To Remain Competitive, Differentiate or Die Out

GMAC president, Sangeet Chowfla, talks with AACSB about the necessity for business schools to identify and market their strengths in order to draw in the best students who know what they are looking for and can excel in that area.


Dan LeClair: [00:13] I know that GMAC not only looks at the motivations and behaviors of candidates but also about the experiences. I know this is one area in particular where there's a fairly significant change, disruption, if you may, in the way students go from essentially being interested in business education, all the way up through when they graduate and even beyond, so that whole student experience.

[00:39] What are you learning about that?

Sangeet Chowfla: [00:41] Today, we send scores to over 20 different types of programs. The total number of programs that are accepting GMAT scores has grown by 50 percent over the last decade. That's a lot of options that are available to students.

[00:57] Students are saying, "Help me understand the difference between a two year MBA program and a one year MBA program." Students are, to some extent, concerned and overloaded by the amount of information that is available to them.

[01:13] They are looking for clearer positioning. They are looking for simplicity in messaging. Actually, they're hungry for business schools to differentiate themselves from one another.

[01:27] There is an issue out there, but there's a huge opportunity for schools who do the work to clearly understand the target customers and differentiate themselves.

LeClair: [01:40] This sounds like very important work. I sometimes tell students when they come to me, when they learn...

[01:46] Working with business schools, they often ask me about programs, and I always say, "The good news is that there's a program, a graduate management program for anyone." I say, "The bad news is that there's a graduate management program for anyone. It's really a wide array of choices."

[02:07] We often talk only about the degree space. There's also this...

Chowfla: [02:11] More to it.

LeClair: [02:12] developing specializations, badges, and many other types of stackable credentials.

Chowfla: [02:18] You know what, one of the things that tends to happen is, if you think about it, when there is too much or uncurated information, if you will, people tend to look for simple solutions. In our industry, the simple solution unfortunately has become rankings.

[02:36] Rankings, I often think, are the result of us confusing students. If students had perfect knowledge, there wouldn't actually be a need for a ranking from a student perspective. Then you load on all the non degree programs, and the problem becomes even more complex.

Filmed February 2017 on site at AACSB's Deans Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.