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Case studies

Lessons learned from the EuMBA survey

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

Our colleagues at Natives Global Consulting do loads of cool stuff. If you’ve listened to this week’s episode of our podcast, you’ll know all about the National Clearing Survey. Now, we’re handing over to Natives Group’s marketing manager Rich Campbell to talk you through another big, interesting piece of work – the EuMBA Survey.

Right. My first blog for The Native. Better make it a good one, I’ve seen what has gone before.

I wanted to talk about the EuMBA Survey. An original piece of research by Natives Global Consulting that I was fortunate to be on the project team for last year in my role as the Marketing Manager for Natives Group.

So why did we do it? The first time I heard about this research project was when our Director of Education, Murray Simpson, gave an all-company presentation about having a greater understanding – the education space as a whole – of one of the most popular postgraduate courses in the world; the MBA.

(That is, from the point of view of the students that are either currently studying, have studied or are intending to study for an MBA.)

We particularly wanted to understand students’ consumer behaviour prior to, and after, their application to an MBA programme, which in turn would help shape key recruitment messages and strategies for marketers and admissions departments.

The research piece would ensure that course and institution marketing would address expectations, and would ultimately improve conversions and enrolment numbers.

The report would be made freely available to professionals working in the education sector and a chance to shape the space we work in. Now that’s the kind of brief that gets me going! From a personal and professional point of view, it was a project I really wanted to get onto and an opportunity to work with the very clever people in our Insights and Research division at Natives Global Consulting.

So, after 10 months of hard graft, 45,000 data points analysed, distribution offered via every HEI in Europe with an MBA, 819 deep-dive qualitative interviews, six partner institutions and two months of analysis (not to mention, two babies and an engagement within the project team, and just to be super clear – not with each other), we presented the initial findings of the survey via a webinar before the full report was made available for download (which, if you haven’t done so yet, check it out here).  

And, along the way I learnt so much. For example, I am officially a persona. I am a textbook ‘Tentative Applicant’.  

Check out some of the key findings that stood out to me:

Marital status plays a part in conversion. With conversion rates very low from those who are in a cohabiting relationship

EuMBA Survey data screenshot

How interesting is this?! Aside from all the behavioural or sociological hypothesis one can draw from the data, it does give marketers a real insight into at what stage of life  a prospect is most likely to convert. This exploratory research indicates that you could shape messaging and ad targeting to demonstrate more support towards married and single applicants, whilst also exploring the potential barriers or priorities seemingly faced by those who are cohabiting.



No-one knows what the future holds, but……

According to the EuMBA Survey, providers who are offering part-time and/or online study options will be in a great position. Part-time study is the delivery method of choice for the Dynamic Applicant (38.4%), i.e. those who are already in the funnel and made an application.  Strategic targeting for countries that have been strongly impacted by the abolishment of the work/study visa may see high returns. Canny providers should include mode of delivery as a key message and look at innovative online delivery models.

It’s a long term game in 2018…

EuMBA Survey data screenshot

Prospective MBA students are taking longer to research and apply. The Dynamic Applicant spent 25 months researching before application. Current MBA students spent 17 months.

Taken with other data-points in the survey, on first impressions, the research reinforces a troubling picture that the traditional MBA student is taking longer to make an application, is hesitant to leave their own country to study and that, domestically, interest in the qualification is waning.

However, the ‘traditional’ MBA student is evolving. Although they’re taking longer to apply, they’re using social media far more in their research phase than ever before, have less professional experience and are earning less, but they’re willing to travel further to their chosen provider.

While some markets are stagnating or being slow to apply, others have reportedly higher levels of interest in the qualification. Spain, for example, which is always a strong market, has a much higher level of interest than in previous years, according to the survey. This is representative of a sector where European enrolment has increased and a number of Spanish Institutions (IESE Business School and IE Business school most notably) have made it to the ranks of UK and US-based institutions. Look for the opportunity contained within and the white space.

Coincidentally, my colleagues Kas Nicholls (Head of Natives Global Consulting) and Alex Calder (Lead Conversion Strategist) have written a blog and are running a webinar on this very topic on Wednesday 28 March. It’s free to subscribe, so check it out.

Hopefully that has given you a snippet of insight into the amount of work that goes into the original research pieces that come out of Natives Global Consulting. In addition to the EuMBA Survey, do check out the other flagship research piece that has been published – the National Clearing Survey.

And, there is more to come… watch this space.