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MBA offerings refined amidst downturn in enrollment

Despite adaptation to post pandemic shifts and the elevated value of MBA degrees, enrollees drop 8.3% in 2023.

Even with the complete normalcy restored from the pandemic restrictions, degree providers for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Singapore have experienced a crunch in student enrollment in 2023. The year’s MBA survey revealed that 10 MBA providers enrolled only a total of 3,208 students, down 8.3% from the previous year’s 3,501 enrollees under 11 MBA providers.

Whilst INSEAD offers only one MBA programme, it mustered the highest enrollment of MBA students, totalling 843 — 35% of whom are women. The average age of the class was 29, with around 5.8 years of work experience.

Next to INSEAD in terms of enrollment numbers was the National University of Singapore (NUS) which accommodated 401 students across its four programmes, both in part-time and full-time formats.

Amity Global Institute comes in third place with 389 students from its University of Northampton-MBA programme, followed by PSB Academy with 358, James Cook University Singapore with 348, and NTU-Nanyang Business School with 280 enrolled students across its five MBA programmes.
 
Completing the list are Aventis Graduate School with 200, Kaplan Higher Education with 195, Singapore Management University (SMU) with 110, and lastly, S P Jain School of Global Management-Singapore, with 85 enrolled students.
 
Post pandemic shifts

Following the global recovery from the pandemic, the MBA landscape has undergone significant transformations. Universities realised the value of in-person learning whilst also embracing the flexibility and potential offered by online education. Shifts in the business landscape have also led to an increased demand for MBA programmes.
 
“The pandemic reinforced our [belief] that a truly transformative MBA programme cannot be delivered effectively in an online format. The spontaneous hallway conversations, the messy magic of co-creation in physical spaces, and the subtle guidance fostered by in-person mentorship are all irreplaceable and crucial components of the MBA learning experience,” Professor Jochen Wirtz, vice cean of MBA Programmes at NUS Business School told Singapore Business Review.
 
“However, online learning offers immense flexibility which would be foolish to ignore. We have started to offer a small number of online classes or blended classes to complement our largely face-to-face classes so that our students can benefit from the best of both worlds,” Wirtz said.
 
At Kaplan Higher Education, flexibility is a crucial factor for MBA students which compelled Kaplan to offer its MBA programmes through a blended learning approach.
 
“Whether students prefer in-person or online learning, Kaplan caters to various learning needs, highlighting our dedication to adaptability and student support,” said Susie Khoo, president of Kaplan Singapore.
 
“The development of Murdoch University’s MBA (E-learning) programme is a direct outcome of our commitment to innovation and lifelong learning, showcasing our proactive approach to evolving educational styles and preferences,” she added.
 
Meanwhile, for other universities, the shift from the pandemic presented an opportunity to increase admissions and expand existing academic offerings.
 
The Singapore Management University increased the number of intakes per year to four, both in full-time and part-time programmes, to impart more knowledge to a larger number of students.
 
“The SMU MBA curriculum integrates modules on Leading Digital Transformation and Data Analytics, equipping students with a comprehensive understanding of technology trends and digital strategies, and the essential skills to navigate the evolving digital business landscape,” Dr. Ang Ser Keng, academic director for MBA at Singapore Management University (SMU), said.
 
Ang added that SMU’s MBA programme has introduced optional specialisation tracks in Communications, Entrepreneurship, Finance and Human Capital to give students an invaluable opportunity to develop specific skills and knowledge in tandem with business leadership and management.
 
For the leading MBA provider in this year’s rankings, INSEAD took on a transformation in its MBA curriculum in April 2023, to include new elective courses, embedded sustainability into all of its 14 courses, and an option for students to customise their MBA programme with over 75 elective courses across nine academic areas.
 
“INSEAD renewed its MBA curriculum and leads the way in equipping future business leaders with skills to integrate social and environmental issues into business decisions,” Urs Peyer, associate professor of Finance and dean of Degree Programmes at INSEAD, told Singapore Business Review.
 
Aside from industry shifts, PSB Academy has seen a notable demographic of students upgrading their business knowledge to run family businesses or start their own venture.
 
“Our MBA programmes have grown steadily over the years and post-pandemic. We are seeing an increase in the number of students who want to up-skill and reskill to be more future work proof for the post-pandemic era,” said Dr. Charles Ong, dean and head of School of Health and Life Sciences at PSB Academy.
 
To address this, the university offers its students an in-depth Knowledge, Skills and Ability (KSA) framework focusing on industry participation, peer-to-peer learning and exposure using digital learning spaces for research.
 
