Are traditional two-year MBA programs on the way out? Will online programs put an end to classroom-based study? What will the MBAs of the future learn? Where will they learn? And how?
We spoke to MBAs from some of the world’s top business schools who told us five ways business education will change in 2017:
1. MBA programs will keep getting shorter
“More and more people want the full MBA experience in a shorter time period,” says Rosalind Tay, a current student on the University of Edinburgh Business School’s one-year MBA.
She’s not wrong. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), application numbers for traditional two-year MBA programs in the US have stagnated since 2012. In 2016, application numbers fell in over half of US business schools.
At the same time, shorter programs in Europe – like the intensive 10-month MBA offered by France’s EDHEC Business School - are gaining in popularity and ranking. Even in the US, shorter business master’s programs are on the rise, with Johnson at Cornell set to launch a 12-month Master in Management program later this year.
While Rosalind predicts this trend to continue, Brittany Arnoldt – a recent MBA graduate from Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia – thinks the two-year MBA still has a significant role to play.
“Yes, application numbers are down,” she says. “But for those not coming from business backgrounds, there’s an immense amount of value that a two-year MBA program can give you.”
2. Technology will change what’s taught and how it’s taught
GMAC figures show that the demand for online MBA programs continues to eclipse that for classroom-based part-time and executive courses. And as technology becomes more and more advanced, the credibility of online MBAs continues to grow.
In 2016, Birmingham Business School’s online MBA became the first fully-online MBA to receive accreditation from AMBA, the Association of MBAs.
Gaurav Khaitan, an MBA graduate from the UK’s Aston Business School, thinks the patent benefits of long-distance learning mean online programs could come to dominate the market:
“Online MBAs help schools reach out to a greater audience. And students who might struggle to study abroad will be able to gain the same knowledge by staying at home,” he says. “Ultimately, technology will keep growing and everyone is going to gain from that.”
Musheer Ahmed, an MBA graduate from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), agrees: “Technology is going to play a bigger role, not only in how teaching is done but also in what is taught,” he says.
“We’ll see a switch from learning about the traditional economy to looking at the sharing economy and the Internet of Things (IoT). And a shift from gaining bookish academic knowledge to more implementable knowledge.”
3. More learning will take place outside of the classroom
Brittany thinks technology will help facilitate a shift towards more hands-on, experiential learning.
“The biggest thing is utilizing the space outside the classroom so that you’re doing your learning through live consulting projects and working with real clients,” she says. “Then, the classroom space is more for discussion, reviewing concepts and working in groups, as oppose to the traditional lecture style format.
“I had very few classes at Fox that were in the lecture style format and I think that will continue.”
Daniel Goez, an MBA student at Hult International Business School in Boston (pictured above, third from left), agrees. “Management is not something you learn in a formula,” he says. “It’s not something you read and apply what is said in a book. It’s very circumstantial and it depends on a lot of different factors.
“I believe that going forward people will look for shorter but also more practical programs.” Again, technology more than plays its part. “One of the first immersion exercises we did at Hult was using a software that simulates the real-world, puts you in the shoes of a CEO, and lets you test your decision making.”
4. MBA students will be able to customize their degrees
Edinburgh MBA Tuta Wamanga thinks more and more MBA programs will allow students to tailor-make their MBA journeys to match their own specific career ambitions.
“What I see in our cohort is people coming in knowing exactly what they want to get out of the MBA, and giving feedback to the school based on that,” she says. “I see a lot of the fluff added to the MBA program going away, and a lot of programs becoming more focused and market-driven.”
Even so, Tuta is not sure that the trend towards fully-customizable programs is entirely a positive thing: “How do you make sure that you offer a customizable program without leaving out key trends or things that help make a rounded individual?” she asks.
5. Business schools will keep building internationally
Hult MBA students can rotate across international campuses in Boston, San Francisco, New York, London, Dubai and Shanghai (pictured above). Chicago Booth has branches in London and Hong Kong. HEC Paris offers an EMBA program in Qatar. SKEMA Business School’s EMBA students experience international campuses in Oslo, Shanghai, Dallas and Belo Horizonte in Brazil.
International experience has long been a key component of MBA programs. But now, more and more business schools are building international campuses to extend their global footprint.
Musheer, who studied in Hong Kong, Beijing and London during his HKU MBA, thinks this trend will keep gaining pace: “Business schools are looking to become global offerings, rather than just staying within their regions,” he says.
“There’s a push from the Ivy League and the top schools in Europe to open up branches within Asia. That’s definitely a trend I see increasing.”