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EMBA Programs Well Positioned to Thrive in 2021, Research Finds

EMBA Programs Well Positioned to Thrive in 2021, Research Finds main image

2020 has changed the way professionals work across the globe. Thanks to a mass pivoting to working from home and handling operations online, entire industries and sectors have seen major advancements in tech usage and an increasingly global workforce – two factors that are set to influence the business world well into 2021.

But how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected higher education?

Recent research has shown that MBA programs have adapted well to the challenges brought forward by the coronavirus crisis, meeting – and sometimes even exceeding – student expectations. But is this the case for executive education too?

TopMBA analyzed recent data on ExecEd to find out.

A seamless shift to digital learning

According to Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), 2020 was the year business schools managed to pivot their executive programs online, with over 73 percent of b-schools now offering some form of digital EMBA learning compared to just 55.3 percent in 2019.

Survey results showed that nine out of 10 programs are now utilizing electronic course material delivery – including classes and discussions –, a figure that Michael Desiderio, Executive Director of the EMBAC, says demonstrate b-schools' ability of tackling crises.

He said: “While the percentage of schools offering some form of distance learning has increased slightly each year since 2016, the big jump from 2019 to 2020 is evidence that EMBA programs responded quickly to the impact of the pandemic.”

More and more women are choosing ExecEd

2020 has been a crucial year for gender representation in business education. In fact, a record number of female candidates have been admitted to top-ranked US b-schools during the coronavirus pandemic –a positive trend that was echoed in EMBA admissions too.

Research by EMBAC showed that female enrollment in EMBA programs is now at its higher ever, having reached 32 percent in 2020 compared to 29.7 percent in 2016. With close to one in three new enrollments being women, it seems that b-schools are finally moving towards closing the gender gap in executive education.

EMBA grads continue to succeed professionally

The 2020 Student Exit Survey by EMBAC also showed that EMBA graduates continued to land high-end positions and high salaries despite the pandemic.

In fact, this year EMBAs saw a 14.1 percent increase in compensation – including salary and bonuses – after graduation, with an average median salary and bonus package totaling a whopping US$193,200. And there’s more: almost 40 percent of students reported receiving a promotion during their EMBA degree – a relief for EMBA hopefuls worried about return on investment.

Michael said: "Despite a year of unprecedented challenges that have impacted the global economy and workforce, the investment in an Executive MBA continues to be valuable to both students and companies.

“EMBA programs enrich students with new ways of solving business problems and provide them with tools to adapt in the face of adversity. Companies recognize how important these skills are now more than ever and the increases in compensation and responsibilities given to professionals in these programs attest to that.”

Employers want soft skills and inclusivity

A new study by higher education research firm Carrington Crisp showed that the economic uncertainty that characterized 2020 has also changed employers’ perception of EMBA graduates.

The first change concerned purposeful leadership: more than three quarters of employers now believe that b-schools should deliver shorter programs to help students learn relevant skills that will have a positive impact on “wider society” and not just the business industry.

To achieve this, recruiters believe soft skills should take precedence over traditional business skills – such as leadership and management – in EMBA curricula. These include emotional intelligence, intellectual agility, and continuous learning.

Michael believes this is a sign that the relationship between graduates and employers is evolving, revealing a new path for b-schools to take to improve their executive education offerings.

He said: “Economic uncertainty, online learning, lifelong development, remote working, and digital transformation in business schools and other organizations are not new. However, the global pandemic is accelerating these trends.

“Our sector will benefit from a healthy and honest debate about how future ways of learning and work can help leaders in business and business education find new answers to the problems of our time.”

Moreover, he thinks the need for soft skills demonstrates a new, cross-generational trend that’ll dominate the future of business: the importance of inclusivity and innovation at all levels.

So how will this affect the executive education sector in 2021?

Michael said: “The youngest Baby Boomers are close to retirement age. Millennials, who make up most of the workforce, are now rubbing shoulders with Gen Z-ers who are true digital natives. What businesses need from b-schools is people capable of managing a more generationally diverse workforce, since attitudes and lifestyles can diverge and vary significantly.

“Expect business schools to do more to help here in 2021 and build on the good work that they’ve already done in helping business leaders understand how to lead on digital transformation initiatives.”

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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