As the teachers of future generations of leaders, business schools need to harness trends to remain relevant, impactful, and innovative, say European business school deans in a new Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) report.
The Future of Graduate Management Education (GME) report draws from the insights of deans from 20 top European business schools. It affirms the continuing importance of business school, and gives insights on how schools must adapt to the ever-changing GME landscape.
"In a volatile world rife with disruption, business schools are standing at the forefront of change to ensure that they provide the most relevant experience to the leaders of tomorrow," says Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC.
Here are five key business trends the report identifies that will impact the future of business school.
1. Technology and digitization
Business is evolving with technology. The pandemic accelerated digitization—the rise in platforms like Zoom, for example—and business schools have adapted to these changes with increasing numbers of online MBAs.
In the 2020-2021 academic year, more students were enrolled in online MBAs than full-time programs in the US, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
But the Future of GME report suggested there needs to be more change in business school’s pedagogy—the method and practice of teaching.
Deans felt changes in the curriculum and practice of assessments, and a reimagining of what classrooms and campuses look like, were needed to maintain students’ engagement. They also highlighted the need for a balance between online and in-person teaching to create an optimal learning environment.
"Both what we teach and the way we teach it will change. There's a considerable amount of innovation on both counts—the content we need to change but also the delivery of the content and the format," said Mauro Guillen, dean of University of Cambridge Judge Business School.
2. Sustainability and social responsibility
Sustainability is a defining factor in the future of business, with 62% of CEOs now reporting that a sustainability strategy is essential to remain competitive.
The report showed that deans recognize the role of business school in preparing students for a more sustainable business landscape. Deans revealed their belief that corporate ethics, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability must be part of the curriculum moving forward.
"Factors which have to do with responsible leadership, which have to do with environmental issues, with climate issues—all of the challenges we are facing—should be reflected by the program," said Markus Rudolf from WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management.
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As innovations like data and analytics become more important, bringing an increased emphasis on cutting-edge skills, deans feel that business schools need to adapt their content to ensure they remain relevant.
This means a move away from traditional teaching and towards an interdisciplinary approach, one that balances business and management teaching with subjects like programming and data analytics, the report revealed.
"20 years ago, you had to speak English, but now you need to speak Python, you need to speak finance, you need to speak nanotechnology, you need to speak AI," said Eloïc Peyrache, from HEC Paris. "It goes beyond business, there is a whole portfolio of language you need to speak, and those languages evolve very fast."
4. Learning in a post-pandemic world
The pandemic has fundamentally changed how content should be delivered, with the new generation of learners expecting short, flexible, personalized learning, the report revealed.
Business schools need to adjust how they deliver programs to keep up with this demand. This could mean a mix between hybrid and in-person learning, a choice to complete the degree in a more flexible time frame, or collaboration between schools to enhance learning.
"The role of being a business school professor or business school dean is to listen and understand what those young people have in mind, what they want," said Markus from WHU.
How do business schools stay relevant?
The Future of GME report shows that the rapidly changing landscape makes staying relevant a challenge for all business schools.
With all the opportunities that digitization provides, business schools must define their purpose and differentiate themselves by showing what makes them and their location unique from the global market.
"It's not unusual to question the relevancy of graduate business education and [ask] if it can keep up with the pace of change and foster inclusive environments,” says Nalisha Patel, regional director for Europe at GMAC, who produced the report.
“It's clear that business school executives are fully committed to continuing being a key player in moulding the leaders who will impact the future of business, the future of society, and ultimately the future of the planet,” she adds.