Graduate Management News

December 2015

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

GMAC Viewpoints: A Look Back at 2015 and to the Changes Ahead

In 20 years, what we think of as graduate management education will be unrecognizable.

Sangeet Chowfla

Students’ needs from graduate management education, as expressed today, cannot be met in the same manner as 20 years ago.

There is an IBM television commercial making the rounds that features one of my favorite performers, Bob Dylan, having a bit of a “sit-down,” with IBM’s Watson Super Computer. The gist of the commercial is that Watson has used its mighty calculating power to arrive at the essential message of Dylan’s 50-plus years of song writing, namely; that time pass and love fades.

I think Watson’s got something there. Time passes and the world changes. But love? It both fades and remains immortal.

As we look back to 2015 and forward to 2016, our world of graduate management education (GME) is, once again, demonstrating that it is in no way immune to change and that, frankly, our industry is transforming right before our eyes and with some pretty remarkable speed. GME, as it was delivered 20 years ago – even five years ago – has changed, and 20 years from now I’d venture to say it will once again be different from its former self. At this time of change it becomes increasingly important to have conversations about our strengths as an industry, and about what we are all doing to respond to change. 

As I mentioned in the July 2015 issue of Graduate Management News, four forces are impacting the future of graduate management education as we look ahead to the next decade, including the globalization of management education, the impact of online education, the impact of goals of the Millennial generation, and the question of what work will look like in the near future.

Fortunately, we are in a solid position from which to face the challenges that lie ahead. For love is once again showing its resilience. 2015 survey data and industry trends tell us that the MBA and the MBA job market remain strong. Applications to both two-year and one-year MBA programs continued to rise, according to GMAC’s 2015 Application Trends Survey results, released in September. This positive news confirms that the full-time MBA continues to be a sought-after credential as graduates consistently see a high return on their investment. We hope this trend is also a reflection of GMAC’s commitment to build a robust, diverse, and ready group of prospects into the management education pipeline. 

Other GMAC research shows that the MBA is an area of study that continues to be valued by employers. In 2015 demand for graduate management talent showed more strength than ever. GMAC’s 2015 Corporate Recruiters Survey results, released in May, found that 84 percent of companies worldwide planned to add new MBAs to their workforce, up from 74 percent in 2014 and 62 percent five years ago.

Hiring and on-campus recruiting of MBAs show growth as well. GMAC research revealed that in 2015 the majority of companies plan to both increase their hiring of MBAs and increase MBA starting salary levels —indicating that they place a high value on the skillset graduates gain at business school. And according to a recent survey of 92 business schools by the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance (MBA CSEA), 70 percent of respondents saw an increase in recruiting for full-time jobs.

With all of this as a background, prospective students are coming back to the fold. GMAT volumes are growing again, particularly in the high-demand 600-plus score range.

Succeeding Today and Thriving Tomorrow

Against this backdrop of positive news for MBAs and MBA programs, there are some caveats.

To succeed today and in the future, it is becoming increasingly critical that we remain agile in adapting to the forces of change, notably the skills employers demand as they relate to the skills business schools provide. GMAC’s mission of connecting talent with opportunity—as represented by prospective students of graduate management education and the career opportunities it opens—aims to bring schools and students together, to help students find schools where they will thrive and for schools to find better ways to find the talent that they seek.

We are committed to helping business schools understand the needs of today’s students and today’s workplace, and to helping prospective students worldwide gain access to graduate management education.

In 2015, “access” played an important role in two significant developments for us – the GMAT Enhanced Score Report (ESR) and the launch of the NMAT by GMAC. We worked hard in 2015 to open new points of access to the GMAT exam, piloting test centers on undergraduate campuses in the US, Europe, and India. We will continue those efforts in 2016 as we pursue ways to open more testing centers in high-demand locations around the world.

For all test takers, we made it easier for students to perform their best on the GMAT, understand how to interpret and manage their scores, and shine a spotlight on their skills. In January 2015, we launched the ESR as part of our effort to help prospective students gain greater control and confidence during their test-taking experience. The ESR gives test takers access to what in the past might have been considered “inside information,” by providing an in-depth analysis of their overall performance on the exam, including their performance on the various sections and subsections within the exam. We believe that this information will help test takers improve their performance and provide them with greater insight into their skills and how they can bring those skills into the classroom and leverage them for career success.

In March 2015, we entered the Indian domestic market by purchasing the NMAT exam from the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), in an effort to further increase access and opportunity for students in that region and strengthen our mission of supporting quality management education, locally, regionally, and globally. We launched the NMAT by GMAC exam in July, with the first exam having taken place on October 6 and continuing through December 19 at 27 centers in 18 locations across India. NMAT by GMAC volumes are growing by double digits.

We continued to extend our value to schools. We hosted our largest, and to many our best, Annual Conference, which convened in June in Denver, Colorado. We expanded our European and Asian events (in Oxford and Manila), and we expanded the size and quality of the GMASS Search Service, providing nearly 10 percent more leads to schools. 

So, whether we are talking about the GMAT exam, the NMAT by GMAT, official GMAT test prep resources, the GMASS Search Service, or the thousands of one-on-one and group interactions we have with students, they are just a few of the tools we use to promote GME, attract aspirants, support admissions professionals, measure and share trends in the marketplace, and ultimately build a thriving student pipeline.

2016 will be a year of accelerating this process. While GMAT, NMAT and GMASS will continue to evolve, we will also focus on expanding our reach and our insights. We will start a comprehensive, 18 country project to categorize and segment prospective students: to provide real insights on the psychographic and behavioral motivators for students worldwide – an effort we believe will enable us all to better tailor programs that meet their needs, and also to find better ways to reach and speak to them. We will also expand the use of our digital assets to help make that connection between these prospective students and schools.

We view our success by how effectively we help our community succeed. Specifically, we measure our success by bringing new and innovative intelligence, insights, tools, assessments, and students to you so that, together, we can remain nimble and adapt to the forces we face on the front lines of change.

I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

About the Author

Sangeet ChowflaSangeet Chowfla is president and chief executive officer of GMAC.