It might be difficult to believe, but 2022 is almost over.
In this episode of Business Casual, our hosts John, Maria, and Caroline will name three significant trends and events that they believe had an impact on graduate management education in 2022.
Listen in as our hosts also reflect on the wonderful moments that have transpired in graduate management education, evaluate the patterns and noteworthy events, and discuss the ups and downs.
[00:00:07.530] – John
Hello, everyone. It’s John Byrne with Poets and Quants. You’re listening to Business Casual, our weekly podcast with my co host Maria Wich-Vila and Caroline Diarte Edwards. Can you believe we’re at the end of another year? I can. It’s gone by so fast. And it’s just hard, hard to imagine that we are almost finished with 2022. It’s a good time to just look back at what’s happened in graduate management education, review the trends, the highlights, the ups and downs, and talk a little bit about that. And then in our next podcast, to look forward into 2023, take out the crystal ball and see what lies ahead. So I’m going to go to my two co hosts first and ask them to identify three big trends that they saw or three big happenings that helped to shape the field of graduate management education in 2022. Caroline, why don’t you start?
[00:01:09.030] – Caroline
Yeah, so I think that one of the big things this year has been that we’ve got back to some sort of normal, right? So obviously, 2000 and 22,021 were pretty disrupted by the pandemic. It disrupted some schools more than others and some countries more than others. But the vast majority of school communities were affected and saw periods of longer periods of virtual learning issues with COVID on campus and so on. So at least for a lot of the international schools outside of China and the US. Schools have been able to get back to some sort of normal this year. So I think that is a very welcome development.
[00:01:52.390] – John
That definitely is. And that’s a big deal because we know how disappointed many students were who had to take virtual classes when they signed up for on campus learning. And that’s all back. And so our global immersion and travel, which also disappeared during the peak of the Pandemic and is now back in order. And that means that faculty are doing less zoom, which I’m sure they’re very happy about.
[00:02:24.430] – Caroline
Yes, I think they are. And what I’ve heard from students and faculty is that not only did it make it much harder for classmates to get to know each other and build those relationships, that’s such a fundamental part of the business school experience. And a big reason why people go to business school is to build that network that will have such value for them for the rest of their lives. But also that online, it’s more difficult for students to get the same peer to peer learning. Right? So I think it’s just harder to facilitate a discussion in an online environment in the same way that you can when you’re all together, everyone can see each other in a physical space. From what I’ve heard, that peer to peer learning was much more difficult online. And so I think everyone, both students and faculty, are very happy to be back in the classroom.
[00:03:20.930] – John
That’s right. We’ll get back to you on your next two. We’ll go to Maria for her first of three.
[00:03:26.980] – Maria
Okay, so one of the things that I noticed this year in terms of how the schools were doing admissions or things they were doing in their application process was more and more of a reliance on video. I don’t necessarily mean video as an interview medium. I mean, prior to even issuing formal interview or acceptance invitations or decisions that a lot of schools are having, students either create a video in advance and then upload it on their own or have a situation where they are sitting in front of their webcam and they are given one or two questions. In the case of UT Austin, I think it’s seven questions. It’s funny, I’m like I’ve been saying for years that I wish the schools would rely more on this video. And then UT Austin was like, Great, we’re doing seven of them.
[00:04:14.560] – John
Wow. But yeah, is that good or is that overkill?
[00:04:20.290] – Maria
You know what? If you think about it, it’s a great way. What a great time saver. Because if you essentially replace the typical interview with the sorts of questions you would have asked anyway in an interview, if you start listening to the answers and you can tell right away that this person is just not the right fit to put that diplomatically, you don’t have to listen to all seven answers the whole way through. And I believe that most of these automated video interview platforms actually cut you off after, say, 60 seconds, 90 seconds, two minutes. And so that’s also good because sometimes you’re in an interview and the person is just not taking the hint, and it gets kind of awkward when you’re like, okay, we have to move on now. Thank you. I think that the video utilizing video earlier in the process. I do think that I personally think that it’s more useful if it is a situation where the applicant does not know in advance what the question is going to be, as opposed to some other schools where they actually tell you, okay, we want a minute of you introducing yourself to your future classmates because someone might spend three months on that.
