Mar 1, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

The Association of MBAs (AMBA) has some good news for MBA programs in its 2016 Application and Enrollment Report.  After four years of decline, 2016 showed a 5 percent global net growth in applications to AMBA-accredited MBA programs.  The previous four years saw a 14 percent decrease.

218 AMBA-accredited business schools across six continents participated in the survey.  North America and the UK reported respectively 72 percent and 71 percent of applications from international students.  It also showed that part-time MBAs are the most popular formats for earning the degree.  The survey revealed that 34 percent of all part-time AMBA-accredited enrollments were from China and 23 percent from Latin America.

According to the AMBA website, Dr. Denise Dollimore, MBA Director at Hertfordshire Business School, said: “In an increasingly crowded marketplace for MBAs and with economic uncertainty impacting corporate sponsorship, this year has seen an increase in the number of self-funded applicants and a continued trend in the much more discerning MBA prospect. AMBA-accreditation is almost always the first question [from prospective students] swiftly followed by queries about our competitive scholarships.”

She added, “Networking opportunities, the international dimension and soft skills development feature highly on the wish list and it is evident that having found the MBA that most appeals it is our AMBA-accreditation that presents the quality assurances that prospects seek.”

What does this data suggest?  The MBA still has cultural, social, and economic capital—but degree-granting institutions need to show their value continuously. 

According to the AMBA report, Professor Patrick Butler, MBA Program Director at Monash Business School attributes some of the MBA’s success to growing Asian markets. 

He said, “Broadly speaking, Asian markets are growing and maturing, and becoming increasingly sophisticated, demanding and competitive. In Australia, this is an important driver for management and executive education among ambitious, young professionals with a global view. They see real opportunities in this regard. Also, young people across Asia are taking a more independent approach to their careers and are less reliant on their employers and families in influencing their directions.”

He added, “It continues to be the case that all schools and programs need to be clear about their value proposition and how they are distinctive. This will help to continue the overall improvement in the quality and range of MBAs available in the market - something Monash welcomes.”

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Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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