Executive Education

An End to the Reign of the MBA?


MBAs have dominated the business education landscape since the early part of the 20th century, giving countless ambitious professionals a boost in the race to reach the pinnacle of business success.

However business education experts at the London School of Economics are seeing a new disruptive trend.

Originating in the US, this immensely popular programme format has been adopted by leading business schools across the world, and the MBA has been widely accepted by employers in all countries as a benchmark for essential professional skills and business acumen.

However, after nearly a century of popularity, the reign of the MBA could be coming to an end. In every market, a radical disruptive influence will occasionally appear to challenge the dominant market leader, and this seems to be the case for business education. Market research data is showing that the cornerstone of business education, the MBA, has seen a decline in global popularity in recent years.

Instead, more and more students are turning to a fresh alternative: the Master’s in Management (or MiM for short). MiM programmes cover the same fundamental curriculum as a traditional MBA – the essential pillars of business, including general management, accounting, finance, marketing and HR – but teach these topics in a fresh new way.

MBAs utilise experiential learning, meaning that learning in the classroom is focused on the students’ prior practical experience in their professional careers. Typically students need to have already been out in the workforce for a number of years (usually at least five) in order to enrol on an MBA. In contrast, MiMs flip the traditional learning style on its head, and use theory and critical thinking as the basis for learning, which is then linked into practical projects and case studies.

This strong intellectual skill building is invaluable for two reasons: firstly it enables MiM graduates to critically understand and deal with new and unknown business issues which will arise across their lifetime career, in an increasingly fast-paced and complex environment driven by leaps in technology and globalisation. Secondly, the ability to think abstractly, analytically and critically about your own organisation and the wider business context is also crucial for a key business activity: innovation. MiM graduates enter into the workforce very well prepared for stellar careers as business leaders and innovators, and with a well-rounded intellectual and practical skills set which employers prize.

As there is no pre-requisite for prior work experience, MiMs are open to students much earlier in their career than an MBA. This means they can avoid the additional cost of taking time out to study later in their career, at a critical stage in around their late twenties or thirties, when for most people when the salary sacrifice and impact on personal life would be much greater.

However innovative flexible MiM programme formats also still allow more experienced students to benefit from the radical flip in learning style. At LSE we launched a new modular part-time version of the MiM in 2012, which allows experienced professionals to work full-time throughout the programme, and avoid taking a career break. The Executive Global Master’s in Management is the first MiM of its kind in the world, and it is seeing year-on-year increase in popularity as savvy business professionals opt to differentiate themselves in the job market with an alternative to the traditional MBA.

The MiM concept was developed in Europe, and LSE was one of the first schools to launch a programme of this kind in the UK. In the past decade the MiM has become a well-established brand in our region, and is offered by most leading institutions in the UK and continental Europe. Powerful international MiM alliances like the CEMS Master’s in International Management, with an exchange programme linking together 29 schools across the world, are seeing great success. While at present the MiM brand is relatively unknown in the US, it is anticipated that several leading North American schools will be launching MiMs in the near future to tap into this growing market trend.

The future of the MiM looks bright, and it continues to be an increasingly popular choice with both students and employers. While market research is showing that MBAs are still currently the most popular business education choice across the globe, applications are in decline – whereas MiM applications are steadily increasing year-on-year. If this trend continues, the next ten years might see the MBA stepping aside to share the spotlight with a fresh new younger sibling.

Authors –
Professor Sandy Pepper

Sandy Pepper is Professor of Management Practice and Programme Director for the flagship Master’s in Management in the LSE Department of Management. He is a leading researcher in HR management and labour markets issues, especially the impact of incentives and rewards on the behaviour of senior executives. Before joining LSE, he had a long career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) where he held various senior management roles. 

Liz Griffith

Liz Griffith is Senior Marketing & Communications Officer in the LSE Department of Management, managing student recruitment and market positioning for the Master’s in Management and Executive Global Master’s in Management degree programmes. She has worked in higher education for a number of years, and joined LSE in 2011.

About the Author

The LSE Department of Management is a specialist university department with an international intake and a global reach. Its research and teaching take an academically in-depth approach to the study of management and organisations, linking with the full breadth of the social sciences, from economics, politics and law to sociology, anthropology, accounting and finance.