With the decision now taken to increase undergraduate tuition fees, the implications for graduate management education will soon be apparent. Will postgraduate students be willing to pay the fees currently charged when also facing up to £25,000 of undergraduate debt? Will the increase of undergraduate fees impact the uptake of postgraduate qualifications? Will post graduate fees increase? Whatever the future holds, it is clear today that not only are graduate students willing to pay - they get personal returns – but the economy benefits from graduate management education as well.
The results of a recent global survey of graduate management alumni from the class of 2010 by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) clearly indicate that they place a high value on their education. By September 2010, 88 percent had a job and some three-quarters of those said they could not have obtained their job without their graduate business degree—the same proportion as the class of 2007 alumni, who entered the labour force in a booming economy.
This should not be surprising, as the ability of any organization—for profit or non-profit—to survive and thrive in this unprecedented economic environment requires managers with advanced training. In fact, it is precisely because of economic and financial pressures that companies place such a high value on management graduates.
In a corporate recruiters survey GMAC conducted this year, 99 percent of recruiters said they were satisfied with their MBA employees – a figure that has been consistently strong over the years. Furthermore, most employers also believe that employees with an MBA degree demonstrate higher abilities in managing strategy and innovation, managing the decision-making process and in knowledge of general business functions compared with other employees at the same job level.
Those with management degrees are also seeing that value translated into higher salaries. The median starting salary for 2010 graduates was £50,000, up from £47,500 for alumni who graduated in 2009. A modest increase to be sure, but it is an encouraging indicator that companies continue to value management graduates despite the difficult economic climate.
Choosing to go back to school, especially in a protracted economic downturn, takes some careful planning, a clear set of personal and career goals—and confidence that you are getting value for the investment of time and money.
In tracking applications to graduate management programmes this autumn, we saw more and more executive MBA programmes reporting that applications were up over last year – the largest increase of any degree type. An explanation for this phenomenon is that the typical executive MBA student is a seasoned manager with 10+ years experience and has a more sophisticated understanding of the ways of business and where they may be headed.
By enrolling now, these students are positioning themselves to either move up the ladder with their present employer or prepare themselves to take advantage of new opportunities when they graduate into an economy on an upward trajectory.
For whatever reason executives choose to return to school, the fact that applications to executive MBA programmes are up is intriguing because these types of programmes are typically expensive and require a substantial time commitment from people who have plenty of responsibility already with families and careers. Also, in the past executive MBA programmes were predominantly employer-funded, but today many students are footing the bill themselves. It seems these executives see value in improving their lot and positioning themselves for what comes next.
However, the bullishness on management education is not limited to executive MBA students. GMAC surveys of nearly four thousand graduate management degree holders from the classes of 2000 to 2009 indicate that the vast majority were highly satisfied with their graduate management education in relation to their career goals and their decision to pursue the degree.
So, the returns for postgraduate management education are clear – for now. And the challenge for the future is just as clear. With first degree graduates emerging with debt equal to that of the annual average UK median salary, their ability to fund a postgraduate degree will undoubtedly be impacted.
Graduate management students will be demanding even more value from their education than ever before.