Each year, BusinessBecause asks deans of top business schools about the most pressing issues impacting the MBA and business education over the coming 12 months.
Last year, deans predicted we'd see trends in higher education like a greater need for responsible leaders, a bigger push for diversity, and that covid disruption would be normalized.
Looking to the year ahead, what are the business education trends to watch in 2022?
11 Business Education Trends For 2022
1. The climate crisis will force business schools to adapt the curriculum
Acting PVC and Executive Dean
University of Exeter Business School
It’s part of a continual change, but the focus has to be 100% on the environment. Both students and companies are looking to business schools to help translate climate science into action. There’s a huge shift in how organizations think about value, with genuine ESG strategies leading to growth and profitability.
Our MBAs and other graduates are the important agents of change in organizations enabling this. As schools, we need to pay attention to the intersection between business and the environment. They are two sides of the same coin, and it’s through an integrated approach that we can make the biggest impact on tackling climate change.
Grenoble Ecole de Management
We are going through a massive ecological and environmental transition and business schools need to redouble their efforts here. Business education needs to go way beyond its traditional management and business areas and acknowledge the climate emergency.
We have a critical role in helping to develop leaders who can make an impact in preserving natural resources and biodiversity.
Emlyon business school
2022 will be a decisive year to educate our students on the new, big challenges in a changing world, where biodiversity and preservation of the planet are henceforward the main issues.
It supposes a form of radicality in the transformation of our programs and of our research, one of the current trends in education. In September 2021, we launched the compulsory course ‘Act for the climate’ in the Grande École Programme (MiM) to allow students to acquire all the fundamentals to understand the context and the principles of climate emergency.
Professor Claus Rerup
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Frankfurt School of Finance and Management
Rankings continue to be a primary source of business school legitimacy with the weight of various sustainability categories increasing each year, and individual schools win or lose consequently.
This in turn has an impact on which school a student chooses to study at. Green topics like sustainability and green finance are growing in demand. As topics, these used to be integrated into traditional core courses, but entire programs—and perhaps school identity—will be developed around them.
2. Alternative providers will push business schools to reimagine their value proposition
Professor Greg Whitwell
University of Sydney Business School
There’ll be more intense questioning on the future of business schools and whether they will exist in their current form, particularly with the growth of multiple alternative providers.
Business schools, however, have been remarkably adaptable over time. They’ve reinvented programs, pioneered pedagogies, invested in enabling technologies, built value-creating collaborations, and developed new markets.
I believe we are at a pivotal moment in the history of business education. But it’s hardly the end of business schools; it’s the rebirth of business schools. Fundamental to that rebirth will be a shift in business education to a much greater emphasis on inter-disciplinarity (by embracing, for example, the insights of fields including the humanities, political science, the natural sciences, engineering, design, and so on).
3. The digital world will redefine internationalization for business schools
Vlerick Business School
We have an opportunity to redefine internationalization. The pandemic has closed borders (for travel) but opened borders as well, as a digital world does not contain geographical boundaries.
Why not leverage that to add opportunities to the international experience beyond the well-known exchanges and study trips. Possibilities for the future of business schools include collaborative work with students across schools, international guest speakers, and joint online and blended multi-location programs.
4. There’ll continue to be a need for customization, flexibility, and lifelong learning at business school
Prof. Dr. Barbara Majoor
Member of the Executive Board and Vice Rector Magnificus
Nyenrode Business University
One of the growing trends in education is a signaling towards a growing need for customization and flexibility in the education we offer, and new forms of learning, like blended learning, in which digital and physical offerings are tailored to the individual demand of the customer/student.
The challenge for us (and everyone) as a business school is to respond quickly and flexibly to the changing environment and needs of our students.
In addition, technological progress places ever-changing demands on professionals. To be able to participate properly, it’s necessary to continue to learn and develop. The fact that the Netherlands is a knowledge country, where innovation is an important engine for our economy, requires education in the form of lifelong learning.
Among the current trends in education, designing lifelong learning is an important ambition for Nyenrode. When forming future leaders, the responsibility and importance of your own lifelong learning is central.
5. Business schools will pay more attention to their carbon footprint
Dean and President
ESSEC Business School
While providing students with international experience will remain of the utmost importance, one of the education trends we're likely to see is business schools redesigning the offer to factor in their environmental impact.
At ESSEC, our objective is to reduce program-related carbon emissions by 25% in 2022. We will favor closer locations or reimburse students’ travel costs when they take a bus or train to program destinations.
6. Business schools will refine the hybrid learning experience
NEOMA Business School
Under the impetus of the health crisis, business schools have been able to experiment with many digital tools and approaches to remote teaching. Through this journey, they also realized how important face-to-face interactions with professors and between students are, how much campus life brings, and how fruitful serendipity can be.
