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For some students, a two-year MBA has an advantage over shorter-duration programs despite a higher price, says Michelle Sparkman Renz, director of research communication for GMAC.Kenneth C. Zirkel/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

Full-time, two-year MBA programs worldwide edged out their one-year counterparts in terms of growth, according to new application trends for 2014 analyzed by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

For the second year in a row, 65 per cent of two-year MBA programs reported increased or stable application volumes compared to flat or declining demand for one-year and specialized graduate offerings. Among one-year programs, 60 per cent reported a decrease in application volumes from last year, according to the council that administers the widely-used entrance exam for graduate business programs.

For some students, a two-year MBA has an advantage over shorter-duration programs despite a higher price, says Michelle Sparkman Renz, director of research communication for GMAC. "It might offer additional time with classmates for networking, internships, activities for case competitions or even exchange or study abroad." According to the survey, students in a majority of programs still expect employer reimbursement of degrees.

Based on a record response from 748 programs at 314 universities, the survey highlights the diversification of offerings globally and the growing presence of foreign candidates.

International students accounted for 52 per cent of applicants to 135 full-time, two-year MBA programs worldwide in 2014, up from 48 per cent to 115 programs 2009.

In 2009, foreign students accounted for 60 per cent of 25 master of finance programs offered in 2009. But by 2014, among 38 programs reporting to GMAC, they represented 82 per cent of applicants worldwide.

"It speaks to the internationalization and the international curriculum that an MBA or specialized business master can grant someone," Ms. Sparkman Renz says.

One Canada-specific finding is its 10th spot placement among top destinations for recruiters, according to the survey. China, India and the United States top the list, but Canada ranks ahead of France, Vietnam and Britain., perhaps because of new MBA fairs in Toronto and other cities.

Donor gives boost to startup venture fund

In a new twist on experiential business education, some students now get a chance to invest real money in startup ventures.

Wilfrid Laurier University's school of business and economics in Waterloo, Ont., is the latest institution to attract donor interest in student-run venture funds. Seven years ago, Queen's School of Business in Kingston established a $2.5-million fund run by students with advice from professionals.

Last week, Laurier received $1-million over five years from Larry Marsland and family, with half for the Laurier Startup Fund.

The fund, which opened last year with an initial donor gift of $1-million, is managed by fourth-year commerce undergraduates and graduate business students who apply for the opportunity to participate and earn credit for the experience. As at Queen's, the students receive guidance from professional investors.

"The goal is to not only teach them how to make investments in startup companies but, if they go on to become entrepreneurs, to help them understand what investors are looking for," Laurier dean Micheál Kelly says. "Whichever side they play – investor or entrepreneur – they will be much more versed in what makes for a company that investors are interested in."

He hopes that, with more donors, the fund will grow to $5-million in three or four years.

With one investment to date, the fund will likely put up $75,000 each for three and four investments a year, says Dr. Kelly. Any profits will return to the fund, but a pay-back from a successful investment could take five to seven years, he cautions.

The other half of the Marsland gift is for a lecture hall in the new Global Innovation Exchange building that opens next year as the new home of the business school and the department of mathematics.

Campus opens in India

Tapping significant demand in India for MBA programs, York University's Schulich School of Business last week officially opened its new 20,000-square-foot facility in Hyderabad, developed in co-operation with a foundation of GMR Group, a major Indian infrastructure company.

The school's MBA in India program has Indian government accreditation but still lacks what Schulich most wants: approval to grant a degree in India. Successive Indian governments have failed to win parliamentary approval for the Foreign Educational Institutions Act, which would put foreign universities on the same footing as domestic degree-granting institutions.

Undeterred, Schulich has gone ahead with its "Plan B" for students in India to divide their time between Hyderabad (first year) and Toronto (second year) for the 16- to 20-month MBA. Next year, 30 students who began the program in India in 2013 will graduate with their Schulich degree. This fall, the school took in 50 students at its Hyderabad campus, with ambitions to expand once "Plan A" (the right to grant a degree in India) is in place.

At last week's official opening, Schulich dean Dezo Horvath announced the creation of an India advisory council, led by G.M. Rao, group chairman of GMR Group.

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