For all interested in the MBA, 2010 was a year that started with some amount of apprehension and negativity but got progressively better as time wore on. Attacked by many in the wake of the financial crisis and subsequent recession, B-schools rewired and retooled themselves to embrace new realities in business and global dynamics. Whatever small degree of uncertainty over the prospects of global business may still linger into the New Year, if there is one assurance that has come out of the developments in the past one year, it is that the MBA is here to stay and continue making a difference to business as well as those in it.
Here's a look at 5 developments that shook the world of business education in 2010 and is likely to extend its effect and shape trends in 2011:
A. GMAT gets a makeover
Starting 2012, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT®), scores of which are most popularly accepted by B-schools internationally for screening candidates, will introduce a new section on Integrated Reasoning. This is intended to test the advanced reasoning and analytical skills that students would be required to apply in classrooms. It will replace one of the two writing sections of the current exam and will also include an audio component that will help schools assess students' auditory learning style. However, the current verbal and math sections of the exam will remain as they are.
Clearly, for B-school aspirants this means that straitjacketed writing and quantitative ability will no longer be enough to secure a competitive GMAT score. They will have to work hard on skills that enable them to analyze information, draw out conclusions and determine relationships between data points. But of course, as anything new comes with a certain amount of uncertainty and apprehension, there may be a race among candidates to go for the tried and tested version before the 2012 launch comes into effect. The competition in 2011 may therefore turn out to be a little bit more intense!
B. Green and Not-so-Mean
As business and economic reality changes, more and more business schools are restructuring and refocusing to ensure that their graduates can effectively meet the demands of the post-crisis world. This has meant a clear and explicit leaning towards the overall concept of triple bottom line. Ethical, social and environmental concerns have been incorporated into B-school programs and curricula in order to ensure that they can produce not just effective managers but also able leaders to guide the course of business in the future.
While announcing one of the most ambitious revamps in curriculum in the history of the School, Wharton announced an explicit integrated focus on ethical and legal responsibility in business, which would provide deeper and more challenging frameworks to guide students' managerial decisions when they returned to the work force.
In October 2010, professors at the Haas School at Berkeley, Boston University, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and others were honored by the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education for taking a leading role in integrating social, environmental and ethical issues into the MBA curriculum. The trend is expected to continue with introduction of more programs, more elective options and a general bent towards society and our planet.
As Dean Yash Gupta at the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Indeed, all of us are joined in what the social critic Jeremy Rifkin has called a race to global consciousness,...... that recognizes the aspirations of all people and the urgency of caring for our fragile planet. That is the core concept of this great opportunity presented to our business schools and students-to craft business methods that match Rifkin's vision by doing good for society while doing well for the company, by profiting others while turning a profit.
C. The MBA goes global
With the centers of business and economic activity migrating away from the West, business education has witnessed a steady flattening. While business schools in the robust Asian economies have charged up efforts to attract students from the recession-battered West, schools from the US and UK too have set up off shore campuses or offer programs through tie-ups and collaboration in the East, particularly India.
In February 2010, the Schulich Business School of Canada commenced its India MBA in association with the Mumbai-based SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. Others such as Georgia Institute of Technology and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University also plan extensive campuses in the country.
Another region that has witnessed a good deal of interest and enthusiasm among global business schools is Africa with schools such as CEIBS and the Grenoble Graduate School of Business offering programs or establishing research initiatives in the continent.
Schools recognized not just the potential of tapping the global student base through expansion of program offerings and physical presence, but also became increasingly aware of the necessity of exposing their students to international influence during the MBA tenure, wherever there bases may be. According to the Wall Street Journal, about three-quarters of current executive M.B.A. programs offer international trips, which typically take place at the end of a semester and include a mix of visits to local companies, classroom instruction by local executives, and tourist activities designed to provide a flavor of the culture.
D. Hiring picks up
Badly bruised by the recession, MBA hiring saw some hope in 2010; in November 2010, results from a new survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) showed that nearly nine in 10 MBA and other graduate management alumni from the class of 2010 had a job within three months of graduation. Students of the class of 2010 also said they received higher starting salaries, on average, than their counterparts from the class of 2009. According to the survey, median starting salary for 2010 graduates was US$78,820, up from US$75,000 for alumni who graduated in 2009.
There was a welcome rise in hiring by consulting and financial services firms, though it did not match the levels seen in the pre-recession period. Healthcare, energy and technology also showed robust hiring. While the recovery has been slow and there is still some ground to be covered before 2007 levels are reached, most schools feel 2010 witnessed a positive trending in employment and have an optimistic outlook for hiring in 2011. Emerging markets and parts of the Middle East and Africa hold strong promise going by 2010 trends. In an article in TopMBA, Sandra Schwarzer, director of Career Services at INSEAD reported an increase of up to 30% in job opportunities in parts of the Middle East. Shwarzer also said that the School saw the biggest increases in job opportunities in Africa with a 78% year on year increase, and South America - especially Brazil - with a 69% rise.
E. The Power of Pink
While the status of women in business and the pipeline of women business leaders leave a lot to be desired still, hope abounds as two independent surveys published in 2010, from QS TopMBA and the GMAC, both indicated that more women now consider business school and corporate careers. The QS survey reported that women attendees comprised 46% of the entire attendance in the 2009 World MBA Tour, while according to GMAC, 40% of GMAT takers in 2009 were women (crossing the 100,000 mark for the first time ever).
Recognizing that the seemingly impossible task of managing family and a career in management simultaneously is what deters many women from applying to B-school, institutions such as Chicago Booth School of Business and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business have established relationships with alumni and organizations to encourage more women to apply. Most schools, through conferences, seminars and other initiatives, now try to attract women candidates and convince them of the feasibility of the all-important work-life balance. As the trend continues, 2011 may be the year when MBAs move a step further towards shattering the legendary glass ceiling.