Trends in the provision and popularity of business school programmes


The Chartered ABS has published a new report on ‘Trends in the provision and popularity of business school programmes’ based on qualitative research with senior staff within Chartered ABS members and supplemented by HESA data on trends in enrolments by subject over the last six years. The project was commissioned in response to requests from Chartered ABS members for a detailed analysis as to the Business & Management subjects that are growing or declining in popularity and follows on from last year’s detailed analysis of the number of leavers from specific postgraduate courses in UK business schools.

The research participants were drawn from a diverse group of seven UK business schools, including from London, the Midlands, the North-West, the South-East, Scotland and Wales. Four of the participating schools are post-1992 institutions and three pre-1992. An initial set of interviews were conducted with the participants at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, and a series of follow-up interviews were held in the summer of 2020 to discuss the changed context resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Download the report here

The following topics are covered in the report:

  • Factors shaping business school portfolios
  • Working across faculty in the design and delivery of programmes
  • Popularity of Business & Management subjects, including by nationality of student
  • The emergence of new subjects in response to changes in the economy and employer needs
  • Student recruitment
  • The possible implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for the future of UK business schools

We hope that this report will prove a valuable resource to those responsible for shaping their school’s course provision to the changing needs of employers and the evolving preferences of future students.

Key findings

  • Business schools are responding to changes within the economy by launching courses in several new areas, including Business Analytics, Digital Marketing, Fashion, and Real Estate. It is anticipated that business schools will increasingly embed digitisation and sustainability within their programmes. Artificial Intelligence, Coding, Cyber Security, Fintech and the Creative Industries are seen as areas to watch in the coming years.
  • Most of the core Business & Management subjects remain in demand and growth in enrolments has been particularly strong for Finance, Marketing and Management Studies over the last six years. The only subjects to have seen a fall in enrolments over this period are HRM and Hospitality, Leisure, sport, tourism & transport.
  • Students are tending to select more specialised courses within Business & Management as these are seen as representing a more defined career path, particularly in subjects related to Accounting & Finance and Finance more widely.
  • Business schools apply a rigorous approval process for new courses which has become progressively more stringent, data-driven and commercially focused. They have also become more agile in responding to changes in the market.
  • There is acknowledgment that to adapt to changes in the economy and students’ interests business schools will need to become more adept in developing programmes with other faculty. There is a challenge in ensuring that cross-faculty courses are genuinely co-created.
  • Covid-19 offers an opportunity for business schools to refocus their course content to reflect lessons learned from the pandemic, including in areas related to Risk Management and Operations & Supply Chain.
  • The pandemic poses significant challenges to business school’s employability programmes given the requirements for social distancing and the likelihood that students’ interest in placements will increase further due to the global recession.
  • The contingencies necessitated by the pandemic have naturally led to a focus on teaching delivery with plans for new programmes being less of an immediate priority. However, over the longer-term several new programmes were being considered by the participating schools, including Creative Industries, Digital Business Management, Engineering Management, Sport Management, and Technology Management.

Read the full report now