Monday was the first day of school for MBA 2011. MBA 2011 has 149 students representing 40 nationalities (more than 40 if you include dual nationalities). Their average age is 29.6 years and they have on average 6.5 years of work experience. Women make up 29% of the class.
This year’s class represents a drop in numbers compared to MBA 2010, which had 167 students. This reduction in numbers was a conscious decision on our part in January when we saw the latest figures indicated that there was a global drop in the number of GMAT test-takers. Although we ourselves were unaffected in terms of application numbers which remained the same compared to last year, we felt then that the overall pool of good candidates would drop. In order to maintain and even enhance the quality of our MBA class, we have therefore reduced the number of students to the level from three years ago.
This reduction in class size has given us some benefits. We have switched back to two streams of students for the core classes, which should mean that students will get to know every one in the class fairly well after two terms. In the last two years when we ran three streams, it was difficult for students to know everyone even though we changed their groups every term, simply because there were more fragmented groups. I am also interested to see if having two larger streams would create a more dynamic environment compared to three smaller ones in our core classes. Having a stream size of about 75 students is also comparable to the core class size of other top-ranked MBA programs.
It will be interesting to see how other MBA programmes fare in their intakes for this year. I have not had a chance to compare notes with my colleagues from other schools but I expect that they will face the same situation of a contracting quality MBA pool. The key difference would be how each program responds to that decline. There will be some schools who, like Cambridge, take the long-term view and adjust their class size to maintain the quality of their pool. But there may well be other schools who, for whatever reason, choose to maintain or even increase their classes. While that might not necessarily mean that they are lowering their admission standards, it will be quite instructive to compare the employment data of graduates from schools that have taken different approaches in light of the smaller MBA pool.