[00:05:26.010] – Maria
And so you might not get an actual authentic idea of who they are. But no matter how you use it, I think it’s very valuable because prior to this, when everything was written, it was really hard to tell if somebody submitted this flawless essay. Was that really their real voice? Was that really their actual writing? And so there were times in the past where I’ve done mock interviews with folks who were essential, like Nobel laureate level writers on paper, and then you get them on a webcam for an interview and they are really not able to speak English fluently. And I remember thinking once, like, oh my gosh, it was a very painful mock interview that I did with someone that I was like, Prince is not getting in. It wasn’t just a question if they’re a little difficult to understand. And this was a rather extreme case of someone who couldn’t understand my questions and I couldn’t understand their answers. And I thought, wow, what a huge waste of time for everyone.
[00:06:19.750] – John
Yeah, there’s no question this is a great assessment tool for admissions on a number of levels, because not only can you tell if a person’s articulate or not, you can tell if they have potential for let’s use the phrase professional presence. Right. And if they do, you know it’s going to be a hell of a lot easier to get them jobs at the end of their two years in an MBA program. On the other hand, it’s quite daunting for many people to do those videos, in particular for international students who are english is a second language, right.
[00:06:57.090] – Maria
But at some point, their lack of English is going to come through, and isn’t it better for them to get rejected earlier on in the process and to get their hopes up? Like, oh, I made it to the Harvard Business School interview and I knew three minutes into that mock that this person wasn’t getting in and they had to wait. And of course, I didn’t say that right, because you don’t want to say that, but I just think it’s better to. Of course it’s going to be hard, but at some point, their ability to speak is going to be found out, and it is, in fact, a relevant piece of information to know, because we were just talking about how much learning happens from your classmates. That happens in the classroom setting and also informally, and that requires a certain level of confidence and competence with language. But then the other thing is for people who say, like, oh, I’m really nervous about the video interview. Video interviews are the wave of the future. I can’t imagine that corporations going forward in this post COVID world are suddenly going to start flying people all over the country for an interview, especially in the earlier stages of a job search.
[00:08:00.570] – Maria
Zoom interviews are probably here to stay in the corporate world as well. And so I don’t have a huge amount of compassion for people who get really freaked out about it.
[00:08:11.470] – John
Yeah. And this is something that was started a number of years ago by the University of Toronto and the Rotman School. They were really the pioneers in adopting this technology, and it’s really spread big time to so many schools, including Yale, of course. And I agree this is not only a significant trend and an uptick has occurred more recently, but I think this is probably a really good assessment tool to fine tune your selection of your applicants. Let me throw in my one to start it off. This was the year when really the big brand schools began to embrace online degrees. We have UC Berkeley Haas and NYU Stern both entering for the first time in their part time programs online cohorts, where they had not done online learning before. And yes, these are blended programs, as the best online MBA programs are, but they’re primarily online. And then you had Wharton announced that they were going to start a new executive MBA program. They’re calling it their global MBA program that would largely be online. I think 60% of all the learning will be online. And this is in a market where we already have probably 400 online MBA for the United States alone.
[00:09:39.770] – John
So it’s a highly cluttered, largely undifferentiated market at all kinds of price points. And it’s gotten so competitive, in fact, that today the University of San Diego announced a new online and buffer room where 60% of it is in person. But here’s the catch. They’re willing to pay the airfare of every resident in California who has to fly in for the one weekend per month on campus Saturday and Sunday that program requires. So they’re going to foot the bill for all those airplane flights. If you are in the state of California and you want to take this online program at San Diego, I think that’s really quite something. But it’s a reflection to me of how competitive the market has become. And the other issue with this is who else is going to get into it? Will Kellogg have an online MBA? I would guess probably they will. And I think we’re going to see some of the other big giant schools in the online MBA market now that we have the likes of a Wharton and NYU, stern and Berkeley and Michigan and Rice and USC, and Indiana, of course. And the list just goes on and on because it’s been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few years.
[00:11:06.780] – John
But this has, I think, been a really breakthrough year for the online MBA degree. The other thing that we found, incidentally, is people are using this degree to pivot. Initially, the thought was if you wanted an MBA and you just wanted to learn the business basics and then a deep dive in some electives, but you didn’t really want to change your career, you didn’t want to change disciplines, industries, or maybe even geography. Now people are using online MBAs to do just that, to transition out of an existing career, an existing discipline, a company, an industry, and using that online MBA to basically reinvent themselves, which has long been at the center of what the MBA experience full time has been. So that’s my first one. Caroline, let’s go back to you for your second.
