteau, executive director of strategy and development at HEC Paris.

“We have been surprised to see all of our international students arriving on campus. We thought that Indian and Chinese students would probably withdraw at some point because of visa issues and the problems with travel but that has not happened.”


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