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HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Foreigners make up for lack of local MBA takers in Singapore

MBA providers are struggling to attract local students, but renewed interest from Vietnam, India, and China buoy the industry’s performance.

The performance of Singapore’s MBA programmes is slowly picking up pace this year after a slight decline in 2017 as student enrolment in the country’s top business schools increased by around 0.71% to 3,531 student intakes from about 3,506 last year. This is on the back of new MBA programmes opening this year, including a couple of new tracks focussed on human resource and supply chain management emerging from the tie up between the Management Development Institute of Singapore and the University of Sunderland.

Renewed interest was observed from international students, particularly from China, Vietnam, and India, after a significant slump of about 10% to 20% in the first quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, local student intake still remain subdued.

Rounding up the largest MBA programmes and providers this year, Singapore Business Review named INSEAD as the top ranking in this year’s list with its 10-month accelerated MBA programme attracting 1,039 student enrolments in 2018. This is followed by the National University of Singapore with its various MBA programmes with 685 students, most of whom are taking up NUS MBA and NUS Executive MBA tracks. The top 5 list is rounded up by S P Jain School of Global Management with 256 students, around half of who are taking the Master of Global Business degree; Nanyang Technological University’s business school with 235 students; and the Management Development Institute of Singapore with 232 enrolled students.

“More people are looking at upgrading their educational standing in recent years as a bachelor’s degree becomes basic these days,” explained Ignatius Teo, head of school at MDIS Business School, adding that a lot of professionals consider getting higher education degrees as a career boost.

“In 2017, the MBA market has shown a decline in the number of students applying for the courses. We have witnessed the MBA graduates that come from the local market is reduced. However, it may have factors affecting that decrease,” said Prateek Nayak, Southeast Asia regional head of Amity Global Institute. “The positive part is the international market like Vietnam, India, China, etc. increased the interest in studying in Singapore, but still the local market is showing interest as learning is never ending.”

Of the total number of student enrollees in Singapore’s top business schools this year, around 64% are considered full-time students with the remaining 36% comprised of individuals studying part-time, according to data by Singapore Business Review. Whilst some institutions saw significant increase in student intake year-on-year like the MBA programme of Nanyang Technological University (around 69% growth), a number of programmes like the MBA track from the Anglia Ruskin University through the Amity Global Institute has been discontinued.

Zeroing in on Big Data
The rise of new MBA programmes and other higher education tracks in Singapore as well as the expansion of existing ones are illustrative of the fierce competition that top business schools in the citystate are involved in. “It has been a dynamic and fast-moving year in the Singapore MBA landscape,” said Brian San, PSB Academy’s vice president for strategy and communications. “We have seen a number of new launches, which is great news for students who can now enjoy a wide array of worldleading programmes directly in Singapore.”

An emerging trend in the MBA and higher education landscape in Singapore is the increasing focus on technology and innovation, data, and skills specialisation— not just as a focus of study but also as a response to the evolving needs of the current job market. “Technological innovation is the most critical part of the present era with recent examples of Big Data and Data Analysis, which is increasingly being demanded in the market by employers,”  Nayak explained. He cited as an example the launch of a new course called Master of Science in Data Science for Business, in partnership with the University of Stirling in the UK, which helps current and prospective business leaders and managers with a detailed working knowledge of data analytics who are able to blend data analysis, business acumen, and advanced management skills.

Another trend is the demand for more specialised programmes that are targeting the development of more specific skills that can be learned in a shorter, more compact timeline as well as provide students with enough technical capacities for a specific line of work, for instance, financial management, capital markets, or business development.

“We have noticed that there has been a greater move towards specialised programmes recently. In line with the government’s push to make programmes more skills-based, we also see a greater popularity of shorter executive programmes that include a specialisation in niche sectors of business,” San said.

Partnerships, real-world experience
In August, INSEAD and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania announced the renewal of their strategic alliance until June 2021. This allows for the two institutions to continue combining their resources to offer students across the globe world-class management education, whilst opening up a more global access to top-notch business knowledge from its six campuses— Philadelphia, San Francisco, Beijing, Fontainebleau, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi—for students, faculty, and executives worldwide.

“Tomorrow’s business leaders must have global reach and be part of a worldwide business education and knowledge network. The alliance enhances the global perspective of our management research and education,” Gavin Cassar, research director of the INSEAD-Wharton Alliance at INSEAD said in a statement.

MBA and other graduate students have also been seeking a more hands-on, real-world experience as part of their business education, on top of the traditional discussions on management theories and strategies inside the four corners of a classroom. San noted that this trend is of a more pragmatic sense as students are looking to incorporate themselves in a faster and more effective way on the real issues and challenges that they may encounter in their chosen field of work.

“Along with the demand for specialisation and regional exposure  MBA hopefuls are also more interested in being hands-on as part of their learning process—for example, more business simulations, project work, and direct connections to the industry—that simulates realwork environments and experiences that they can apply directly to their careers,” he explained.

Rise of new disruptors
Along with the rise of new MBA and higher education programmes from traditional brick and mortar educational institutions, alternative providers of educational materials and skills development trainings in more unconventional ways have also popped up, thanks to technology and innovation.

Bizversity, a new platform that provides individuals a new approach to business education through a personalised programme “without the need of ever having to undergo further postgraduate business studies,” have been making a case for alternative corporate learning.

Business author and educator Dale Beaumont, founder of Bizversity, noted that degrees conferred by traditional educational institutions may not exactly anymore be the golden ticket professionals covet for success in today’s corporate world.

Need for options
“When it comes to career development, up until now, the options have been quite limited. Whether it’s throug online search, reading textbooks, or spending an upward of $40,000 to do an MBA—90% of which is theoretical, out of date, and doesn’t necessarily transfer practical skills in to the real world—it all comes at a cost,” he said. “That’s why we built Bizversity, a multipurpose built learning platform that offers individuals a world-class business education from the world’s best teachers, in a way that is fast, personal, affordable, and accessible.”

Currently, the app offers its over 60,000 users worldwide opportunity and access to explore over 80 different business-related topics including SEO analytics, financial planning, and strategic marketing, among others, presented through on-demand, “how to”-styled training videos.

“A large percentage of our users come from a business background, so having an application that is not only accessible and convenient, but also engaging in the right areas of learning and knowledge distribution, has shown to be a huge success within our user feedback,” he said.

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