According to the USNWR (2015), the top 200 business schools offered multiple MBA
program modalities amidst changing student demands, evolution in the nature of the
universities, increased competition, heavy criticism on program validity, and reduced
funding. Noting these factors, this dissertation examines the within-niche product
proliferation decisions of the MBA programs and strategic utilization of the technical,
economical, institutional factors that may impact the composition of the program
portfolio. Internal demand and the ranking of the full-time MBA program were found to
differentiate the product portfolio for unranked and ranked universities.
We used Quantitative method using Poisson, multivariate probit, probit, and fractional
The research implications are that we found that the top 200 universities are
different in their strategic choices and resource utilization. For the ranked group, at the
portfolio level, demand and rankings impacted the product portfolio. For the unranked
group, size, demand, and academic support were significant. The research provides
evidence that there is a strategic balance between legitimacy and reputation and there are
some barriers for the lower ranked institutions. Our study reveals the within-niche
product proliferation in HEI and it shows that universities are strategic in their portfolio
decisions. We add to the literature by focusing at the product level as most studies in
strategy focus at the firm level, not within the firm.
Practitioners can use this framework to study the factors that impact product decisions at
top universities or firms that have a ranking. It shows that the management portfolio is a
within-niche product proliferation strategy and the products are versions of the full time
program. We contribute to the literature to reveal that a product category can suffer from
lack of legitimation of a category. It reveals the sub niches a firm is unwilling to enter
due to perceived reputation loss. The difference in the two groups, ranked and unranked
shows that the top 100 are exploiting the MBA program while the lower ranked
institutions are branching out and exploring newer formats such as an online MBA.
Rankings or looking good are more impactful than any other factor on the portfolio
selection. The MBA program is a sinking ship as the program costs too much especially
with the online programs offering a more affordable and robust program. Recently, there
was a news article that students don’t value the MBA program and no longer see its value
in society. For the sake of legitimacy and reputation, the MBA has program lost its way.
The paper connects several bodies of literature to address the white elephant in the room
for the MBA programs by showing the factors that impact the program portfolio while
also revealing the difference in portfolios between the ranked and unranked universities.
It also shows that there are strategic groups and market segmentation factors at play and
those universities aren’t evolving with the needs of the market.
Keywords: product proliferation; MBA programs; niches, product demography; valuebased theory