As widely expected, applications to MBA programmes have dropped this year, according to the latest statistics from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), which administers the GMAT test, widely regarded as the entrance test for business school. But applications to specialised masters degrees are on the up.

Two-year MBA programmes, the bread and butter of US business schools, have been particularly badly hit. More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of business schools offering two-year, full-time MBA programmes reported a decline in application volume in 2011 compared with 2010. One-year programmes have been less badly hit. By comparison, 57 per cent of schools teaching one-year full-time MBA programmes reported a decline. The decline was most prevalent among non-US programmes, however, where 62 per cent reported a decline compared with 49 per cent of US programmes.

The statistics are unsurprising, as MBA applications at many schools reached record highs in 2008, following redundancies, particularly in the banking and consultancy sectors, as the financial crisis and recession bit. Applications have been declining ever since.

By contrast, in the specialised masters degree category, applications proved robust this year. Some 83 per cent of schools offering specialised degrees in finance reported an increase in applications, as did 69 per cent of those offering masters in management and 51 per cent teaching specialised accountancy programmes.

The other most notable trend reported in the survey is the internationalisation of the applicant pool. Nearly half (46 per cent) the business schools who participated in the survey reported an increase in the number of overseas students, most notably from India and China.

GMAC’s twelfth annual Application Trends Survey was conducted from June 1 to mid-July, 2011, and 331 graduate business schools participated. Of those, 218 were US schools, 60 were from Europe, 26 were from Asia-Pacific and 16 from Canada.

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