[00:12:03.850] – Caroline
So I think that we’ve seen an interesting development in the admissions market this year in that there has been a decline in application volume. So compared to the boom of applications that was triggered by the Pandemic, this was the hangover year when application volume dropped. However, I think that we have reached the bottom of that and it’s now turning around. So I think from my anecdotal experience with the Fortuna prospect and client pool that November was the point when things have started to turn around, and that is because it’s a countercyclical market. So as economies begin to weaken, there’s a lot of talk of recession, europe heading into a recession, certainly the UK in a recession, and tech companies laying off various financial institutions, private equity and so on have made layoffs already. And so that is triggering increased interest in applying to business school. And so I think that 2023 will be a busy year for the admissions offices. I think they’re going to see an increase over the next twelve months.
[00:13:21.170] – John
And as we’ve talked about before in this regard, we’ve seen business goals respond to these massive layoffs in the tech sector. In particular, Kellogg, for example, waiving standardized tests for laid off tech workers, MIT extending their Round Two deadline to allow laid off workers to study for the gmatter GRE before they take it, and therefore give them a little more time to get into the Round Two competition. And other schools are doing things like just waiving their application fees and whatnot. So, yeah, all that I think, is also going to contribute to a turnaround in application volume because the schools are proactively, reaching out to the market and saying, hey, we want to help you apply here. That’s a really good one.
[00:14:17.780] – Caroline
That’s partly also because they see that there’s going to be an increase in application volume in 2023, but they want to pull some of those applicants forward to this current admission season and avoid that all of those people wait for Round One next year. Right? Because otherwise if they’ve just been laid off, they could easily miss a January deadline and then they may decide, well, it’s a bit late after January to apply for a top US. School this season. So then they wait until September, October in 2023, and then the schools all get a deluge of great applications. And so they’re trying to pull some of those forward into this season. And I think that’s why we’ve seen those outreach efforts that you’ve mentioned by the schools to try and pull some of those candidates into this season so that they get the best of they can smooth the application volume over time and not be rejecting people in the next season that they would have been happy to accept this season.
[00:15:17.510] – John
[00:15:18.910] – Maria
Maria, another thing that I’ve noticed also ties into this idea of trying to smooth how you’re getting your applications and how you’re processing them. I think this Round One, we saw a number of schools really rely on their waitlist very heavily, much more so than in previous years, because for months we’ve been talking about there’s a recession coming, there’s a recession coming, and nobody really knew if it was coming, but it seemed like it was, and if so, when. And so I believe that a lot of admissions officers in the interest of smoothing, did not want to offer too many of their seats away in Round One, perhaps not as many as they would in a quote unquote normal year. And because I think they’re waiting to see who do we get in Round Two, maybe there are going to be some pretty cool layoffs, which are bad news. Layoffs are bad news for those people in the short term, but it’s great news for us as a school if it really if it means that we get some incredible talent that was otherwise, you know, making 300 grand a year at one of these fang companies or what have you.
[00:16:18.040] – Maria
And now maybe we can lure them over to our business school. Why not wait and see who else is out there? Why not play the field, as it were, and see the other fish in the sea that might appear magically thanks to a recession. And so I think this year we did see a lot of Round One waitlist that would have probably either been accepted in a more quote unquote normal year or perhaps even just rejected. Because if you don’t know if we keep the sort of fish in the sea there are lots of fish in the sea, but there might not be any fish in Round Two. So let’s just keep people in a nice little tank, in a little limbo tank in our living rooms and then decide whether or not we want to what is it, cut bait, whatever it is we want to do with them.
[00:17:09.210] – John
It’s such a dreaded place for the applicant to be too look after the marathon that you have to run to do well on the test, to submit really good compelling applications and write those essays and get your recommendations in place and then you get a maybe. And we know that on most waitlists, most people just stay on the wait list because the actual number of people historically that have been pulled off waitlist is a minority, not a majority, right?
[00:17:42.280] – Maria
Yes. Though I do think the waitlist used to serve a slightly different purpose. In other words, I think there’s an evolution of the usage of the waitlist to almost kind of instead of having a round one, round two, let’s just kind of make it one big round that happens to last four or five months. So that way we can look at everyone together in one big bucket instead of trying to rely upon historic. In the past, we normally get X number of people per round from each industry, and so we can try to predict how many people. I think in the past, the waitlist was primarily, okay, we’re going to make this many offers. We think X percentage of people are going to take those offers. But in case fewer people take those offers, we’re going to need a backup plan. We might need 510, 20 people. I think that now the waitlist is being used almost as a way to almost create a sort of rolling admissions. Not really rolling, but almost like, wow, let’s just make it one big happy round. And so if you are on a waitlist right now, if there’s someone out there with a profile very similar to yours and you’re on a waitlist, you might want to find a crowbar.
