Business education hits a wall as MBA applicants opt elsewhere

The demand for Russian MBA’s has slumped 50% this year, despite the introduction of discounts and flexible scheduling, with the economic downturn putting pressure on business education.

Russia's love-affair with the Masters degree in Business Administration, or MBA, is over, with business education in the midst of its own crisis. Pavel Zhuravlev, Director of MBA and business education programs at the Plekhanov economic academy, says the number of applicants for courses this year has almost halved.

“The demand for MBA has decreased by average 50% in Russia. In our academy that’s about 30%. The main reason is companies’ cuts for employees’ education expenses. 90% of MBA students are paid by their companies.”

Pavel Ulukaev's former employer paid half of the $15 thousand course fee for his MBA. The former brand manager gained his diploma just before the crisis saw companies cut spending on employee education. He is disappointed by the quality of the course.

“In my opinion, MBA should give you practical skills to use them in current business situation. I actually did not get them. Thus program was very much alike my first basis education.”

Now Pavel is making ends meet with freelance marketing projects. In his experience, companies are looking for candidates with time on the job rather than academic qualifications. Mikhail Zhukov, CEO, of recruitment firm HeadHunter, says Pavels observations are about right

“Only 3% of companies prefer employees with MBA diploma. All the rest look at practical experience.”

And not all MBAs are equal. Companies tend to classify them as either Russian or international, and have criticisms of both. They say a European MBA is not optimised for the Russian business environment, whilst the Russian MBA is not “mature” and too “academic”.

Experts predict demand for MBAs to recover in 2010 when Russia’s economy is expected to emerge from recession. Until then, business education will be risky investment.