Part Time MBA in Singapore - A Growing Trend?

The popularity of part time MBA programs have definitely increased over the years. The rising cost of living, the increasing cost of tuition fees and many more factors have shifted many prospective MBA students towards a part time format of study.

This is definitely true in the U.K., where a growing preference of part time MBA studies over it's full time counterpart have been recorded and reported in the news - link. Although there hasn't been a formal study of MBA enrollment trends in Singapore, there are compelling reasons as to why a part time MBA would also make for a preferred choice for the locals; however, there are also factors which might suggest the opposite.

"With the economy making incremental recovery since the last recession in 2008, it is no surprise that many people – like myself, have decided to hold onto our jobs while pursuing our MBA dream." - Luke Goh (Singaporean), Part Time MBA Student @ NUS

The excerpt above reflects one of the most common sentiments shared among prospective and current MBA students alike - and that is the opportunity cost of undertaking an MBA program - more specifically, the loss of income should one opt for a full time format of MBA education.

Unlike countries in Europe, Singaporeans do not have welfare, and consequently, many of the locals do not have the luxury of being without a job and a stable salary for extended periods of time. In addition to their everyday needs and expenditures, an MBA program's tuition fees would mean that prospective student have to take up a bank loan in order to finance their studies, and after their studies, they have a big sum of debt to settle. Unless a student's family or scholarship is funding his/her education, many people would not be easy about graduating with a huge debt - and many a times - the most practical solution to this would be to maintain employment and salary while opting for part time studies, to help lighten the financial load.

There are, however, many factors that make aforementioned arrangement easier said than done. In addition to the workload at one's job, Singaporean men are also in an unenviable position of fulfilling his annual national service duties - this responsibility can easily take up more than a week to a month of his time, excluding mandatory physical fitness test and remedial trainings. If you balance all these with MBA studies, it's hard to imagine male Singaporean student not getting overwhelmed. Under these circumstances, a part time MBA might not seem like a desirable option at all.

A part time MBA student expresses his grievance on a local forum -

"I applied for deferment, asked the school to provide student letter & supporting document, drafted up a persuasive plea to defer. All I got in return was a STANDARD template saying it was rejected.

I am enrolled in Strathclyde MBA. Perhaps due to the fact that it is part time studies, it doesn't qualify for army deferment.

My reservist call up date clashes with my intensive workshop date, that's why I want to defer. But I am too tired to do any follow up actions for deferment now. Busy rushing assignment now. Really stressful. Think I am too old for this ****. haha."

A part time MBA is right in line with the pragmatic sensibilities of Singaporeans - it allows them to work and earn money while studying - and while the citizens value practicality over most other things, the process to actualize these goals and plans are often at the expense of living a balanced life - studying a part time MBA while working a day job would be a fitting example. Still, it's safe to say that knowing the sacrifices in personal time and social life that one has to make, many long term oriented Singaporean would take the plunge.

Other noteworthy factors that might possibly contribute towards a growth in part time MBA (and MBAs in general) uptake would be a number of interrelated factors - the increasing cost of living, the Singaporean obsession with academic achievements and paper qualifications, the considerable number of MBA programs available in Singapore, and the citizens' perception of the lucrativeness of the finance industry and their desire to work in it.

Is there a growth in part time MBA enrollments in Singapore? It'd be a safe bet that the answer is yes, alongside a proportionate growth in full time MBA program enrollments.

"This year’s part time NUS MBA programme recorded one of the largest number of student intake, both in student population and proportion in relation with full time intake, and I am proud to be part of this history making cohort." - The NUS MBA blog

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