MBA choice: Flexibility is key

The reasons why business schools are chosen by applicants are more and more shifting away from the reputation of the school to the flexibility of a programme. Being able to fit MBA study into a busy daily lifestyle and work commitments has become one of the paramount factors for applicants.


This was the result of a recent student survey for the 2019 BOSS MBA Rankings from the Australian Financial Review. Flexibility was most important for 63 per cent of MBA students who graduated between 2016 and 2018, before reputation of school (52 per cent) and reputation of university (51 per cent).

This is useful new information for schools that have focused their marketing on the quality of their coursework, academy and student cohort, but have only recently started advertising more flexible learning.

“People are getting busier and they have got competing commitments, so there’s increasing demand for flexibility,” Professor Nick Wailes, the director of AGSM and deputy dean of the University of New South Wales Business School, told the paper. “One of the big decisions that people make when they consider an MBA is, ‘Is it doable? Will it fit with my family commitments, my work commitments, and all those other things?’ ” The business school’s online programme has been a success from the start, quickly rising through the ranks but also enjoying 20 per cent year-on-year growth.

University of Queensland MBA director Dr. Nicole Hartley confirmed the need for flexibility as she found that more students needed to be more mobile in their jobs. The university has responded with intensive courses, weekend and night-time offerings. “There are mid-year offerings, over-Christmas offerings, the ability to take a semester off,” she said. “We have a few MBAs coming in from Defence who are deployed overseas for a period of time and who can just take the time off and then build up the course with intensives.”

According to the Australian Financial Review the university is also developing executive education micro-credentials – short skills-based intensive study opportunities that can either be added to an existing MBAs or be combined and eventually lead to a full master's or MBA programme.

Looking at the 2019 BOSS MBA Rankings, that the newspaper publishes for Australia, the University of Sydney came out top with both the MBA and Global Executive MBA (EMBA) ranking. For the traditional MBA programme the University of Sydney was followed by Adelaide Business School and the Queensland University of Technology. For the Executive MBA (EMBA) the other top schools were the Queensland University of Technology and AGSM @ UNSW Business School.