What Do Students Want From A School? Career Help With A Human Touch

In a global market with between 13,000 and 15,000 business schools and an untold number of new entrants and technology-led disruptors launching every year, how can a business school differentiate itself?

That’s the question behind the latest Business of Branding report released last week by CarringtonCrisp and EFMD. CarringtonCrisp is a consulting firm based in the United Kingdom providing data and solutions to higher education institutions in 35 countries. EFMD is a management development network of nearly 1,000 academic, business and public service members from 90 countries. The study aims to help schools improve their branding and marketing strategies and offer insight to help them differentiate themselves from competitors.

“It’s not just the nature of the brand that is important but awareness as well. With online learning growing to meet anytime, anywhere demand for business education, brand awareness and top of mind recall among prospective learners becomes essential,” the report reads.

Andrew Crisp

Andrew Crisp, report author and cofounder of CarringtonCrisp, found that while career progression is still the most important factor associated with a students’ choice of a particular business school, personal support and other human values are also highly important.

“There’s been a huge focus on digitalisation, online learning, and flexibility for learners, over the past 18 months. But business schools that want to differentiate themselves should prioritise the human support elements so valued by students,” says Crisp.


For the report, researchers surveyed 2,270 business school students between April and May 2021 about different activities associated with their schools. Respondents came from 105 countries, and 41% were male while 57% were female. As far as education level, the largest segment of respondents, 49%, were undergraduates, while 22% were Masters students, 19% MBA students and 5% a DBA/PhD. Respondents were drawn from the business schools that
participate in CarringtonCrisp’s annual market insight studies.

The most important elements to student responders was that their school was highly ranked and they had good university support in the enquiry and application process. These tied with 41% as the most important. Campus facilities, high level of support for completing studies, and school recognition in school country rounded out the top 5 elements.

“Wherever you look in the data, career issues are to the fore and are instrumental in driving perceptions of a school’s brand. Career issues are key when students considered where to study, both for accelerating prospects and diversity of opportunity. Career issues make up four of the top five items that respondents think should be considered by ranking bodies when assessing quality of provision,” the report found. “Satisfaction with a business school is also heavily dependent on career issues, especially quality career advice and preparing students for the future.”


While career prospects are still among the most important factors in student choice, support from faculty, mental health support and other human values can boost a business schools’ reputation, the report found.

When asked what activities could enhance their school’s reputation, 19% of students said mental health support. Only undertaking an internship was more highly ranked with 22% of respondents.

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health issues for students,” Crisp says. “For future students, who may have had the closing years of secondary education disrupted by the pandemic, mental health support will be even more important with them already having had to cope with considerable uncertainty in their lives. It should now be regarded as a key factor for any business school’s reputation.”

This is the first Business of Branding report that had mental health support as an option for enhancing business school reputations.


The report also highlights differences between what undergraduate students, MBAs and Masters students find most important in their business schools.

While mental health support for students is most important for undergraduates, they are least interested in engaging with alumni, for example. MBAs are least interested in a business start-up program, while Masters students are more interested in live consulting projects and internships.

Learn more about the report here.

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