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Prospective business school students are applying to a narrower range of masters course specialisations, suggesting an increased focus on specific career paths, according to new figures from the global admissions body.
A worldwide survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that 23 per cent of those seeking a place on masters courses last year applied only to those specialising in subjects, such as finance or accountancy. This compared with 15 per cent in 2009.
Seventy one per cent of respondents cited a single industry of interest for postgraduate employment compared with 58 per cent a year earlier, and 61 per cent said they were focused on a specific job function after graduation compared with 46 per cent a year earlier.
Half of the 10,017 prospective students interviewed for the latest poll said they were considering only applying to MBA courses, barely different to the 52 per cent who said they would do this in 2009.
Students considering a full-time MBA place were the least likely in the GMAC survey to consider studying for other masters qualifications.
The increased focus on specialist masters courses was most dramatic in western Europe, where 45 per cent of those surveyed had applied only for specialised masters courses in 2015, compared with 22 per cent in 2009.
This was driven by the rise in the number of pre-experience masters courses offered by European business schools, whose criteria make them available to a greater pool of potential students.
Candidates for pre-experience courses are typically younger and do not meet admissions requirements for most MBA programmes.
Their growth meant that for the first time the proportion of European students applying for specialist masters courses in 2015 was greater than the 36 per cent that only sought a place on an MBA course.
The research also highlighted a squeeze on employer support for those hoping to attend business school in addition to holding down a full-time job, with 45 per cent of this group expecting to receive assistance with paying fees in 2015, down from 54 per cent in 2009.
The cost of obtaining a business education is more difficult for younger people to finance, the survey also found.
Students aged 24 and under, defined as millennials and Generation Z, were more likely to rely on parental support than their older peers.
A gender divide was evident with men in this age group more likely to use loans and personal savings than women.