[00:18:53.930] – Maria
I’m not condoning violence, of course, but there are people right now who are from the round one waitlist who are freaking like, oh, what’s going to happen? And what does this mean? And I’m doomed. And I’m like, not necessarily, really. It’s just a question of is someone just like you but better going to show up in round two? And if the answer is yes, you’re probably not getting off the waitlist. But if the answer is no, you probably have a pretty good shot. So just hang in there. I know. It stinks, though.
[00:19:19.650] – John
Yeah. The other phenomenon about the waitlist is that when more people are put on waitlist by the top schools, yield and every other thing at the schools just below the top schools goes really crazy because you just don’t know. You can’t capture people because they’re being held by, let’s say, the M seven. And so it makes admissions so much more difficult for the schools that are in the ten to 20 rank range because they’re the schools where those waitlists. When people are released from them, there’s a cascading effect to the other schools and it drives admissions people in those schools crazy. I’d say. Another thing that happened this year is what’s kind of hot. And we know that business analytics is continuing to be hot. There’s great demand for people with those skills and many of the MBA programs now have concentrations or majors or specializations depending on what school you go to. This is what they call them in business analytics. That’s very strong. But two areas that have really come up big time in 2022 are things that really reflect what young people are concerned about. One, of course, is sustainability. More and more schools and more deans are trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace on the basis of sustainability.
[00:20:59.190] – John
They’re recruiting more faculty in this area. They’re doing more joint programming with schools of environmental science. And frankly, the demand by corporations for people who are trained in this area is very high. This is going to be, I think, one of the big things that’s going to happen next year when more schools get on this bandwagon. But it is pretty strong right now and we’re seeing a lot of schools kind of hang their hat on the sustainability movement. And the other area, of course, is diversity, equity and inclusion. Schools have rushed out and hired dei officers and all of this is getting reflected in admissions, faculty hiring and staff hiring. And schools are taking a much more aggressive approach at measuring their improvements in these areas. And I think that’s something that’s going to continue. So business analytics still hop and getting even hotter. Diversity, equity, inclusion, another hot topic where even Wharton has created a major in this field. And then sustainability, where more schools are offering more elective courses, majors and specialty masters in the field of sustainability.
[00:22:28.250] – Caroline
Caroline so another one that I think is part of a long term trend that has continued this year is that with the international applicant pool, candidates are certainly very attractive to the top US schools, but they’re also equally likely to apply to the top international schools. And I think the balance is switching a little bit with the best international applicants, not just considering the US. But also applying to a range of international schools. And so maybe the US. Doesn’t have the sort of hold over the international market that it might have had in the past. And partly, I think that is also driven this year by currency fluctuations. So with the pound and the euro losing value versus the dollar, and the dollar held up pretty strongly this year compared to many other currencies, studying in the US as an international student just looks incredibly expensive, right? And so compared to the cost of studying at London business school or the cost of studying at INSEAD or Ashes or Ie in Madrid, those schools offer a much better value proposition. Especially if you’re doing a one year program. So you’re incurring fees for one year rather than two years, and living expenses and foregone salary, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:23:58.180] – Caroline
So I think that will so that is partly this year driven by those currency fluctuations, which of course may not continue, although it does look like Europe and the UK may go into a deeper recession than the US in 2023. So I would expect that to continue next year at least.
[00:24:21.890] – John
Yeah, and the other thing is, I think most people believe that the full time residential MBA market in the United States is now a mature market. There’s really no more growth to be had, and if anything, it’s been shrinking for a number of years now. And I think that in Europe that’s not true, because in part, the actual number of MBA holders in Europe is far below those in the United States. There are fewer schools of business in Europe than there are in the United States. And so I think the MBA degree at its value is still on a curve that is going up in Europe while it’s going down in the United States. So I don’t see the full time MBA in Europe in a mature situation yet. I still see it as a growth mode. And some of the business schools have been increasing their enrollments in full time MBA programs, which is the exact opposite of what’s happening in the US. So that’s a really good and interesting trend.
[00:25:31.870] – Maria
Maria well, sticking with the idea of trying to smooth things out, I think admissions officers right now, as Caroline pointed out, are hoping to get some folks who might otherwise be thinking about waiting until next Round one. Why not apply this year? Come on, let’s try to see you now. I think that’s sort of a knee jerk reaction and a very understandable one after the fluctuations of COVID and what that meant in terms of application volumes and people deferring and people not enrolling and then deciding they’re not enrolling, and all of that complete uncertainty that really, I think, stressed out a lot of admissions officers. We saw a lot of admissions officers leave their jobs in the past year, year and a half or so. And so I think that was a pretty interesting you know, the great resignation isn’t just applying to.
