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Ankur Kumar, the high-profile director of MBA admissions and financial aid at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania, is leaving the school at the end of the week after nearly five years in the job. Ms Kumar says she announced her decision weeks ago, but the timing of the move will inevitably be linked to a stream of bad publicity around a fall in MBA applicants to Wharton this year.

Ms Kumar confirmed that the number of applicants to the school dropped by 6 per cent this year – though this still means more than 6,000 would-be MBAs applied for the 840 places on the Wharton MBA. On a positive note, the yield – the percentage of applicants that are offered places and accept them – rose slightly. The average GMAT score, one measure of the quality of the student body, also rose to 725 from 720.

Although most of the top schools have seen small declines in applicant numbers over recent years, numbers have rebounded at most schools this year. The most recent figures from GMAC, which administers the GMAT test, show that 2013 marks the first year since 2009 that a majority (52 per cent) of US full-time MBA programmes have reported year-on-year growth in applications.

Ms Kumar says she does not believe the introduction of monitored group discussions as part of the Wharton interview process have had a negative effect on applications. However, the move has been seen as an added level of complexity at a time when most top business schools are simplifying the applications process.

Wharton’s publicity woes came just weeks after rival Harvard Business School faced a similar public flailing for having a culture which was perceived to be biased against women. Ironically, Ms Kumar pioneered the case for women in MBA programmes: this year is the fifth year in a row that Wharton enrolled a class with more than 40 per cent women – unmatched at any other top school.


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