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There are tentative signs that a global decline in applications for full-time MBA programmes could be steadying, according to figures released by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

“It’s very tenuous to look at application counts from one year to the next because of wide fluctuations in programme sizes and regional norms, but data at the global level for MBA programmes reflect improvements for full-time, two-year programmes and stability or little net change among one-year MBA programmes,” said Michelle Sparkman Renz, director of GMAC research communications.

She said the median number of applications globally to full-time two year MBA programmes – the standard offering in the US – was at 299 in 2013 from 267 in 2012, while the median number of applications for one-year MBA programmes was at 133, almost unchanged from 2012’s 135.

GMAC’s annual survey of application trends has also revealed that 2013 marks the first time since 2009 that a majority (52 per cent) of US full-time MBA programmes have reported year-on-year growth in applications. GMAC said the gains had been helped by increased numbers of applications from international candidates.

Globally, half of all two-year, full-time MBA programmes surveyed received more applications in 2013 than in 2012. A similar trend was observed for one-year programmes.

“The GMAC figures that have been released are broadly in line with what we have learnt through our own data analysis and via discussions with our members,” said Vicky Robinson, director of communications at The Association of Business Schools, a UK-based organisation that largely represents UK schools.

“MBA figures as a whole globally have been in decline over the last few years ... The [GMAC] figures may indicate that this decline in applications to MBA programmes globally is slowing,” she said, adding that there had been a small drop in applications to UK full time MBA programmes but a rise in distance-learning part-timers.

Greatest movements in the GMAC survey were seen in applications for part-time MBAs and masters in management courses which were 53 per cent down and 61 per cent up respectively.

GMAC said it had seen particular strength in MiM programmes in Europe, where 73 per cent of programmes reported application increases from 2012.

Also notable was a marked slowing in applications to full-time MBA programmes in the Asia-Pacific region where 53 per cent of one-year full time programmes reported increased applications, against 77 per cent in 2012, and 47 per cent of two-year programmes reported increased applications, against 79 per cent last year.

“Asia-Pacific applicants are extremely sensitive to economic conditions,” said Ms Sparkman Renz.

GMAC, which administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for use in admissions to graduate management programmes looked at 683 graduate-level programmes in business and management at 328 business schools in 42 different countries.

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