Fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic in management

Business Impact: Fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic in management

Get a clearer view of uncertain, or fuzzy, sets and some of their latest applications in the field of management from Eötvös Loránd University’s Tamás Jónás

Nowadays, fuzzy sets and fuzzy logic have a wide range of applications in many areas of science including engineering, economics, management, and the business sciences.

This article offers an insight into the research results achieved over the past five years by the Faculty of Economics, Eötvös Loránd University, in fields connected with fuzzy set theory, fuzzy logic, and their applications in management.

Basic notions

Let us consider the statement: ‘Our company has a high operating profit rate.’ We do not know exactly what this statement means, but in our daily life, we tend not to see any problem with using this kind of statements. This is because we have a certain imagination of the meaning of the above statement, even though it is ambiguous and imprecise.

In classical set theory, the set of high operating profit rates can be exactly defined as an interval on the real line. For example, if the operating profit rate is between 10% and 30%, then we may consider it as high operating profit rate.

Now, suppose that an operating profit rate, x, is just a bit less than 10%. In this case, noting the previous crisp definition of the set of high operating profit rates, x is not an element of this set. However, we would describe this situation using statements like: ‘The operating profit rate, x, is almost high’ or ‘the operating profit rate, x, is close to a high operating profit rate’. Our human language allows us to express our uncertainty regarding this situation in a more sophisticated way than that of using the concept of crisp set. Based on this line of thinking, we may conclude that the classical set theory is not suitable for describing the uncertainty associated with vague situations.

The concept of fuzzy set was introduced by University of California, Berkeley Professor, Lotfi Zadeh, in 1965 as an extension of the classical notion of set. A fuzzy set is given by its membership function, which is a mapping from a given universe (set) to the closed unit interval.

The value of the membership function at x is the grade of membership of x in the fuzzy set. It should be emphasised that every element in the universe has its membership grade in the fuzzy set in question, and this grade is an element of the unit interval [0,1].

Using our previous example, we can define the fuzzy set of high operating profit rates such that the membership grade of 9% operating profit rate to this fuzzy set is 0.3. That is, this operating profit rate has a relatively low membership grade in the fuzzy set of high operating profit rates, but this membership grade is not zero.

We can see that this set has no crisp boundaries, and that its boundaries are instead rather ‘fuzzy’. This explains why these sets are called fuzzy sets. It should be added that the membership grade of x, which tells us how much x belongs to the fuzzy set on the scale [0,1], may also be viewed as a measurement of truth of the statement that ‘x is an element of the set under study’. Here, the values zero and one correspond to the ‘fully’ false and ‘fully’ true logical values, respectively. That is, the value of the membership grade can be interpreted as a fuzzy logical (continuous logical) value.

Evaluations using fuzzy numbers

A special class of fuzzy sets, called the fuzzy number, may be treated as an extension of the notion of number. Namely, a fuzzy number can be used to express the uncertainty related to a quantity. Moreover, using fuzzy numbers, traditional Likert scale-based evaluations can be extended to fuzzy rating scale-based evaluations that find many applications in the business sciences. For example, in relation to evaluating service features in healthcare, or the performance of university lecturers and supervisors.  

Ranking fuzzy numbers and multicriteria decision-making

The ranking of fuzzy numbers plays an important role in multicriteria decision-making, and as such, it has various applications in management as well.

Fuzzy logical operations

In many situations, we need to modify a fuzzy logical value or connect multiple fuzzy logical values to obtain a new one. These can be done using continuous-valued logical operators that may be viewed as extensions of the negation, conjunction, and disjunction operations of classical logic. You can see an example of our results connected with this area here.

Monotone (fuzzy) measures in decision-making and behavioural economics

The monotone, but not necessarily additive measures (set functions), which are also known as fuzzy measures, can be used to model various phenomena in decision-making and in behavioural economics. Our contributions to these fields include, for example, a methodology that can be used to generate parametric probability weighting functions.

Demand forecasting using fuzzy logic

Forecasting the demand for products or services is a crucial activity for all enterprises. In the past few years, we developed some soft computational methods that can be used in demand forecasting effectively, an example of which can be seen in a 2018 paper in the International Journal of Production Economics.

Tamás Jónás is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest, Hungary.

New batches bring in bigger MBM student numbers worldwide

Business Impact: Exclusive data on MBM programmes

Amid the transition to blended and online learning, exclusive AMBA & BGA research shows that Business Schools received more applications across an increased number of MBM programmes in 2020, although regional experiences for the format did vary

AMBA-accredited Business Schools received a larger volume of applications for their master’s in business management (MBM) programmes, on average, as many upped the number of programmes on offer between 2019 and 2020, according to new and exclusive data from AMBA & BGA. 

Changes to admissions numbers, 2019-20 

Although the number of applications to individual MBM programmes fell by 7% between 2019 and 2020, there was a 5% increase in the number of MBM applications per Business School, indicating that larger volumes of applications were spread across a greater number of programmes. Indeed, the number of MBM programmes offered by responding Business Schools worldwide in 2020 was 13% higher than in 2019. This increase might help to explain why, for example, applications per MBM programme available among Business Schools in India were down by 12%, yet the total number of applications received by each School in the south Asian country were up by an average of 4%. 

Globally, the uptick in programme options appears to have generated a greater number of applications from prospective students in a year marked by the impact of Covid-19, although these changes were more pronounced in some regions than others. In Europe (excluding the UK), for example, MBM applications per School were up 17% in 2020 and, among Business Schools in the UK, the rise was 23%. 

Regardless of the number of programmes on offer, the growing ranks of MBM students worldwide are demonstrated by the increase in the number of those enrolling onto programmes in 2020. Not only did enrolments per Business School (which encompasses their increase in programme number) rise – by 21% worldwide – but so too did the average number of students that enrolled on each individual programme, by 8%. MBM enrolments per programme were up by a regional high of 26% in Europe (excluding the UK). 

Third instalment of Business Impact’s MBM market analysis

This is Business Impact’s third report on the admissions landscape for master’s in management (MBM) programmes worldwide. The BGA publication’s inaugural investigation into data for international MBM applications and enrolments was released in 2020 and focused on the scale of demand for the MBM format in India. Released earlier this year, the report’s second iteration considered key demographics of those applying and enrolling onto MBM programmes – namely, the proportional splits between male and female students and between domestic and international students.  

This latest edition is focused on year-on-year variations in data, together with a deep dive into case studies of two key providers of the MBM format, France and the UK, to the left of this column. All findings are based on AMBA & BGA’s exclusive pool of data relating to admissions to 149 MBM programmes in the calendar year of 2019, rising to 168 MBM programmes in the calendar year of 2020, on offer among 49 Business Schools worldwide – all of which are accredited by BGA’s sister organisation, the Association of MBAs (AMBA).  

Tracking the impact of Covid-19 on teaching methods 

We know that many Schools have been forced to pivot on their delivery of programmes due to Covid-19, so this year’s data template asked for Schools’ ‘most used mode of delivery’ as well as their ‘intended mode of delivery’ with a view to determining the difference between theory and practice.

Comparing, firstly, how programmes were taught in 2019 to how they were intended to be taught in 2020, already indicates a slight global trend for programmes to be taught using blended or online modes of delivery, even before the disruption of Covid-19 has been considered. If all programmes globally had been taught the way they had been intended to in 2020, the classroom mode of teaching would have decreased in usage by five percentage points between 2019 and 2020. Yet, classroom teaching was the most used mode of delivery on only 14% of programmes globally in 2020, down from 84% in 2019. The majority of MBM programmes turned to a blended format (54%), with a further 32% of programmes using online delivery for the most part. This shift shows the very real impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on global teaching methods. 

