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Business Schools Begin to Announce Fall 2020 Plans

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With ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, evolving government mandates, and public health concerns, many business schools are heading into the fall semester with contingency plans for the fluid situation they expect to face.

Some MBA programs remain mum about what the fall semester might look like, but others have begun to let incoming students know what to expect. We’ve rounded up the latest communications from seven leading programs below.

Flexibility and In-Person Options

The Wharton School of Business has joined Harvard Business School and Chicago Booth in implementing a hybrid class model for the fall term with flexible options allowing both faculty and students to decide whether they want to attend courses in-person or entirely online. All on-campus class schedules are being adapted to conform to class size limits to enable social distancing.

HBS classes will begin online and transition to the hybrid model, while Wharton’s pre-term will be offered solely virtually. With faculty discretion factored into the hybrid model, students who are willing to attend in-person instruction can still expect that some courses will be fully remote.

Northwestern Kellogg intends to have a face-to-face opening with classes beginning on September 21st, but is offering a virtual option for students who cannot relocate to Evanston by that date or who prefer to work remotely. Kellogg holds a Complete Immersion in Management orientation prior to the start of classes, and expects students who are coming to campus to be present for this event by August 28th.

In anticipation of travel delays and quarantine requirements, London Business School has postponed the start of classes to September 21st. A hybrid course model is being developed with a remote option for students who cannot or are unwilling to travel.

MIT Sloan has yet to make an announcement on its website, but a user on the MBA subreddit shared a communication about fall plans from the school this week. According to an email received by the user, classes will be conducted Monday – Saturday from 8:00am – 9:30pm to accommodate on-campus social distancing and international students’ time zone differences. Class sessions will be conducted in-person, fully remotely, or with some students remote and others on campus (a “hyflex” model), with variability “across courses and across sessions within courses.”

Tuck Business School is planning a blend of learning in the upcoming academic year. The school has shared that the fall term will start on time, with first-years beginning Tuck Launch on Monday, August 10, and second-years starting Fall term on September 8.  The school expects the fall term will blend in-person, hybrid, and online experiences.  There will be a fully in-person elective and hybrid offerings available to both first-year and second-year students throughout the fall term.

Per the Reddit post, Sloan has also shifted its fall academic calendar, with in-person instruction running from September 1 through November 20; following Thanksgiving break, classes will shift online and end December 2. The Sloan Intensive Period, which usually occurs mid-semester, will move to December 3-9 and take place virtually.

Plans Still Evolving

UVA Darden is maintaining its usual August start date for the fall term, but is offering an option to start in January for first-year students who need additional time to prepare. Students starting in January will complete first-year courses into summer 2021 before undertaking a field project or shortened summer internship. Darden notes that it is prepared for an in-person start, though whether the 2020-2021 academic year will be taught online, in-person, or in a hybrid format is pending a decision from the larger University of Virginia.

Considerations for International Students

For HBS and Sloan, the decision to continue offering in-person instruction came down to addressing new ICE rules that will effectively strip student visas from attendees of schools that are going entirely virtual.

Meanwhile, Kellogg is providing options for international students whose via appointments have been canceled, ensuring remote access to their program until they are able to travel to the U.S. The school also advises these students that if they do not want to begin their MBAs remotely, they can work with admissions to “leverage your application for consideration next year.”

These plans and timetables are all subject to changing public health guidelines and constant monitoring of local conditions by schools. Students are advised to check frequently for updates. Communications from MBA programs are reinforcing that they are conscious of the challenges that their students are facing, and that central to all reopening plans is the health and safety of students on campus, and support for students learning remotely.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.