The experimentation phase is now behind us and we have more maturity to build the teaching models of tomorrow. At NEOMA Business School, we have decided to define a ‘NEOPedagogy model’ that combines face-to-face learning, synchronous distance learning, and asynchronous online learning.
To build it, we are exploring the situations, courses, and profile of students for whom each format is the best in terms of learning experience, and we optimize the combination of formats depending on learning situations.
We also have the NEOMA virtual campus, a kind of metaverse applied to Higher Education that we launched. It enables the interactions and atmosphere of a real campus in a digital learning and student environment.
Imperial College Business School
In 2022, business schools will acknowledge that the revolution experienced in the sector is here to stay and will adapt business models accordingly.
We’ll see business schools embracing hy-flex/multi-mode delivery, offering students a campus experience that integrates the best blend of face-to-face and online offering. After all, this is a reflection of their own realities.
7. Business schools will audit the curriculum to ensure grads can meet the world’s most pressing challenges
UCL Global Business School for Health
Employers and graduates will be looking for radical changes in business management education in the coming year.
Many business schools have shielded themselves from making curriculum leaps. Still, the calls from all aspects of business and society, given the gravity of contemporary societal challenges, will force business schools to respond.
We are living through several population crises, and both employers and graduates are looking for ways to deliver societal impact. When it comes to the future of business schools, the most significant change will be the rethink of the curriculum, primarily around society trends such as climate change, electronic data interchange (EDI), and health and wellbeing—topics that historically would not have featured prominently in business education. These themes and issues will be embedded across degree programs at the graduate level.
8. Interdisciplinary education at business school will be needed to create transformational leaders
Professor Tam Kar Yan
HKUST Business School
One of the business trends we've seen is that business leaders across different sectors are rethinking their approaches to address the growing socio-economic and environmental challenges arising from climate change and Covid.
We have seen a surging demand for responsible data disclosures, impact investments, sustainable finance products, and green strategy formulation. Such talent is strongly required anywhere around the world. Business and management educators need to develop longer-term and thought through strategies to nurture transformational leaders. They’ll become a new driving force of social impact.
We can bridge this talent gap by advancing our knowledge and enhancing our interdisciplinary business education. The HKUST Business School, for example, has stepped up its sustainable and green finance education that spans business and finance as well as environment, science and technology. The cross-sectorial pool of academic experts can contribute towards a more sustainable future and create lasting value for a better world.
9. There’ll be the resumption of cross-border travel for some international business school students
Professor Ding Yuan
Vice President and Dean
China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)
One big change which may occur in 2022 is the resumption of cross-border travel for students wishing to pursue overseas studies, except in China.
The flow of human capital from developing countries to the developed countries might be disrupted, but in developed countries, it’s likely that the pandemic will no longer be an obstacle.
10. Business school students will be taught to couple profit with purpose
MIP Politecnico di Milano
In the last few years, one of the business trends we've seen is that many organizations and business leaders have realized that companies have to rethink their purpose and role within society. Profit, equity, sustainability, and inclusion must co-exist.
As a result of this new awareness, the purpose of every business should increasingly be rethought to give centrality to the role that it wishes to hold in society.
Therefore, I think that the biggest challenge that business schools are facing, and one of the trends in higher education we'll see in 2022, is innovating and transforming educational methods so that business schools can help future business leaders, managers, and entrepreneurs to understand that profit should not be the sole goal of an organization.
11. Business school culture will need to be rebuilt
Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business
We’ve all learned a lot from the forced experiment of educating students during a global pandemic. Some of what we’ve discovered has been good and I anticipate schools will keep, like lightning-speed problem-solving and innovation.
However, we’ll also need to confront some less positive consequences of the disruption, which will mean placing renewed focus on repairing the fabric of our communities.
New students and employees who joined remotely may not have had the benefit of absorbing our ethos or forming deep relationships, while different members of our communities are at wildly different places in confronting their trauma from the pandemic.
Just as is happening in organizations around the world, I anticipate schools becoming more intentional about rebuilding culture.
Business Education Trends: What to watch in 2022?
The business schools that will continue to deliver on the value proposition of graduate management education in 2022 will be those that make hybrid learning work by tailoring their proposition to each individual student.
However, hybrid learning might not be the most pressing concern among the trends in higher education for business schools in 2022. The challenges related to the climate crisis were the most commonly identified by business school deans, and schools need to double down on meeting the demands of climate change.
That could include reducing their own carbon footprint with fewer overseas trips or having corporate social responsibility and ESG as pillars running across the entire curriculum.
The business schools to watch in 2022 will be those that meet the climate crisis and the consequences of the pandemic head on.