Why 2021 is a good time for an MBA

Vaccines are being rolled out but the economy still needs time to recover, so is this prime time to head to business school? Associate Director Stephanie Mullins and colleague Kyle Grizzell at specialist business education PR consultancy BlueSky Education speak to experts and discuss further.

Now much of the business education sector has come to terms with the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more than a year has passed since it began and business schools have demonstrated just how effectively they can adapt to offering flexible learning.

Hanna-Leena Pesonen, Dean of the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics, believes this is indicative of the potential of educational institutions. “This was a huge change which we could not have planned, and if we were able to do that, we can do so many things. We seem to be able to do a lot in a very short time so maybe we can braver with other changes,” she said in a recent podcast.

Yet despite the education industry successfully transitioning to delivering courses online, the economy and job market are not as secure. In 2020, the UK economy shrunk by 9.9 per cent. The overall decline in 2020 was more than twice as deep as 2009 during the global financial crisis. Some experts predict the economy may not recover until 2023 or possibly even later.

But this is a worldwide issue. The global economy is estimated to have shrunk by 4.4% in 2020, described as the worst decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And when these figures do start to improve, the post-pandemic world is set to be very different to how it was before.

So with the economy and job market being in an uncertain position, perhaps it is the best time to undertake an MBA?

Right now, the job market in a number of sectors is tough. Many industries have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic; some employers simply aren’t hiring at the same rate and promotions have been put on hold. Around the world, jobs and incomes have been cut with unemployment rates increasing across major economies.

However, for those interested in an MBA, this might be an opportunity. Pre-COVID, it was often a choice between staying in the workforce or taking time out of work to study for an MBA. However, taking time off to study during a strong job market may not have been ideal for some. Now that many promotions have been halted and the job market is slower, one wouldn’t be sacrificing as much in deciding to pursue an MBA.

Nick Barniville, Associate Dean of Degrees at ESMT Berlin said: “Now may be the perfect time to study, given how an MBA could prepare students for the working conditions of the future, such as virtual working, new booms in particular industries caused by COVID, new ways of working in a post COVID world, and so on.”

In particular, an MBA can help close potential skill gaps, some of which are becoming more prevalent in our rapidly changing world, especially with the changes caused by the pandemic. This is certainly prudent when it comes to digital transformation in business.

Federico Frattini, Dean of MIP Politecnico di Milano said: “In response to digital transformation across businesses, which has been accelerated by the pandemic, management education is constantly developing. This development is perfectly embodied by FLEXA at MIP Politecnico di Milano. FLEXA is an AI learning platform which acts as a digital mentor for potential students, current cohorts and alumni networks. Developed in partnership with Microsoft, FLEXA analyses each individual and suggests personalised learning resources to close skills gaps whilst promoting their profiles to recruiters.

“Closing these skills gaps and enhancing your career prospects is incredibly important, especially in the current context, which is why doing an MBA is so useful as it gives you the tools to succeed in fast paced, digital, and developing business sectors.”

Studying for an MBA offers many people the technical and leadership skills to help climb the ladder as the economy slowly improves and fill the gaps in a recovering economy.

For those starting an MBA in 2021, they will most likely be graduating when the market is predicted to begin to recover. So, now may be one of the best opportunities to strengthen a CV with an MBA, learn what the world of work will look like post-pandemic, and become one of the most equipped graduates in the new workforce.