The enduring capacity of the MBA to evolve and grow

Publication date: 13 March 2019
Article type: Press release

London: 4 March 2019

For Immediate release

AMBA welcomes growing inclusion of women on MBAs; but more needs to be done to fully redress the gender balance

In a world of unpredictability and volatility, demand for MBA programmes remains strong with Business Schools adapting to the learning-method needs of their students. 

The latest MBA Application and Enrolment Report from the Association of MBAs (AMBA) measures admissions trends among AMBA-accredited Business Schools. The annual study’s findings provide crucial insights into the marketplace for leading MBA programmes across the globe. This year’s research analyses data from 230 AMBA-accredited Business Schools and 751 programmes in 52 countries that were delivered to students in the calendar year of 2017. The volume of applications and enrolments reported by AMBA-accredited Business Schools (118,378 and 43,280, respectively) demonstrates the vast number of individuals seeking to enrich their career through a top-quality MBA programme. 

Growth in enrolments at AMBA-accredited Schools, despite slightly smaller programme cohorts 

In 2017, the average number of applications and enrolments for each AMBA-accredited programme decreased slightly, however there was growth in the average number of enrolments at each School as a whole. The reason for this pattern is that the average number of programmes available at each School across the AMBA network increased by 14% (from 2.9 programmes in 2016 to 3.3 per School in 2017). Therefore, AMBA-accredited Business Schools are delivering more programmes to more students, but programme cohorts tend to be slightly smaller.

  • The average number of applications per programme fell from 175 to 156 (-11%), and the average number of enrolments per programme fell from 61 to 57 (-7%).
  • When looking at these same indicators at a School level, rather than in terms of individual programmes, there was a small decrease in the average number of applications (-1% from 518 in 2016 to 515 in 2017) while average enrolments increased by 2% (from 185 in 2016 to 188 in 2017).  
    Number of applications Number of enrolled students
Average per Programme
2017 156 57
Average per School 2017 515 188
2017 518 185

The greater breadth of programmes offered by Business Schools is only economically viable if they can foster sufficient demand for places. It is therefore worth noting that applications at a School level have increased since 2016 in the regions of Asia and the Middle East, China and Hong Kong, Oceania, and the UK (typically by between 5% to 11%). 

Schools in other markets have experienced small contractions in applications, including Africa, Europe (excluding the UK), and Latin America; regions in which applications typically fell by between 6% and 18%. These regional differences indicate that levels of demand for MBAs are not consistent across the world, due to factors such as geopolitics, immigration legislation, and fluctuations in the local economy. 

AMBA has also measured the application and enrolment numbers of 84 Schools that have participated in its annual study each year since 2011, thereby providing a picture of like-for-like movements over time. When looking at this measure, there has been an increase in both applications per School and enrolments per School since 2016 (+2% and +1%, respectively). This is further evidence of the strength of AMBA-accredited Schools in sustaining demand for their MBA programmes.  

An increasing trend towards flexible learning methods

More adaptable programme methods are becoming more popular. While the classroom remains the most popular delivery method (82% of programmes are delivered in this setting), there has been growth in the proportion of blended online and classroom-based programmes (16% vs. 10% in 2016). Looking at programme format as opposed to delivery methods, there has been a decrease in the proportion of full-time programmes (22% vs. 26% in 2016) and an increase in the proportion of modular programmes (21% vs. 17% in 2016). Modular programmes are conducted via a number of intense teaching periods, and provide greater opportunity to study for an MBA alongside existing work and family commitments. 

Female inclusion on MBAs is steadily rising 

During the past five years there has been a notable increase in the proportion of women enrolling onto AMBA-accredited programmes globally (36% in 2017 compared with 32% in 2013). Among programmes in China and Hong Kong, almost half (48%) of MBA enrolees were women in 2017. In contrast, female students comprised just 16% of cohorts in India, highlighting the significance of regional variations and the potential influence of the traditional roles held by women in business and society. 

Will Dawes, Research and Insight Manager at AMBA and the Business Graduates Association (BGA), said: ‘These findings further demonstrate the resilience of the top Business Schools to attract students from across the world onto their MBA programmes. Pleasingly, we are also seeing further progress in terms of gender diversity, illustrating that the MBA can make strides on promoting inclusivity, while maintaining overall demand for programmes. 

‘The growth in programmes offered by AMBA-accredited Schools suggests that they are able to adapt to the needs of future business leaders, providing a more open opportunity for talented individuals to progress within business management.’

Andrew Main Wilson, Chief Executive of AMBA and BGA, added: ‘It is encouraging for our sector that in our ever-more competitive and unpredictable world, that AMBA-accredited School application and enrolment numbers are consolidating. 

‘These findings chime with the experiences that Deans from AMBA-accredited Schools describe to us regularly. First, we know that there has been a trend towards introducing more specialist programmes to market, including those focusing on different sectors such as oil and gas, and banking and finance, along with traditional MBAs. There is also an international dimension at play, with many Schools looking to expand their geographical profile and reach by delivering programmes at overseas campuses.

‘We are seeing that more online and blended programmes are being offered, as well as those with part-time or modular delivery formats. These offer students the opportunity to study around their work and family commitments, and at institutions where they would otherwise be unable to access programmes delivered full time. 

‘It is a credit to AMBA-accredited Schools that they are able to continue to deliver high-quality business management education at this volume against such a challenging economic backdrop.’  

For more information or interviews, please contact:
David Woods-Hale, Head of Communications, AMBA and BGA -


About AMBA and BGA

Spearheading excellence and trailblazing innovation, for more than 50 years the Association of MBAs (AMBA) has been the impartial authority on post-graduate management education.

AMBA established that vision in 1967 and, in a volatile, uncertain world, it's as relevant today as it was then.

  • We are committed to raising the profile and quality standards of business education internationally, for the benefit of Business Schools, students and alumni, employers, communities and society.
  • Our accreditation service is the global standard for all MBA, DBA and masters degrees, currently accrediting programmes from the top 2% of Business Schools in more than 75 countries
  • Our Research and Insight Centre produces a rich body of reports exploring global trends in the business education sector. This drives our global thought leadership and public affairs campaigns
  • We are the only professional membership association that connects MBA students and graduates, accredited Business Schools and MBA employers throughout the world
  • Through our members, AMBA is building an international force for good, championing best practice, responsible management and sustainability. Membership to AMBA means being part of an international community of peers with access to business strategy thought leadership, career advice and knowledge, and an MBA jobs portal
  • Our multi-award-winning events offer networking opportunities online and in person across all continents in association with international corporate partners and thought leaders exclusively for our members and accredited Business Schools

The Business Graduates Association (BGA) is an international membership and accreditation body of world-leading and high-potential Business Schools who share a commitment for responsible management practices and lifelong learning, and are looking to provide positive impact on their students, communities and the economy as a whole. We offer:

  • Quality assurance services to Business Schools and similar institutions, aimed at continuous improvement and positive impact to increase a Business School’s credibility and influence
  • Consultation and mentorship services to Business Schools to improve their marketing and admissions, programme design, alumni interaction, teaching methods, and career development services
  • Award-winning international events for Business School professionals, focused on continuous learning
  • Student and graduate membership, which includes social networking events worldwide, professional development tools, a Career Development Centre, and much more
  • Leading and award-winning content on responsible management, professional and personal growth, and influence via the Business Impact content hub