Business schools enjoy rise in demand for finance courses

Business schools are reporting an increase in applications for specialist finance masters programmes because of the qualification’s value for students graduating in a dire jobs market.

The FT on Sunday published its annual ranking of masters in finance pre-experience and post-experience programmes, the most popular specialist postgraduate business degrees, according to entrance exam administrator the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Demand for these courses, like other postgraduate management qualifications, had been falling for several years as a decade of economic growth and student visa curbs discouraged potential applicants from leaving the job market.

However, the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus crisis is convincing many of those due to graduate this year to continue in full-time education. Business qualifications are among the most popular choices, according to school admissions teams.

Applications are up 55 per cent year-on-year for the full-time masters in finance degree at London Business School, which tops the FT’s post-experience ranking of courses for people who have worked for a few years.

However, conversion of offers to a firm acceptance will be harder to achieve in 2020 than in previous years because of travel restrictions for overseas applicants and students choosing to take their chances in the current employment market rather than taking on more debt, according to Arnold Longboy, executive director of recruitment and admissions at LBS.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we will achieve, or come very close to achieving, our target class size of 120 students,” Mr Longboy said.

“We should meet our targets because of our leadership in offering masters in finance programmes that offer a strong, global view of finance on a flexible, customisable full- or part-time programme that can be tailored to suit students’ career goals,” he added.

The impact of the coronavirus lockdowns on international travel is a concern for masters in finance programme directors because the course is particularly attractive to overseas students looking to relocate for work.

Only 13 per cent of applicants to European masters in finance courses last year were domestic students, according to GMAC.

Belgium-based Vlerick Business School, which has been among the FT’s top 30 MiF providers since 2012, has been able to offer a record number of places for the course starting this autumn because of the volume and quality of applications it has received. It has also noticed a rise in domestic demand.

“We have been overwhelmed by applications in the weeks following the lockdown,” said Wouter De Maeseneire, programme director of the masters in financial management course at Vlerick.

“Students who might have gone to Paris or London to study are now deciding to stay at home because of the travel restrictions,” he added.

Gerry George, dean of Singapore Management University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, said he had 52 per cent more applications than last year for his school’s upcoming masters in finance course, made 25 per cent more offers and had 40 per cent more acceptances.

He pointed to the demand from Chinese and other Asian students to remain in the region. “Our yield has improved. Students are choosing to stay regional,” he said.

Heidi Pickett, assistant dean for the masters in finance programme at MIT, said she would have a record 140-strong class for the forthcoming intake after a small rise in applications for the upcoming intake, after declines in the previous three years.

Marwa Hammam, executive director of the master of finance programme at Cambridge Judge Business School, said: “Demand has increased. That took us a bit by surprise.”

See full rankings list for pre-experience programmes: http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/masters-in-finance-pre-experience-2020

See full rankings list for post-experience programmes: http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/masters-in-finance-post-experience-2020

See other stories in the FT’s financial training report: https://www.ft.com/business-education/financial-training