Acceptance and yield 

Acceptance rates (the percentage of applicants who were given an offer by a Business School) varied significantly across regions, but the global average was 6% in 2020. MBM programmes in India had the lowest acceptance rate, on average, with only 1% of those who applied being accepted onto a programme. Elsewhere, acceptance rates were significantly higher, for example 37% among programmes in Europe (excluding the UK) and 48% in the UK.

Yield (the percentage of students who enrol onto programmes in Business Schools after being offered a place) also varied significantly by region. While the global average was 32%, the UK’s yield rate was 18% in 2020, compared to 41% among responding Business Schools in Europe (excluding the UK). This suggests that applicants to MBM programmes the UK were more likely to apply for more than one Business School and were left choosing between those from which they received an offer, whereas those applying to programmes in Europe (excluding the UK) were more likely to have their eyes firmly fixed on one Business School. 

Diversity in MBM admissions


Globally, the proportion of female applicants to MBM programmes in 2020 was 37%, an increase of one percentage point from 2019. Enrolments, however, remained closer to an equal gender balance – 47% of enrolled students in 2020 were female and this worldwide figure is unchanged from its equivalent in 2019. 

On a global level, there was no change to the global proportion of female enrolees between 2019 and 2020, meaning that female students continued to represent the majority of enrolees in many areas of the world. In China (including Hong Kong, China) women made up 62% of enrolled students, in Africa it was 60%, Oceania 53% and the UK, 51%. 

Business Schools in India had the lowest proportion of female enrolees in its master’s in business management programmes, at an average of 37% across its cohorts in 2020. However, this represents an improvement of three percentage points on the equivalent figure from 2019. 

International students

When looking at the global picture, students who applied and enrolled onto MBM programmes in 2020 appear to come overwhelmingly from the domestic market. Among applicants, 96% were domestic, although this drops to 68% among enrolees. In each case, the figures represent a one percentage point decrease in the proportion of international students from the last year. 

Yet the global picture hides significant regional variations. While most regions did have a majority of domestic applicants to its MBM programmes, North America and the Caribbean and the UK provide two notable exceptions to this rule, with only 9% and 3%, respectively, of applicants and 15% and 12%, respectively, of enrolees coming from the domestic base of the Business Schools in these regions. 

Two European business education stalwarts: MBM admissions case study

France and the UK are two of the world’s biggest markets for business education and the options for studying a master’s in business management (MBM) degree at one of their leading Business Schools are often high on the list of many prospective students – both domestic and international. 

They are also countries with significant numbers of AMBA-accredited Business Schools. This case study compares admissions data from 98 MBM programmes on offer among 29 Business Schools in France and the UK which responded to AMBA’s application and enrolment survey for the calendar year of 2020. 


Across 44 programmes, Business Schools in France received an average of 3,621 applications per programme in 2020 and ultimately enrolled an average of 453 students. The acceptance rate (the number of applicants who were offered a place at the Business School) was 43%. The yield (the proportion of those who chose to enrol after being were offered a place) was 29%. 

The vast majority (92%) of MBM programmes in France were intended to be taught in the classroom, with only 5% intended to be taught using a blended approach and 1% intended as being fully online. As the events of 2020 unfolded, the proportion of programmes that were actually taught in the classroom dropped to 33%, while blended and fully online teaching rose to 27% and 39%, respectively. 

Applicants to MBM programmes in France were a 50/50 split between men and women. Among those enrolling, 49% were female on average.  

MBM applications to Business Schools in France came largely from domestic prospects in 2020, with only 17% stemming from international prospects. However, this proportion rises to 23% among enrolled students. 

The UK

There were, on average, 800 applications and 68 enrolled students per programme across 54 MBM programmes in the UK in 2020. The average acceptance rate in the UK was 48%, while the average yield was 18%. 

The difference between pre- and post-Covid-19 teaching modes is stark. All programmes (100%) included in this data analysis were intended to be taught in the classroom in 2020, yet none ended up being delivered this way. Instead, 89% were taught using a blended mode and 11% were fully online.

There were, on average, more female applicants to MBM programmes in the UK than male – 57% of applications came from women. However, the average proportion of female students levels out to 51% when looking at enrolled students. 

Nearly all (97%) applications to MBM programmes in the UK came from international prospects in 2020. Only 3% of applicants were based in the UK itself. When looking at enrolled cohorts, the picture shifts slightly, with 88% defined as international students, and 12% defined as domestic students.

Key contrasts between France and the UK 

As can be seen from the above, there are some significant differences when comparing MBM admissions in France and the UK, based on Business Schools’ experiences in 2020.

  • More applications per programme in France (3,621 vs. 800 in the UK).
  • Smaller class sizes in the UK (68 enrolled students per programme vs. 453 in France). This is, in part, driven by France’s prestigious Grande École programmes which have high numbers of students. 
  • Higher yield in France (29% vs. 18% in the UK). This suggests that applicants to UK Business Schools are more likely to have applied to multiple institutions.  
  • Far higher proportion of international students in the UK (88% of enrolled students vs. 23% in France). 


The AMBA & BGA Application and Enrolment Report 2021 outlines the current state of the world’s MBA market. As part of the data compiled for the report, 61 AMBA-accredited Business Schools also provided data on their portfolio of master’s in business management programmes (commonly known as MBMs or MiMs).  

These generalist, postgraduate, and predominantly pre-experience, degrees are most often designed to provide a thorough grounding in the theoretical fundamentals of management, accompanied by substantial practical input. As such, it typically provides a foundation for individuals starting a career in management and has been identified as a particular area of interest for members of the Business Graduates Association (BGA), which aims to ensure graduates of all levels of business education commence their careers with a firm understanding and appreciation of the principles of responsible management, positive impact and lifelong learning. 

Of the 61 Schools who provided data on their master’s programmes for the calendar year of 2020, 49 also completed last year’s study in which they supplied data for 2019, allowing figures to be compared directly between the same Schools, year on year. This analysis covered 168 programmes in 2020, which rose from 149 programmes in 2019. This like-for-like analysis is the most accurate measurement of changes in the AMBA & BGA network from year to year, as it compares an identical set of Schools that is not skewed by changes in the profile or participation of AMBA-accredited Business Schools.  

MBM programmes analysed in the like-for-like proportion of this report were delivered at Business Schools based in the following locations: Europe (excluding the UK) (38%); the UK (31%); India (15%); China (including Hong Kong, China) (1%); North America and the Caribbean (10%); Oceania (1%); and Africa (6%).  

This article is taken from Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: November 2021-January 2022).

Main image credit: Tom Hauk on Unsplash

Can AI drones yield cleaner agricultural production and more ethical practices?

A tractor watering crops with a sprinkler system on a sunny day. This is symbolic to agricultural production.

How the use of pesticides exacerbates other barriers to cleaner agricultural production and why data-collecting AI drones offer a potential solution. Research from the UK’s University of Bradford School of Management

A changing agricultural business environment and the need to improve agricultural value chains, together with calls for more resource-efficient practices and sustainable approaches has meant that business and management research is just as vital for the agricultural sector as agronomic and other agricultural science-based research. 

The pressing need to boost agricultural productivity

There is a pressing need for food producers, technologists, academics, and policymakers to identify innovative, effective, and sustainable approaches to boost agricultural productivity for the immediate future, for a sustainable food supply chain. With the global population expected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050, pressure on food systems – and particularly on the agriculture sector – is increasing daily. Only a 70% increase in food production would be enough to feed this global population sufficiently. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation. A labour shortage caused by health concerns and lockdown measures, including the closure of international borders, has caused inevitable disruptions to both the production and movement of agriculture and food produce globally.

These conditions have led to inflation and this has made nutritious food, or even food itself, unaffordable to some people, causing hunger to more than 130 million people across the globe. This makes goal number two of the UN SDGs – to end hunger – all the more difficult to attain.

