Canada’s MBA problem: How business schools are fighting to stay relevant

8 04 2015

That’s the title of an important article in the Globe and Mail. The piece, which focuses on the elite MBA programs at University of Toronto (Rotman), Western (Ivey), and University of British Columbia (Sauder), notes that these management schools have seen falling demand due a variety of factors. [The statistics at for MBA programs are less prestigious schools aren’t discussed in the article, but one suspects that they are in more serious financial difficulty]. Employers are now doing more MBA-equivalent training in-house, reducing demand for the degree. Moreover, the financial crisis changed the education strategies of many young people.

Management schools have responded by shortening the time needed to earn an MBA to just one year and by introducing more specialized MBAs,   For instance, the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary offers an MBA that focused on oil and natural gas, which is logical given its location. Deans have also been forced to make difficult choices about the optimum mix of overseas and domestic students. The article quotes Bob Kennedy, the Dean of Richard Ivey, who says:

“I could easily enroll 300 students if I was willing to have half of my class be from China or India…Ivey has very consciously said we think we know what the optimal mix is and we’re going to keep the bar very high. Even if it means a smaller class, that’s fine, because we think quality is more important than quantity. Other schools have made different decisions.”

The issues discussed in the article are being confronted by management school deans across the world.

Speaking of specialized MBAs, my employer, the University of Liverpool Management School, has just created a specialized MBA for people in the horse racing industry.

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