Challenging era puts the traditional MBA under scrutiny

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University campuses in the US are facing upheavals from within and political scrutiny from without that are unprecedented in decades. The Israel-Gaza conflict and claims of antisemitism and Islamophobia have been compounded by broader debates around diversity and academic plagiarism.

While much of the polemic is focused on undergraduate education, even business schools have not been exempt from a level of criticism and antagonism not seen in more than half a century — since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, or the Vietnam war in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But, if the current debate is partly driven by the highly politicised “culture wars” of this year’s election season in the US and beyond, it also reflects more existential issues: increasingly polarised outcomes and attitudes between those with and those without higher education; the costs of university study; their value for money; and the wider responsibilities of graduates.

In this report on the Global MBA Ranking, we include a special focus on the US — the country at the centre of the current turmoil and the home of the MBA. We explore the disruption under way, with stagnating demand for the flagship two-year, full-time, in-person MBA and the emergence of more flexible, part-time, lower-cost specialist and hybrid degrees.

We look at the continued growth in undergraduate business majors — reflecting an accelerating appetite for earlier, cheaper ways for students to develop employable skills — and calls for a greater focus on affordability, social mobility and the return on the costs of education.

Global MBA Ranking 2024

Read the ranking and report, plus how we compiled our league table. Spotlight on the MBA webinar, February 21: businesseducation.live.ft.com.

In the article, we include a table, drawing on official US data, listing schools based on their salary outcomes and student debt, which highlights the value of many public and state universities beyond the often disproportionate focus on elite, private “Ivy plus” institutions.

At a time when new technology is disrupting work, our guest business school dean columnist shares research insights into the shrinking share of added value taken by labour rather than capital, and argues there is an increasing need for business school students to be mindful to put people first.

We highlight the rise of India-born academics to leadership positions in business schools and beyond: a sign of the power of the US education system and the country’s traditional openness to immigration — albeit both are now in the political spotlight.

In the UK, we report on how the government’s recent clampdown on immigration by preventing foreign students from bringing their families with them risks reducing their numbers — weakening universities and the wider economy and society. The “trailing spouse” of an MBA student is often, in fact, an active contributor to campus life.

Our latest business dilemma for classroom discussion explores some of the corporate consequences of the political decoupling of the US and China. This “caselet” focuses on the complexities of “reshoring” and “friendshoring” of globally integrated supply chains.

And, as usual, our MBA ranking offers guidance for prospective applicants, as well as employers, faculty and others who engage with business school teaching, research and students.

Reading the tables as a strict ordinal ranking based on the FT’s assessment of important factors is one approach, but they are also designed to be used as ratings that group the leading business schools. This year, there are eight schools in the top Tier 1, although all 100 schools in the final table are of high quality.

Our methodology this year has been refreshed to take into account alumni assessments of teaching on sustainability and Scope 3 emissions — those not controlled by the school but which occur as a result of its activities.

We also offer insights in our data section on the correlation between GMAT business school admission test scores and post-MBA earnings.

As our interviews with students and admissions officers stress, rankings should, in any case, be used in combination with other insights including discussions with current students and recent alumni.

We offer advice for prospective applicants, highlighting the importance of authenticity and curiosity; and preparations to help those admitted to make the most of their courses, including the need for prioritisation and good time management.

For further insights on the ranking and business school study, sign up for our free online event, Spotlight on the MBA, on Wednesday February 21, at: businesseducation.live.ft.com.

This post was originally published on Financial Times

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