In some parts of the world, Covid-19 has also led to an increase of unethical agricultural practices, such as the overuse of chemicals in farming and suppression of labour, to meet growing demand in difficult times. Addressing this requires a detailed understanding of how innovative solutions can be incorporated into the agricultural supply chains, particularly within production, to achieve ethical, sustainable and socially viable food production.

Despite a host of state-of-the-art developments in agriculture, such as automation and smart farming, many challenges in the agricultural supply chain remain and there is still a lack of practical solutions.

Barriers to cleaner agricultural production

Our research explored key agricultural challenges and how industry 4.0 technologies, such as AI drones, may be the solution to these challenges.

What are the barriers that impact cleaner agricultural production? We identified a host of agricultural challenges which play a role in diminishing and disrupting agricultural yields. These include the following:

  • Illegal deforestation
  • Lack of efficient practices
  • Lack of accurate predictions for seasonal output
  • Theft and sabotage
  • Inaccurate seeding methods
  • Unproductive workers
  • Pesticides application and hazards
  • Workers health and safety risks
  • Movement of produce within supply chain
  • Pollution
  • Poor soil conditions
  • Plant disease

Existing research in this field has highlighted the intertwined nature of these challenges, so a fundamental element of our research was to see whether the identified challenges were interrelated. This revealed that ‘unproductive workers’ and ‘pesticides application and hazards’ contribute towards at least 10 further challenges in the context of Cleaner Agricultural Production (CAP), including the above-listed challenges of ‘pollution’, ‘lack of accurate predictions for seasonal output’, and ‘plant disease’ (i.e. spread of) as well as workers’ health and safety, a factor that subsequently affects the movement of agricultural produce in the food supply chain.

In other words, we found that in order to overcome challenges impeding the sustainability of food supply chain, while managing worker productivity, food producers and farmers must minimise the hazards resulting through pesticide application and exposure.

Unravelling agricultural challenges

For insights into how Industry 4.0 technologies can support clean and ethical agricultural production, we applied the the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s ReSOLVE framework and its six actions of Regenerate, Share, Optimise, Loop, Virtualise and Exchange.

Based on this framework, our research suggests that AI drones may offer a number of opportunities to unravel agricultural challenges, provide sustainable solutions and promote ethically conscious agricultural practices by addressing the ‘farm structure’, ‘food security’ and ‘environmental impact’ concerns, as depicted in the figure below:

Source: Drones ReSOLVE framework application from a 2021 paper in the ‘Journal of Cleaner Production’, co-authored by this article’s authors.

AI drones in agriculture

Prior studies have highlighted how industry 4.0 technologies, such as AI drones, can help minimise plant disease rates, using drone sensors that enable early detection.

Drone sensors can also help optimise the use of pesticides, for their ability to apply a precise amount of the required pesticide to specifically selected plants. By providing real data which can inform any decision to apply pesticides to a targeted crop, the drone is not just useful for the reduction of waste and pollution and the optimisation of economies of scales with regards to pesticide use and application, but also for facilitating the production of a healthier food produce – which is, of course, a more ethical practice befitting the health and safety framework.

Furthermore, AI drones are able to capture valuable data, such as temperature, moistness of soil leaf, level of precipitation and wind speed – data which is essential in keeping track of plant health and giving an indication of the amount of marketable produce.

The possibilities presented by AI-driven drones in capturing vast quantities of field data, in detecting diseases and in monitoring crops simply cannot be ignored, especially given the role of pesticide application in other barriers to the movement of cleaner agricultural production within the supply chain.

Because excessive pesticide hazards have an adverse impact on cleaner agricultural production, as well as on the movement of goods within the supply chain, it is vital for both agricultural producers and policymakers to explore ways to minimise their use and exposure. Equally, it is imperative that farmers and operational agricultural workers are aware of the underlying and interrelated role of excessive pesticide hazards in barriers afflicting the agricultural supply chain.



Dr Kamran Mahroof (left) is an Assistant Professor in Supply Chain Analytics and Programme Leader for the MSc in Applied Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics at the School of Management, University of Bradford, UK.

Dr Amizan Omar (right) is an Associate Professor in Strategic Management at the School of Management, University of Bradford, UK.

Shedding light on MBM admissions and delivery worldwide

Fibre optic lamp in neon pink with a deep blue background. Business Impact article on Shedding light on MBM admissions and delivery worldwide.

Exclusive AMBA & BGA research throws light on the performance of MBM programmes on offer at leading Business Schools across the world. Ellen Buchan delves into the details

A major driver behind students’ enrolment on master’s in business management (MBM) programmes is the desire to develop a better understanding of technology and its impact on management practices. This was a standout finding of AMBA & BGA’s study of application and enrolment data for MBM programmes around the world last year, as reported in Business Impact in February 2020. The significant demand for MBMs in India was another result highlighted in this research.   

A year on, and for the second iteration of this research, Business Impact was able to analyse data from Business Schools in relation to their MBM application and enrolment data from the calendar years of both 2018 and 2019. This offered a fresh opportunity to identify trends in the sector on a like-for-like basis. 

A total of 46 Schools – all of which are accredited by BGA’s sister organisation, the Association of MBAs (AMBA) – submitted MBM data for both 2018 and 2019, and it is the data from those Schools on which the following research is based. 

Continuing demand in India

Applications per Business School were up by 5% between 2018 and 2019 across all responding MBM programmes. There was no change in the volume of applications per programme received in the same timeframe.  

The sheer scale of demand for MBMs in India continues, as applications received by programmes in the south Asian country represented 88% of all applications to MBMs in 2019, worldwide. Applications in India, meanwhile, grew 10% per programme and 5% per School between 2018 and 2019. 

Elsewhere, Business Schools in the UK also reported a substantial increase, with applications up by 22% per programme and 34% per School between 2018 and 2019. Schools in the UK accounted for 3% of overall volume of MBM programme applications reported in 2019. 

Between 2018 and 2019, there were also rises in the number of students enrolling globally, by 5% per programme and 10% per School. MBMs in the UK reported the world’s largest increase in enrolments, with a 10% increase per programme and a 21% increase in enrolments per School. 

Blended learning on the rise

There was no significant change in the mode of delivery for MBM programmes between 2018 and 2019. Globally, the majority (83%) of AMBA-accredited Schools’ MBM programmes were taught in the classroom in 2019. Almost all of the remaining programmes were taught using a blended approach (16%) while 1% of programmes were delivered fully online in 2019. This represents a three-percentage point increase in the use of blended learning, at the expense of classroom delivery from 2018. 

In North America and the Caribbean, 92% of programmes included in the study were delivered using a blended approach in 2019. Among MBMs in Europe, the equivalent figure was 24%. This represents a four-percentage point increase in the use of blended learning in both these regions from 2018. 

Gender diversity in MBM programmes 

Globally, the proportion of women among those applying to MBM programmes in 2019 was 37% – an increase of one percentage point on 2018. The global enrolment rate was far more gender-balanced – 47% of those enrolling globally in 2019 were female, although this same figure was also applicable in 2018. Looking regionally, however, shows that Business Schools in India and Europe were the only Schools to enrol a minority of women on their MBM courses in 2019. In Europe, 48% of those enrolling identified as female, while the proportion among Schools in India was 33% – significantly lower, but an increase of three percentage points on the country’s equivalent figure for 2018. 

International and domestic applications and enrolments

More than nine out of 10 (95%) of applications to MBM programmes included in the study came from domestic students in 2019 – the vast majority. However, this global percentage hides significant variations between different countries and regions. Business Schools in India received 100% of applications from domestic students – pushing up the overall average. Even so, Schools based in China (including Hong Kong, China), Europe, and North America and the Caribbean, all received more than 80% of their MBM applications from domestic candidates. However, at Business Schools based in the UK and Oceania, the reverse was true, with 97% of applications to MBM programmes in each region coming from international applicants.

