Further down the ranking, however, there is less good news. Schools on the broader 100-school ranking are struggling to recruit. Applications to MBA programmes in The Economist’s survey have fallen from 17 per available place to 10 over the past five years. Students are increasingly sheltering from the difficult graduate employment market by staying on for masters programmes immediately after earning their undergraduate degrees. And they are hesitant to leave the unpredictable workforce for an MBA once they have landed a job.
Mid-tier business schools are also facing the challenge of executives increasingly opting to take online MBAs later in their careers, which are cheaper and allow for more flexibility in location and timing. Schools closer to the top of the ranking, however, still hold a premium on an MBA education mainly due to their brand names and perceived networking opportunities.
“This year’s Economist Which MBA? ranking is reflective of the uncertain job market that we are still experiencing,” said Bill Ridgers, Editor of The Economist’s Which MBA? “But as applications to mid-tier schools fall, there is even more value to be had by attending a top MBA programme, because it becomes more important to signal to future employers that you are one of the elite.”