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Role of Graduate Management Education in Preparing Future Leaders: Perspectives of Enrolled Students

Posted by Rahul Choudaha
Dr. Rahul Choudaha is Director of Industry Insights & Research Communications at GMAC. As an evangelist of graduate management education, he analyzes, presents, and writes to help business school professionals inform their admissions and marketing strategies. He has delivered over 150 conference presentations and has been quoted over 300 times in global media. Choudaha holds a doctorate in higher education administration.

Posted on Sep 1, 2021 8:00:00 AM

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According to a recent GMAC survey, four in five students enrolled in a business school report that their graduate management education prepares them for leadership positions. Looking at the data from the lens of gender, program, and regional diversity, we gain additional insights into enrolled students’ confidence in leadership preparation. The findings indicate that the value proposition of a graduate management education as a ground for preparing leadership talent remains strong among students even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Organizations often identify leadership development as a priority, and MBA graduates represent one crucial source of future leaders. Nearly 60 percent of the CEOs of Fortune 100 firms earned an MBA, as reported in an analysis published in 2019. According to their alumni, business schools are doing their part in creating the next generation of leaders: a GMAC snapshot report released earlier this summer indicated three in four alumni agree that their graduate management education (GME) prepared them for leadership positions. This affirmation shows that the value proposition of GME for future leadership roles remains strong.

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Do perspectives of enrolled students differ from alumni, especially in the context of the global pandemic? What do current students enrolled in business schools report about their experiences related to the preparation for leadership positions?

Overall, 81 percent of students agree that their graduate business education prepares them for leadership positions, according to over 1,000 respondents to a recent GMAC survey. There is a difference in the level of agreement by program type; prior data shows that on average, candidates for business master’s programs are younger than those considering MBA programs and are at a different career stage, which translates into business master’s (75%) students being less likely to agree with the statement on leadership preparation as compared to MBA students (87%). Another factor that may be contributing to this difference at the program level is the curriculum of MBA programs, which has leadership development as an integral part of their offering.

In terms of gender, female students (82%) agree with the statement on leadership preparation at a similar level as male students (79%). This signals the importance of the business school experience as a catalyst for the future pipeline of women leaders in business.

2021-Enrolled-Students_Leadership-Overall-GMAC (1)

Looking at the differences by region, we notice that students enrolled in European (88%) and American (89%) programs report a higher level of agreement with the statement than those enrolled in Asian (72%) programs. This difference is more pronounced when breaking down the data by programs. The gap in the level of agreement by business master’s and MBA programs for students enrolled in European and American programs appears to be smaller than the same gap in Asian programs. Two in three (66%) students enrolled in business master’s programs in the Asia Pacific region agreed with the statement compared to four in five (82%) students in MBA programs.


Next, looking at the findings through the lens of gender and program location, we notice that female students (75%) enrolled in the Asia Pacific region are slightly more likely to agree with the statement than male students (70%). In contrast, female students (85%) enrolled in European programs are slightly less likely to agree than male students (90%). For survey respondents enrolled in American programs, data suggests parity in the level of agreement by gender.


Finally, the survey data suggests no major difference in the perspectives of students graduating in 2021 (81%) compared to those graduating in 2022 (80%). While the global pandemic disrupted many aspects of learning experiences, it seems that students remain confident about the value of graduate management education in preparing them for leadership positions.


In summary, students enrolled in graduate business programs, on the whole, agree that their programs prepare them for leadership positions. When broken up by program type, location, and gender, the data summary provides additional nuances to understanding a diverse student body. These findings show that students value business school experiences because they provide pathways to achieve their career ambitions.


The findings reported here are based on the analysis of data collected in May-June 2021 from 1,018 students enrolled in a graduate management program at 60 business schools worldwide spread across the Asia Pacific (45%), Europe (13%), and the US (39%). Most survey respondents report to graduate in the 2021 calendar year (59%), while 36% will graduate in 2022. Nearly 45 percent of respondents were female, and 41 percent were in the age bracket 25-30 years. Almost 54 percent of respondents were enrolled in MBA programs, and 40 percent were enrolled in business master’s programs. Nearly 60 percent of students indicated their graduation year as 2021. This analysis reflects the sample frame of business schools that participated in the survey and should not be used to generalize about the global population of enrolled students. Survey data collection and analytical support provided by GMAC Research and Data Science Department. For questions or comments regarding this study’s methodology or results, please send an email to


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Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Full-time MBA Programs

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Topics: Research Insights, coronavirus

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