The global picture on MBM enrolment is quite different, with international students representing a third of all enrolments in 2019, up from 30% in 2018. As such, the conversion rate for international students was far higher in some regions than for domestic students. In Europe (excluding the UK), for example, international candidates represented 16% of applications, but 28% of those who enrolled. In North America and Caribbean, 10% of applications came from international applicants, but 19% of students enrolling were defined as international.


The news is positive for providers of MBMs from within the AMBA network. Although there was no growth in applications per programme, there was a notable rise of 5% in enrolments per programme.  

In addition, applications and enrolments to a Business School’s full portfolio of eligible degrees were up by 5% and 10%, respectively – a sign perhaps of the increasing number of study options on offer to prospective students and the extent to which these resonated with their intended audience, ahead of the turbulence of the year 2020.  


The AMBA & BGA Application and Enrolment Report 2020 outlines the current status of the MBA market. As part of the data compiled for the report, 58 AMBA-accredited Business Schools also provided data on their portfolio of master’s in business management programmes (commonly known as MBMs or MiMs). 

Of the 58 Schools that provided data on their master’s programmes in 2019, 46 had also supplied data for 2018 in the previous year, allowing for a year-on-year comparison between the same Schools. This analysis covered 140 programmes in 2019, rising from 133 programmes in 2018. MBM programmes in this like-for-like analysis were delivered at Business Schools based in the following locations: Europe (excluding the UK) (37%); the UK (28%); India (17%); China (including Hong Kong, China) (7%); North America and the Caribbean (4%); Oceania (4%); and Africa (2%). No data was collected from Schools in Asia (excluding India and China) and the Middle East.

This article is adapted from an original feature in Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: February-April 2021).



The business master’s degree: global application and enrolment outlook

Trends in application and enrolment figures for MBM programmes around the world as well as insight into the role of technology and India’s high demand. Will Dawes and Tim Banerjee Dhoul report

The biggest enrolment and cohort numbers for master’s in business management programmes (commonly known as MBMs, or MiMs) were found among Business Schools in Europe (excluding the UK) and India, according to data compiled for AMBA & BGA’s Application and Enrolment Report 2019. The data, which relates to the calendar year of 2018, also shows that India was a clear leader for application volume and competition for places when it comes to MBM programmes.

Applications to MBM programmes

India generated by far the largest number of applications for its MBM programmes (889,730) among the 55 AMBA-accredited Business Schools included in this new analysis for Business Impact. Together, these Schools offered a total of 174 MBM programmes in 2018. 

In India, the overall application volume equated to 98,859 applications per Business School and 42,368 applications per programme, and represented 83% of all applications to MBMs measured worldwide. The next highest proportion of applications was in Europe (excluding the UK). Applications to the region totalled 14% of the global figure, with findings equating to 7,419 applications per School and 2,248 applications per programme. The remaining MBM programmes made up just 3% of the overall application total.  

MBM enrolment in 2018

The majority of the 25,020 enrolments onto AMBA-accredited MBM programmes were in Europe (excluding the UK). There were 16,519 enrolments in the region, equating to 66% of the global total. India enrolled the second-highest number of students (3,945, or 16% of the global share). Meanwhile, Schools in the UK enrolled 2,759 students (11% of the global market of AMBA-accredited MBM programmes). There were much smaller shares of MBM enrolments in Latin America (4%), China (including Hong Kong, China) (1%) and Africa (1%). The regions of North America and the Caribbean, and Oceania, each comprised less than 1% of the global share of MBM enrolments (124 and 225, respectively).  

Programmes in Europe (excluding the UK) and India had the largest average cohort sizes (250 and 188 enrolees, respectively). Other regions had substantially smaller average programme sizes, the largest of which were in Oceania (75) and the UK (67). In descending order, the remaining regional average enrolees per programme were Latin America (50), Africa (43), China (including Hong Kong, China) (32) and North America and the Caribbean (12). 

MBM programme delivery 

MBM programmes offered by AMBA-accredited Schools in 2018 were typically delivered in a physical classroom setting (89% of all programmes), while 10% were conducted in a blended format and 1% were offered fully online. It should be noted that not all Schools in our sample provided data on the format of study, meaning that these statistics should be treated with a degree of caution. Nevertheless, the findings offer an indication that blended MBM programmes were more common among those on offer in North America and the Caribbean (70%) and in Europe (excluding the UK) (15%). In the remaining regions, all programmes were delivered exclusively in the classroom, other than in the UK, in which the equivalent figure was 98%.

Gender diversity on MBM programmes  

Overall, almost two fifths of applicants to MBM programmes in AMBA & BGA’s sample were women (37%), while more than three fifths were men (63%). Although there is some variation throughout the world, the global proportion of women who applied to an MBM programme was substantially skewed by the large number of Indian applicants overall. Women applying to programmes in India made up a third (34%) of all applicants in the country and had a large impact on the overall proportion of female applicants worldwide. Indeed, when India is excluded from the global figure, the average proportions of male and female applicants were equal (50% each). 

Looking at individual regions, India’s proportion of female applicants was the world’s lowest, and only Latin America (38%), Africa (47%) and Europe (excluding the UK) (49%) had a minority of female applicants for MBM programmes among AMBA-accredited Schools in 2018. There were more female than male applicants in the UK (53% of applicants were women), North America and the Caribbean (64%), China (including Hong Kong, China) (67%) and Oceania (69%).  

Globally, there was a slightly more equal split when looking at the gender balance of those who enrolled on MBM programmes in 2018 – 54% of those enrolling worldwide were men, and 46% were women. The proportion of women enrolling increases slightly, to 48%, when India is excluded from the global analysis. MBM programmes in India were again below the global average, with women making up 31% of those enrolling. In some other regions, female enrolees were in the majority. This included North America and the Caribbean (55%), Africa (58%) and China (including Hong Kong, China) (66%).

International and domestic
applications and enrolments

Applications from individuals based in the country in which an MBM programme was offered made up 95% of global MBM applications. However, this figure falls to 70% when excluding results from programmes in India, to which all applications came from domestic candidates. In addition to India, regions with large proportions of domestic applicants included Latin America (94%), North America and the Caribbean (88%), China (including Hong Kong, China) (88%), Europe (excluding the UK) (81%) and Africa (62%). In contrast, applications from overseas comprised the great majority in the UK (97%) and Oceania (86%). 

Seven in 10 (71%) enrolments were domestically based, a figure which drops to 67% when excluding India, in which all enrolments were from within the country. The balance between domestic and international enrolments followed a similar pattern to applications, albeit with some
small variances. China (including Hong Kong, China) and Africa had higher domestic enrolments than applications (88% and 62% of enrolments, respectively, were domestic).  Meanwhile, Oceania and Europe (excluding the UK) had a slightly higher proportion of international enrolments than applications (91% and 25%, respectively). 

A UK Business School leader who wished to remain anonymous commented that the influence of students from China is a significant factor in the overall demand for MBMs, and most notably in terms of the demand among international students. ‘There is certainly increased demand from China, which is probably due to the number of individuals wanting to get an overseas qualification.’ 

Survey sample and background to MBM analysis 

AMBA & BGA’s recently released Application and Enrolment Report 2019 outlines the current status of the AMBA-accredited MBA market. The report describes the growth in both MBA applications and enrolments at AMBA-accredited Business Schools, much of which was driven by increased demand in China (including Hong Kong, China). The study highlighted that, despite the geopolitical and economic pressures in the global economy, AMBA-accredited Business Schools are performing strongly. 

