October 5, 2023

Post-Pandemic Preferences: On-Campus Learning Makes a Comeback

The Financial Times recently reported on how the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reshaped higher education, particularly in terms of students’ preferences for on-campus vs. online learning. For instance, Thomas Edwards, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, originally enrolled in a traditional on-campus bachelor’s degree program in business. However, the pandemic forced a sudden shift to remote examinations and digital platforms, altering his educational experience. Dissatisfied with this shift, Edwards decided to pursue an MSc Management in International Business at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France from 2021 to 2023, seeking a more personal and community-focused learning experience.


Edwards’ experience mirrors a broader trend identified in the “Tomorrow’s Masters” study conducted by education consultant CarringtonCrisp in partnership with the EFMD management development network. The study found that of the 1,755 global respondents, those who preferred fully online or blended study had decreased to 29% as of May 2023 – down 9% from 2022. Nearly half were now leaning toward fully on-campus study, reflecting a renewed preference for in-person education among younger students who value personal connections and interactions.


This trend is particularly evident among Master’s in Management (MiM) students, many of whom begin their programs shortly after completing their undergraduate degrees. These students faced severe disruptions during the pandemic and expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of virtual teaching. Consequently, the majority of MiM programs now emphasize full-time on-campus learning.


There are a few exceptions like the Robert H Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, which recently introduced an online Master of Science in Management Studies. This demonstrates a recognition of the potential of online education in the post-pandemic world. And increasingly educators believe it’s crucial to incorporate online learning into master’s programs to prepare students for virtual collaborations, a skill in high demand in the workplace. Programs like the MSc Management in International Business at Grenoble are leveraging technology to connect students with global professionals, bridging the gap between academia and the evolving workforce.


However, the social connections and networks fostered through on-campus study remain a significant appeal of traditional education. Building both professional and personal identities is a crucial aspect of campus-based learning. Some institutions, like Audencia Business School, offer students the flexibility to complete one semester fully online, recognizing that the future lies in finding the right balance between online and on-campus experiences.


Looking ahead, there’s optimism that online education will evolve as technology advances to offer more immersive and interactive virtual environments to provide students with the best of both worlds in a hybrid learning landscape.


Click here to read the Financial Times article in full. If you’re interested in pursuing a Masters in Management, MBA, or any other business master’s degree, contact us and speak to one of our expert coaches!