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Canada ranks fourth as a global destination for international business students.Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

What motivates an individual to pursue an MBA?

It's a question as important to the student contemplating the degree as it is for business school recruiters. Given the plethora of programs, curriculum specialties and modes of delivery, in Canada and globally, students considering an MBA need to identify their own goals and the school best suited to achieve them.

To that end, the Graduate Management Admission Council is developing tools (expected to be released in several months) to make it easier for business schools and prospective applicants to talk to each other to ensure a good fit between program offerings and student aspirations.

Working with Ipsos, a market research firm, GMAC conducted a survey earlier this year of nearly 6,000 candidates in 15 countries, including Canada, who had applied to a graduate management education program in the past two years. Posing questions in 12 local languages, the survey identified seven categories of potential recruits based on their reasons to pursue an MBA.

"While our program offerings have segmented over the past decade or so, our view of candidates has not segmented accordingly, says Sangeet Chowfla, president and chief executive officer of GMAC. "This is a natural evolution of the maturity of the [management education] industry."

Describing prospective candidates in broad-brush terms, such as their country of origin, he adds, is "insufficient" today given the sophistication of the global MBA market. "It doesn't get into the deeper motivation of why this person is pursuing a degree in management education."

In each country, the survey identified seven categories of motivation for seeking a business degree.

  • “Status seekers” want to make their parents proud, selecting schools based on advice from family and friends and alumni success.
  • “Balanced careerists” eye a bigger salary and a fulfilling career, but prefer to study close to home to minimize disruptions to everyday life.
  • “Skill upgraders” seek recognition for expertise gained through a degree, especially from a school recognized by the prospective candidate’s employer.
  • “Global strivers” are keen to work abroad and want a degree familiar to global employers.
  • “Career revitalizers” use a business degree to reinvent themselves at schools known for high-quality faculty.
  • “Socio-economic climbers” are ambitious for their children’s future and lean to schools with top academic credentials.
  • “Impactful innovators” want to hone their leadership skills for ventures with high social impact, choosing schools tailored to such niche offerings.

Mr. Chowfla notes that the survey revealed variations by geographic region. Students from Western Europe are more likely to identify themselves as "balanced careerists" who want a fulfilling job and work-life balance while "global strivers" are over-represented in India where prospective business students seek opportunities to work abroad with international firms.

"The ability to segment your conversation and target it based on the audience you are trying to reach could be a powerful tool for schools to use," he says.

GMAC's findings offer schools another weapon in their recruitment arsenal, says John-Derek Clarke, executive director of masters programs recruitment and admissions at the University of Western Ontario's Ivey Business School.

"It is a good conversation starter for those candidates who think 'I want to do an MBA but I am not sure the reason why' and they are not [yet] articulate on the reason why," he says.

Like Mr. Chowfla, Mr. Clarke cautions against assuming candidates can be assigned to a single category.

"The best thing that business schools can do is get to know the candidate and understand what is right for them," he says. "Some of the motivation could be that [candidates] want a balanced career but also see themselves as "status seekers" and wonder what weight to put on each and what kind of career path does that lead to."

In the end, says Mr. Clarke, selecting an appropriate school comes down to a strong match between what is being offered to – and sought by – the candidate.

"There is a need for all business schools to help the candidates the best they can and say, 'Does an MBA fit with me and which school is the best fit?"

Entrepreneur tapped to lead business school

Edmonton's Northern Alberta Institute of Technology has turned to an entrepreneur, also an advocate for women starting their own ventures, to head its JR Shaw School of Business, one of the largest programs in Western Canada.

Tracey Scarlett, CEO of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs for the past nine years, co-owned an electrical contracting company, served as chief operating officer of a biotech startup and ran her own business development firm.

Bicycle tour raises funds for young entrepreneurs

An annual bicycle tour in the Ottawa and Gatineau area by National Bank employees raised $150,000 this year for several youth-oriented projects, including $40,000 to support a young entrepreneurs "elevator pitch" competition at the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management. Competition winners earn cash prizes to reinvest in their startup venture.

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