As part of the data compiled for the report, 55 AMBA-accredited Business Schools also provided data on a range of master’s in business management programmes (commonly known as MBMs, or MiMs). These generalist, post-graduate, and predominantly pre-experience, degrees are most often designed to provide a thorough grounding in the theoretical fundamentals of management, accompanied by substantial practical input. As such, it typically provides a foundation for individuals starting a career in management and has been identified as a particular area of interest for members of the Business Graduates Association (BGA), which aims to ensure graduates of all levels of business education commence their careers with a firm understanding and appreciation of the principles of responsible management, positive impact and lifelong learning.   

MBM programmes analysed in this report were delivered at Schools in the following locations: Europe (excluding the UK) (36%); the UK (25%); India (16%); China (including Hong Kong, China) (7%); North America and the Caribbean (5%); Latin America (4%); Oceania (4%); and Africa (2%). This is the first year in which AMBA & BGA has conducted a separate analysis of MBM programmes offered by AMBA-accredited Business Schools responding to its annual Application and Enrolment Report. In the future, we would like to track trends in this dataset over time and, where possible, incorporate the admissions experiences of BGA Schools. 

To learn more about AMBA & BGA’s research projects and to access recent reports, including the Application and Enrolment Report 2019, please visit: www.businessgraduatesassociation.com/about-us/research 

Exploring the digital marketing revolution

To create and communicate superior customer value, marketers must now combine traditional advertising with social and digital tools, argues American marketing guru Philip Kotler, in an interview with David Woods-Hale

You’ve written Marketing 4.0? What has changed since Marketing 3.0 was published in 2010?

Marketing is undergoing a digital revolution. We published Marketing 3.0 seven years ago to help companies broaden their view of how computers and the internet impact marketing theory and practice. We stressed the importance of meeting the needs of women, young people, and ‘netizens’ in carrying out company marketing activities. 

Today there is a need to pay attention to the growing role of social and digital media. Social media – such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat – create an increasingly connected world and they stimulate greater communications and sales to a wider world. Digital media is enabling artificial intelligence (AI) and the ‘internet of things’ (I0T) and increasing the rate at which robotisation and automation is penetrating business. Our aim in Marketing 4.0 is to illustrate the growing role and impact of digital marketing. I’ve also described this ‘new marketing’ in my 15th edition of Marketing Management

How can Marketing 4.0 help in bringing marketers up to date with the current skills required – from traditional to digital?

In the past, consumers made purchase decisions largely in retail outlets, whether in an auto dealership or in a large department store. Some consumers also used the telephone or mail order catalogues. Today, a growing number of consumers are making more of their purchases online via online retailers. In-store retailing is facing a major decline: witness, in the US, the news of Macy’s closing many stores, clothing store The Limited going out of business and shopping centres in deep trouble. 

Consumers still go into stores to sample and touch the product and then use their smartphone to see if they can a better deal elsewhere. Many retail shops are evolving into ‘showrooms’, partly charged by the company to its advertising budget. Business-to-business transactions are being increasingly conducted with digital media. Most companies list their product catalogues on the internet. Purchasing agents are happy to compare prices on the internet and are less interested in accepting sales calls. All this points to the need for companies to acquire social and digital skills before they are outclassed by more sophisticated digital competitors.

You describe ‘shifting power dynamics’ in the market. Can you explain this in more detail? 

Power has been shifting from the advertising giants who used 30-second commercials to inform and persuade consumers, to savvy consumers – who rely on their friends and acquaintances, plus online product ratings, to make their brand choices. Power has moved from companies to consumers. Companies must now develop fresh pictures of how consumers journey toward making their final purchases. It’s no longer a journey from a 30-second commercial to a purchase but from a stimulus on the internet, or from a friend, to a search for further information, to a purchase. Marketing 4.0 discusses the key steps in consumer journeys and the various touch points that will have an impact on the final purchase decision.

You explain how the rules of marketing regularly change, but this time the very customers have changed – and this is revolutionary – can you talk a bit more about this?

The basic maxim of marketing hasn’t changed. Decide on the consumer need your company wants to meet and the individuals who strongly have this need. Create a solution that meets this consumer need better than any competitor can meet it. See your job as one of creating superior customer value and communicating this value in a superior way.

What is revolutionary is the need for the company to incorporate social and digital tools to carry out this work. Companies need to collect ‘big data’ about individual consumers who have specific needs and apply sophisticated marketing analytics to arrive at consumer insights that can be converted into compelling consumer value propositions.

How do cyclical trends in the economy affect marketers? More specifically, if demand-led growth is on the decline, what single marketing effort is the most important to avoiding a loyal consumer defecting to a competitor?

Buyer behaviour obviously changes in times of market growth versus market decline. When a recession, or a fear of recession, occurs, consumers will intelligently reduce their expenditure and move towards lower-cost products. Every competitor will have a choice: increase the value of the offer, or cut the price of the offer. Normally it makes sense for the company to retain the price and better document and confirm the offer’s superior customer value. If superior value doesn’t exist, the company either has to add more value (for example, free shipment) or cut its price.

Do you think the original elements of the traditional marketing mix will still be relevant in 10 years’ time? 

The marketer’s main toolkit remains the 4Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) and STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning). Each of these elements undergoes modernisation all the time. Product includes packaging, as well as service products. Place is being redefined into omni-channel marketing but it is still place. Promotion is including digital and social communication alongside print and broadcast media. I would welcome a new marketing framework if it promised to address marketing decision problems in a more decisive way. Until then, most companies will use the traditional framework in preparing their marketing plans.

How will creative and media agencies need to evolve over the next five years to keep up with the pace of technology? 

The agency of the future will develop skills in both traditional and digital advertising. This would be better than hiring separate traditional and digital agencies because companies must connect traditional and digital advertising. A 30-second commercial may need to include a digital address showing where viewers can go for more information. The job of the ‘full-service agency’ is to find synergies between the two types of communication, so that 2 + 2 = 5, not 4.

Do you think that the chief marketing officer (CMO) role will be replaced by a combination of chief tech officer and chief analyst, or is this still a viable career path?

I’d like the CMO position to continue to manage the integration of all the elements that will impact on customer demand. The CMO should spend at least 50% of their time working with the other ‘chiefs’ in the company. The real value of the CMO will be realised when he or she is included in all the strategy planning. It would be unwise to confine marketing to designing tactical moves. The CMO is in the best position to foresee where the particular market is going economically and technologically. The CMO’s staff must include an excellent digital person and technology person. 

Do you think marketing and HR may evolve into one business function, as people leadership and organisational branding become increasingly connected, with shared goals and purposes?

I would prefer the heads of marketing and HR to work very closely together but remain separate functions. The CMO is highly interested in seeing that HR hires very service-minded people. In the hotel business, Marriott says that the first job is to hire the right employees and then the customers will come. The CMO should support the HR person to gain a sufficient budget to hire excellent employees, not just average employees. The evidence is strong that excellent employees have a productivity impact that is several times that of average employees.  

Do you think that zero-based budgeting for marketing, based on the Unilever example, will be widely adopted, to make marketing entirely accountable? How can value be measured throughout all channels since tracking is harder offline? 

Zero-based budgeting for marketing means starting each year with no budget allocated to marketing, until marketers propose specific marketing spend – along with the evidence that results will exceed costs. This is in contrast to normal budget setting where the budgets of the past year are the starting point, raised or lowered slightly. We acknowledge that some past marketing expenditures were not productive, and that from time to time, it is worth reviewing each major budget item to decide whether it should be eliminated, decreased or increased. 

The problem with zero-based budgeting for marketing is two-fold. Many campaigns need continuity and they shouldn’t be cut off before they have achieved their full impact. 

Also, it is increasingly difficult to assess the financial impact of a particular digital tool or a particular marketing channel in an increasingly complex and interactive world. 