[00:26:31.370] – John
Everything. So true. Harvard and Stanford announcing their admission officers leaving on the same day. How about that, right?
[00:26:42.130] – Maria
It’s very sweet. Just kidding. I think it was a coincidence, but they held it. Yeah.
[00:26:46.900] – Caroline
[00:26:47.950] – Maria
They did. I mean, it’s really it’s really cute. But I mean, seriously, like, what an interesting thing that so many people are feeling burnt out and the fact that so many heads of admissions of so many schools are also clearly also clearly feeling burnt out because a lot of them decided to leave. And what’s interesting is that a lot of them decided to leave, and it’s not like they went to other schools. A lot of them decided to leave, and they either stayed in academia but in a completely different role that has nothing to do with admissions, or they kind of some of them just left academia altogether. And so I just think that was an interesting that’s certainly not something I think I’ve ever seen, ever, including yeah.
[00:27:28.530] – John
At Michigan Ross, the two top heads of admission left within just months of each other. One going to McKenzie in a sort of recruitment role and another going into a private company in a role to recruit leadership talent. So the pressure is on. The admission officer is really intense, and it partly relates to rankings because the deans are pressuring admissions officers to admit a certain profile that will reflect well in rankings. And in US news, we know obviously, they weigh GMAT and GRE scores and acceptance rates, and that’s a factor. And then in the Financial Times, they weigh things like gender and international composition of students. So there’s the pressure that occurs because if the school goes down in a ranking, more often than not, it’s because of admission statistics. And then there’s the new found pressure, particularly in the US. On diversity and its importance. And in truth, the schools, at least on the gender side, have made great strides. More schools are at or near gender parity than ever before their full time MBA programs, particularly at the elite schools. And there’s no evidence that there are more women in the applicant pool.
[00:28:59.610] – John
So that means these schools have worked hard to bring them in, and probably at the expense of other schools, rank further down on the list. And when we talk about that, I’ll also talk about rankings, because I think this has been a year where the MBA ranking has you can look at it very differently, right? Number one, the economist decided they’re going to get out of rankings altogether, and that means full time MBA, executive MBA, and Masters in Management rankings. You have Forbes, which hasn’t published a ranking for three years. Usually theirs comes out every other year. It’s now in year three, and we’re going to go into year four soon without a Forbes ranking. And then you have very serious questions raised about flaws in the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking by a very respected and admired academic who’s basically engineered the metrics that Business Week puts out and shown that the weights that they’re applying or say they’re applying are not actually doing. And if they did apply those metrics to those weights, the ranking would be remarkably different than the one that they published. And it would be kind of embarrassing, frankly, which suggests that someone is putting their hand in the black box of methodology and monkeying around with things.
[00:30:31.390] – John
And then on top of all of this, you have law schools, some of the most prominent law schools in the United States, saying they will no longer cooperate with US. News on the law school rankings. That has not spread to the business school community, because I think, frankly, business schools acknowledge that rankings they reluctantly acknowledge that rankings have been good for the MBA because it adds to mind share. If people see rankings, they know that it’s a sign that business education is important. The fact that NBA programs are ranked by US. News, financial Times economists, business Week, and Forbes, and then many other players suggest the importance of business education as well, and reminds people when these things come out that, oh, I don’t have a degree, but should I? And it opens their minds to the possibility of going back to school for graduate management education, which is a positive thing. And I think it’s why the business schools have not followed the law schools in walking away from the US. News ranking. But it’s clear that rankings are under more attack than they’ve ever been. They’re getting diminished as a result of the concerns over the Business Week ranking, the withdrawal from the market by the economists, the lack of publication of a ranking by Forbes.
[00:32:03.660] – John
So I think that’s really an interesting trend, because what it’s going to do is going to give greater importance to the rankings that remain primarily of the Financial Times and US. News in the United States. So I think those are pretty good trends and things that have happened in 2022. I wonder if you folks out there have highlights or trends that you think need to be explored. And if you do, Drop me a line, because in our next podcast, we want to focus on what do we expect out of 2023? Anyway, we hope all of you out there have a great holiday. We wish you the best and thank you for listening. This is John Byrne with Poets and Quants. You’ve been listening to Business Casual.