Global competitiveness

In the past few years, the global business landscape has transformed profoundly, driven by the constant tech innovations and shifts in consumer behaviour, amongst others. Hence, MBA providers are prompted to stay abreast with such changes and adopt an advanced approach to address future industry challenges.
 
To maintain global connectivity and competitiveness, MBA providers join hands with international institutions, to provide more opportunities and exposure to future business leaders.
 
INSEAD, for example, boasts numerous partnerships with institutions across the globe. Amongst these partnerships are the Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA, INSEAD-Wharton Alliance, and a membership in the Alliance Sorbonne Université.
 
At SMU, full-time students embark on a mandatory Overseas Immersion Programme to neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Thailand.
 
SMU also offers Optional Overseas Exchange Programmes to partner schools, among them Peking University (PKU), WHU (Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany), ESADE, Insper Learning Institution, and IE Business School.
 
NUS also maintains collaborations with universities worldwide and is a member of the Partnership in International Management (PIM), a consortium of top business schools worldwide.
 
“Being a leading university gives us the opportunity to partner with some of the most prestigious universities in the world, so that we, in turn, could offer unmatched learning experiences to our students,” Wirtz said. “We’re also the only Singapore business school member of the Global Network for Advanced Management, comprising 30 top business schools from 28 countries.”
 
Through this network, NUS students can take on a semester-long exchange programme with partner schools.
 
For Kaplan Higher Education, it is important to leverage their offerings, which has resulted in the expansion of its portfolio through a partnership with England’s Aston University through which a Doctor in Business Administration (DBA) will be introduced in 4Q2024, with a range of Master of Science programmes to follow.
 
In addition, Kaplan places a high emphasis on maximising its offerings. This is evident in its MBA programme at Murdoch University, which offers Double Master’s programmes, and its Northumbria University MBA, which is entirely assignment-based and designed specifically for busy executives.
 
Aside from exchange programmes, joint research projects and faculty exchange programmes are also offered at PSB Academy.
 
Also, PSB Academy introduced the new Executive Master of Business Administration programme, in collaboration with the University of Newcastle.
 
“The programme offers the most dynamic, engaging, and comprehensive knowledge required to tackle today’s most pressing challenges. Executive MBA candidates will use this knowledge to develop integrative, strategic initiatives that support business development, add value to their organisation and serve their community,” Ong said.
 
Accessible education

Whilst pursuing an MBA can open doors to a prosperous career, it does come with a significant cost.
 
To alleviate these costs, universities offer a range of services and grants to students aiming to pursue an MBA programme without breaking the bank.
 
At NUS, tuition for regular full-time and part-time MBA programmes begin at $87,000, whereas Executive MBA programmes start at $125,000.
 
Professor Wirtz from NUS said: “Students in general are attracted to Asian MBA programmes as they offer great value for money compared to programmes in North America and Europe, for example. Nevertheless, doing an MBA still requires significant resources.”
 
Over 50% of NUS MBA students are supported by university funding. “We offer more than $2m of scholarships to outstanding students at [the] point of admission, as well as grants to NUS alumni and other graduates from some local universities,” Wirtz said.
 
Grants are also offered at Kaplan Higher Education to help MBA students reduce the costs in both of its MBA programmes — Murdoch University and Northumbria University. In Kaplan, a full-time MBA programme is offered at $28,449, whilst part-time programmes start at $22,770.
 
“Financial investment and time commitment are especially important to students when considering MBA programmes. Kaplan focuses on optimising these elements to maximise value for investment,” Kaplan’s Khoo said.
 
Aside from offering scholarships, grants and flexible payment options, PSB Academy provides its students with career services and networking opportunities to help them “maximise their return on investment by securing rewarding employment opportunities post-graduation.”
 
“The cost of our MBA programme undoubtedly influences enrollment decisions, as it represents a significant investment for prospective students,” Ong said.
 
Meanwhile, SMU offers bond-free scholarships in areas such as Leadership, Community Impact, Impact on Asia, and Women in Business, which can cover up to 30% of the tuition fees. SMU’s full-time and part-time MBA programmes start at $76,300.
 
Students referred by SMU Alumni are also entitled to discounts, as well as those who are company sponsored.
 
INSEAD has over 150 scholarship funds supporting 40% of its students. On average, the scholarship provides around $32,180 (€22,100) for each student. “Our goal at INSEAD is to recruit the best and brightest to join our school — regardless of background or financial situation,” Peyer said,
 
INSEAD ranks as the most costly provider in this survey, with its exclusive full-time MBA programme priced between $145,000 and $150,876.
 
For better payment flexibility, INSEAD also offers different global funding methods, which includes the Prodigy Finance Loans and Global Foundations.
 
Ultimately, MBA providers believe that embarking on an MBA journey is a great investment for securing a promising future in the industry.

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