Zero-based budgeting is a highly impractical tool for yearly budgeting. However, I grant that it could raise marketing efficiency by being introduced every few years.

Do you believe leaders across all disciplines and functions need to change their mindsets to succeed in a volatile world? 

Today’s world is increasingly characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Donald Trump’s election as US President has greatly contributed to VUCA. If Hillary Clinton had been elected (she won the popular vote by 3 million votes), we would arguably not be in a VUCA world. Events would have taken their normal course and businesses would carry normal expectations. 

But Trump sends out tweets in the middle of the night, many of which attack companies, journalists, judges, pollsters, or the voters themselves. These attacks are a sign of paranoia. Many business leaders have to think twice about any move for fear that the president will call them. Consumers are worried about their health benefits and they are no longer certain about social security and Medicare. They, and businesses, are spending their money more carefully, which slows down economic growth.

My answer to that? Business leaders must change their mindsets, in light of Trump’s erratic behaviour; he issues executive orders almost daily. His behaviour has been copied by populist leaders abroad with the effect of introducing even more instability into the world economy. 

Are there marketing skills that all MBA students and graduates need to thrive in a VUCA business world?

Most Business programmes are training their students in social and digital skills. They are also making students more aware of the effects of climate change. Professors are increasingly criticising shareholder value as the measure of business success and replacing it with stakeholder value as a more comprehensive measure of business performance. Marketing students graduate with a broader view of the factors that affect corporate image and reputation than previous Business School graduates. 

And finally, do you feel optimistic about business adaptability as the
world becomes more uncertain but also more connected? 

Business literature increasingly emphasises company agility and responsiveness to rapidly changing conditions. Companies need to monitor technological trends, political debates, and economic issues. Companies such as Unilever, Starbucks and Amazon show incredible business adaptability. But many companies are still coasting and need a few more shocks to wake up. My hope is that an increasing number of companies recognise that growing income inequality will hurt, not help them, and that they need to take a more expansive customer benefit and welfare view of what makes an economy strong.

Philip Kotler is the SC Johnson & Son Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Professor Kotler received his Master’s Degree at the University of Chicago and his PhD Degree at MIT, both in economics, conducting post-doctoral work in mathematics at Harvard University and in behavioural science at the University of Chicago.

He is the author of 57 books and has published more than 150 articles in leading journals. He was the first recipient of the American Marketing Association’s ‘Distinguished Marketing Educator Award’ (1985) and has received a host of other accolades, being inducted into the Management Hall of Fame in 2013. 

Kotler has consulted for such companies as IBM, General Electric, AT&T, Honeywell, Bank of America, and Merck in marketing strategy and planning, marketing organisation and international marketing. He has travelled throughout Europe, Asia and South America advising companies on applying economic and marketing science principles to increase competitiveness, and governments on developing the skill sets and resources of their companies for global competition.

He has been Chairman of the College of Marketing of the Institute of Management Sciences, Director of the American Marketing Association, is a member of the Board of Governors of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and of the Advisory Board of the Drucker Foundation. 

He has received a number of honorary doctoral degrees from several international organisations.  

Leaders never stop learning

Andrew Main Wilson, CEO of the Business Graduates Association, launches Business Impact and outlines the mission and vision of the organisation

Thank you for taking the time to read Business Impact, our very first edition of the magazine which will discuss many of the issues that form the DNA of the biggest ever brand launch in our 52-year history – the Business Graduates Association. 

We were originally founded in 1967 as the Business Graduates Association, before rebranding as AMBA – the Association of MBAs – in 1987, to focus more specifically on accrediting the world’s leading MBA and masters in general management Business School programmes, while also providing membership to AMBA Schools’ students and graduates. 

Now, in 2019, we are relaunching this powerful brand name, which will stand out in a business education market full of difficult-to-remember brand name acronyms. 

Our vision is very clear. BGA will champion the crucial importance of lifelong learning, selecting Business Schools as members who clearly demonstrate a passion for practical, entrepreneurial business education and an evident commitment to social responsibility and sustainability, across all their programme modules. 

BGA will focus on providing membership, validation and accreditation across the entire programme portfolios of high-quality Business Schools. We will also offer free individual BGA membership to the students and alumni
of our BGA Schools. 

Geographically, we will encourage membership from some of the world’s most sophisticated Business Schools, through to inspirational Business Schools in some of the world’s poorest countries, who can demonstrate admirable evidence in making a real difference to the future of their countries’ economies.

I have been very fortunate in interviewing some of the world’s greatest business and political leaders, from Bill Gates to Lady Thatcher, to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They all share at least one common belief: the best way to increase fair wealth distribution and improve the quality of people’s lives worldwide, is through better education. Ultimately in life, whether a country is capitalist or communist, a democracy or a dictatorship, business funds society. So better business education for all is right at the forefront of improving our world. 

This vision is the driving force behind BGA’s launch. We look forward to welcoming you to the BGA family and making a real difference worldwide to the education of our current and future business leaders. 

Nurturing a vibrant research culture

Business Schools face a range of challenges in developing faculty members that benefit both the staff and the School. Frederik Anseel and Suzanne Marcuzzi consider how a culture of research can impact attraction and retention 

Do you want to know the truth? You can’t handle the truth!’ In the famous interrogation scene in the hit film A Few Good Men, Col Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) paints himself as the last line of defence, allowing citizens to live their lives, rise and sleep under a protective blanket of freedom.

This quote encapsulates how we sometimes see our role in leading the research activities at King’s Business School, Kings College London. 

There is a harsh world out there, with tight budgets; students with high expectations; and increasingly competitive ranking systems. We try to sheild our faculty from this truth as much as possible, so they can pursue their research undisturbed and in complete freedom. 

For us, while the external factors matter, high-quality research matters just as much. 


At the heart of this ideal is our vision of academic research: we have an authentic and deep-lived conviction that is it the intellectual curiosity and intrinsic motivation of researchers that drive scientific progress. The people make the place. 

For us, all the rest – attraction and retention, grant income, publications, citations, business impact – flows from this central principle; a principle that needs to be nurtured, protected and prioritised. 

Most scholars have chosen this career because they aspire to make important contributions to our collective understanding of organisations. This is typically also the reason why they have joined us and why they stay at King’s Business School. And it is the fundament of our research policy: for academics to have the intellectual freedom to pursue their ideas to contribute to – or change – the conversation in their domain. It is the very essence of what we do and it cannot be compromised. 

We are not naive in pursuing this. Our research policies have to accommodate diverging perspectives and to recognise the many pressures that our academics face. On the following pages, we describe how we manage trade-offs and try to develop and maintain a vibrant research culture.

A different type of Business School

Starting a new Business School provides a unique-but-challenging opportunity. While we build upon the strong legacy of the Department of Management and Business at King’s, and while there is a lot enthusiasm around us, we have had to think carefully about our positioning. 

Business and society have undergone profound disruptions, transforming the way we live, work, consume and learn. There is heightened scrutiny of business and societal ethics with consequences for data privacy and security, people management and stakeholder engagement. As a new Business School, we aim to respond to these societal shifts through research.

We aim to address complex problems with fresh perspectives and innovative collaborations that transcend traditional academic boundaries and that employ data in novel ways. 

Embeddedness in the university

King’s Business School is part of King’s College London, one of the oldest universities in the UK and part of the Russell Group of leading research universities. 

While the Business School is a separate faculty, we seek to maintain strong links with the eight other faculty at King’s and to benefit from and contribute to the strong research tradition at King’s. 

These are not mere words. King’s College lives and breathes research. When you walk through London’s city centre, you pass King’s College London buildings with posters of Nobel Prize winners and world-famous researchers. Informal conversations with colleagues from other faculties typically turn towards research interests and the unintended benefits of casual conversations with colleagues from outside your own discipline cannot be underestimated.

Many leading collaborations arise from a chance encounter. 

Faculty and university leaders are all established researchers who stay research-active throughout their leadership mandates. The university research culture is so fundamental that nearly all academic
staff, including our teaching fellows, have doctoral qualifications. 

Within the Business School, we cherish the multi-disciplinary foundations of King’s. When hiring, we often pay specific attention to the backgrounds of candidates and their potential links with other disciplines in our university. We encourage our staff to join multi-disciplinary networks within the university and apply for internal grants in cross-faculty teams.

Research quality

The Business School research landscape is dominated by publications in a small set of elite economics and management journals. We do not believe it would create a healthy research climate to tie direct monetary incentives to such publications. Sometimes excellent research contributions are best served by being published in niche journals and given our multi-disciplinary foundations, we encourage staff also to publish their work in disciplinary journals in psychology, sociology, and other social sciences. 

Of course, we do encourage our staff to pursue excellence in research and to push the frontiers of knowledge, and this often happens in those top journals. Publishing in well-respected journals is not easy. In 2014, US-based academics Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich, estimated that an A-journal publication equates to about $400,000USD of investment in faculty time and research support. 

However, because of the visibility and impact, we value and encourage research published in leading journals and we support our staff to pursue research suitable for publication in this elite set.

Establishing an international reputation of research excellence requires that we embed this focus on conducting world-class research early on in PhD programmes and emphasise this consistently in our research policies, performance management and hiring practices.

We maintain a system with low teaching loads when compared to international benchmarks and focus on quality of publications over quantity. Research into scholarly impact in the strategy field has shown that those who write fewer but high-quality papers earlier in their careers go on to write fewer but high-quality papers later in their careers as well. Research groups organise meetings to discuss manuscript development and help those conducting early career research navigate the sometimes very lengthy revision process. Most of our senior staff hold editor and editorial board appointments at leading journals, which helps us to mentor junior staff and to establish a culture of research excellence. 

We’re also always seeking new ways to enrich our research culture. We have established a Distinguished Visiting Professor programme to bring leading international researchers to King’s Business School for short visits to help build international research networks and to ensure we’re always engaging with fresh perspectives. 

Research with impact

Our goal is to create an environment in which responsible research can thrive. We encourage our staff to produce credible and reliable knowledge which can be used to address, either directly or indirectly, problems of importance to both business and society. This isn’t just about rigorous and relevant research. We aim for academic research that allows for actionable knowledge – ‘science you can use’. It is research that provokes further reading, sharing, discussion, experimentation, and use in practice, aiming ultimately to transform business and society. Our external engagement team actively approaches staff to distil the actionable knowledge from fundamental research and to take initiatives that bring us closer to the business community. 

This sort of connected research takes time and energy. We have introduced a policy that reduces teaching loads for staff members pursuing projects which have the potential to make a significant impact on business and society. We are also working towards greater connectivity with the business community, engaging with stakeholders early on in research projects to co-develop research questions and co-design studies. Our three research centres focus not only on world-leading research but business-driven research with impact. We are also developing a ‘thought-leadership’ seminar series for executives, in which an influential scholar presents research results highly relevant to a specific business community and asks for their input and feedback. This is also a way of continuing to build our networks: asking for advice is often a good way of stimulating interest and involvement. We’re now also encouraging our staff to publish more frequently in practice-orientated outlets such as Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review

Research environment

We try to create an environment that supports researchers’ intrinsic motivation, but also provides them with a sense of direction and progress. Each of our subject groups is led by a head of group. The heads of group, along with other senior staff, shape the climate of the group by signalling and modelling specific priorities relative to other competing goals. They are closely involved in developing the strategic direction of the School, as well as setting specific goals for their groups. By coming up with a shared vision and strategy, we try to be consistent and explicit about what we value in the stories we tell, in the decisions we make, and in the achievements we celebrate. Given the strong internal research drive of academics, managing the environment is sometimes more about removing obstacles and making things easier. Key to effective research support is the reduction or removal of administrative burdens, straightforward access to financial resources (for example, personal research allowances and seed-funding schemes), a good research infrastructure and travel opportunities. 

Even more fundamental to our research environment are strong, supportive working relationships, an inclusive climate, clear role expectations, psychological safety, and closeness to partner organisations. 

We know our academic colleagues can ‘handle the truth’: they know the pressures facing modern universities. But we see it as our role to create space and time to allow staff to focus on one of the core reasons they’re here – and one of the main reasons they chose this career path: rigorous research which serves to educate, challenge and change. 

Federik Anseel is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Vice
Dean of Research, and Suzanne Marcuzzi is Research Development Manager at King’s Business School.

Mind the poverty gap: how the most progressive Business Schools in the world are trying to help close it

The best Business Schools are responding to the global poverty crisis by opening themselves up to helping those with fewer opportunities. Will Dawes reports on BGA’s exclusive new research into the topic

The United Nations reports that 783 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90USD a day. This means that more than one in every 10 people on this planet struggle to access the most basic human needs such as clean water, healthcare and education. 

Many millions more live just above this ‘line’, struggling to make ends meet, but without hope of building a more prosperous future. 

For these individuals, upward social mobility is not a realistic aspiration. Instead, excessively poor working conditions and anxiety around surviving on their limited resources dictate their lives. They cannot afford to invest
money or time to obtain the skills they need to exploit opportunities that may arise, and even when they can, their local economy does not enable them to prosper. 

As a global Business School community, we should reach out beyond the walls of our institutions and address the most important issues facing our society, especially when these relate so closely to why we do business: to provide a living for ourselves and those around us in a global marketplace. 

The economy is not serving the poorest people, so Business Schools have a duty to understand how business can work for society and influence those who can implement management changes for the better. In this same respect, Business Schools have a duty to also train and teach those who cannot afford to enrol onto their programmes. 

The most progressive Business Schools are responding to this challenge by opening themselves up to helping those with fewer opportunities and researching ways in which doing business can help those with less. 

As part of BGA’s mission, we want to highlight how Business Schools around the world are working to alleviate poverty, conducting research that covers case studies of three Business Schools initially, and highlights their work – and its impact – to boost opportunities to some of the poorest in society. 

This work does not come without tangible challenges, such as financial capacity, the School’s scope of influence, and systematic barriers within the economy. But our case studies highlight the progress these projects have made in helping those who are disadvantaged work towards a more prosperous future.

This BGA research is just the start of the Business Graduates Association’s goal to understand the Business School’s contribution to society.

AMBA and CLADEA are conducting more research into how Business Schools address poverty in their teaching and faculties, both in terms of further case studies and through a short survey of Business School professionals and MBAs. If you would like to participate in this study get in touch with me (Will Dawes) regarding the work of your Business School (w.dawes@businessgraduatesassociation.com). 

Local community of social entrepreneurs

Ndileka Zantsi, Programme Co-ordinator at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) outlines its work in the community to produce social entrepreneurs of the future.

The UCT GSB opened a new teaching and research site – the Solution Space Hub – in Philippi, an impoverished community, located in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa, in 2016. The hub is an ecosystem for early-stage startups and a research and development platform for corporates to experiment with emerging business models, with a tangible connection to the wider community. 

This year, the GSB Solution Space, in partnership with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has incubated two cohorts of 10 entrepreneurs enrolled on the Impact Venture Incubation Programme (IVIP) for a three-month period to help them build viable and scalable innovation-driven companies. We emphasise social impact when selecting projects to support, ranging from personal and industry training to products and services, which are accessible and affordable to those in less affluent neighbourhoods in and around Cape Town. Examples of current projects of entrepreneurs enrolled onto the programme include initiatives setting up a low-cost open-air cinema; designing an intuitive learning app for secondary school children, and training young people to narrate and edit their own stories. 

The first month typically consists of exploring the customer base for the entrepreneur’s products or services, the second month is about developing the products or services to make them desirable to the consumer, and the third teaches the entrepreneur about making the products or services viable. After the three months, we provide post-programme support to ensure that entrepreneurs can continue to have access to a range of resources such as the co-working space, advisory services, practical learning clinics, weekly check-ins, staff advisors, and a community of peers who can learn and grow together. 

Programme facilitators include current MBA students and UCT GSB alumni who teach on a pro bono basis. 

The programme also pairs entrepreneurs with mentors, who are relevant industry experts, including our alumni. We have learnt from experience that the best time for the pairings is during months two or three. We are mindful of the entrepreneur’s background, and flexible around the timeframes for integrating entrepreneurs with their mentors.

In addition to providing education, advice and guidance, the programme also assists entrepreneurs with physical resources, where possible, to get their enterprise off the ground. This includes free access to a computer lab, office space, meeting rooms and a conferencing venue for running workshops or events. There have been substantial challenges we have had to overcome along the way, including issues we were not able to anticipate. Something we did not foresee was the emotional support we would need to
provide entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs here often experience tough situations in their personal lives, which, along with starting a business, can lead to mental health issues. 

As a programme, we did not have the means to provide this support, but have been able to reach out to the university’s psychology department which now provides the support and advice pro bono

We also provide food and transport for those entrepreneurs who may not have the financial means to afford these in order to attend the requisite sessions and spend time during the day interacting and learning from one another. This is something we did not budget for initially, but we deemed it necessary in order to guarantee the presence of the entrepreneurs for the
full three-month period.  

The benefits of the programme are wide-ranging. Perhaps most
importantly, it has made being an entrepreneur desirable for a lot more people in the community. 

It is seen as a pathway that is achievable, one in which people can be successful and do good for others in society. As such, it has increased the reputation of entrepreneurship. 

In the most recent cohort there were 61 applications for 15 spaces. But the areas of personal development are also significant. People have been able to develop transferable skills, scale their businesses, and provide employment for others in the community.

ESPAE’s academic research into how supply chains can be improved in Ecuadorian farming

Jorge Rodriguez, Assistant Professor at ESPAE Graduate School of Management, describes how his research into training smallholder farmers and urban micro-retailers about how they can operate more efficiently could benefit both low-income producers and consumers.

Companies across the globe want to increase sales in developing markets – including Ecuador and other countries in Latin America – but they face problems in doing this effectively due to high transaction costs, poor infrastructure and institutional voids such as appropriate financial systems. In Ecuador, for example, 80% of farmers are small scale. This means they often do not have the economies of scale to invest in efficient technology, are physically and digitally distant from both the manufacturers and consumers, and do not have access to the latest training methods to improve their production and distribution potential. 

As part of my research role at ESPAE, which focuses on CSR, sustainability and stakeholder management, I am evaluating how a particular education training programme, funded by the Ecuadorian Agriculture Ministry, can make a measurable difference to the ways in which low-production farmers distribute their profits. 

We are hoping that this training programme will benefit the farmers and their families. The research project tests whether the training programmes enhance farmers’ productivity and multi-dimensional poverty. The evaluation finds that training programmes enhance the productivity and reduce poverty of smallholder farmers, yet the scale of the programme is low. In this regard, the research informs policymakers on the appropriate mechanism to foster agricultural development.

The training covers a broad spectrum of issues, including informing farmers about ways in which they can overcome crop-yield problems, integrate better with suppliers and ensure they connect better and become more responsive to market demands. It is hard for these farmers to be better integrated into value chains, however, because they lack access to the formal economy, banking and medical services, education, and technology such as the internet or mobile phones. So, as a Business School, we see helping these farmers as a strategic priority. It is the right thing to do for these producers, who are currently on the fringes of economic innovation, yet are central to the workings of a large sector of the economy and low-income consumers. 

My research project does not come without substantial challenges. For example, I am unable to identify participating farmers, meaning that I need to control for areas which do and do not receive the training, rather than specific farms. 

There are also wider challenges around how we can get governments and firms to work better together to ensure that the training, if deemed successful, is rolled out more widely. As such, there are communication issues associated with ensuring that the findings of my
research are exposed to influential individuals, and that these findings are
acted on.

In this respect, as a Business School community, we require greater collaboration both in terms of how we explore and evaluate business solutions, and how we communicate our findings to legislators and the marketplace. 

Business Schools need to approach local media in order to shout about the importance of our findings. We need to engage local authorities, stakeholders, and invite firms to talk about the topic, in order to have further tangible impact. A central issue we have is that Business School staff are incentivised in terms of teaching objectives, faculty goals and
cohort intakes, but are not challenged enough to help and support organisations and people directly. 

The sector needs to rise to this by up-skilling academics to become mainstream communicators of their work. 

In the future, there also needs to be an increase in engagement between
professors and students on this topic, because together we can make an
impact around reducing poverty in our world. Farmers need to form co-operatives to consolidate its integration into value chains. Yet, there are few
people with administrative skills in rural areas. 

I think Business School can contribute to changing this reality. We can work
with students on live cases to enhance the administrative skills of farmers’ co-operatives, and rural organisations. 

Leadership and Management Programme for future leaders

Dr Ijeoma Nwagwu, Manager of the Sustainability Centre at Lagos Business School, talks about her School’s programme to enhance the management skills of future leaders working in NGOs.

I work as part of the management faculty in the areas of strategy and sustainability, so I am interested in engaging on topics of responsible management and economic development. I manage Lagos Business School’s Sustainability centre. 

The activity areas for the centre include research, capacity building and stakeholder engagement. Our activities focus on the themes of corporate sustainability (helping businesses become a force for good), social entrepreneurship and sustainable infrastructure. 

We deliver a leadership and management programme that we co-created with the Ford Foundation to develop a pipeline of young leaders. The programme aims to bring young leaders from the NGO and social enterprise ecosystem into the Business School to work out innovative ways to tackle poverty through their work. We enrol up to 100 leaders annually and they come from organisations that focus on a range of sustainable development issues such as gender, agriculture, health and children, and the environment. This programme focuses on equipping young leaders with practical knowledge of business fundamentals, social innovation and leadership effectiveness in an increasingly complex world.

The whole idea behind the programme is leadership development for young people in NGOs, who have an opportunity to put those skills into practice to advance impact in the social sector. Our purpose is to develop 100 leaders a year, providing them with a platform to hone their leadership skills through experiential learning and to develop networks with others in the space to facilitate peer-to-peer learning. I believe this engagement in the journey of learning to be invaluable, as at the heart of poverty is a lack of knowledge. 

The role of the Business School is to contribute to knowledge generation and community building on issues around poverty.

From the teaching perspective, we need to make sure that young leaders understand their roles and are appropriately equipped to solve social problems. On the research and documentation side, our faculty is developing a handbook on NGO leadership and management in Africa.

The scope of the Lagos Business School’s work reaches beyond this programme. We are beginning to make a substantial impact with our work. What we know is that more than 40% of local adults are operating outside the formal financial system with negative consequences in their ability to save, manage life’s shocks through insurance, debt and other modern financial services. Therefore, the School has run a project on sustainable and inclusive digital financial services which, through research and advocacy, supports the financial sector with the necessary knowledge to build financial products that mirror the life experience of the poor. The ultimate aim is to provide poor people with greater access to improved financial services so they can thrive.  

Although Business Schools can be seen as part of the establishment, we are not bound by stereotypes. Our vision of a Business School is one that is inclusive, that connects people from different sectors and backgrounds, to develop socially responsible leaders to solve the most pressing social and economic problems. 

The reality of our Business School is that we bring people together from a range of industries, linking them to learn and grow for a better society. 

Translate »