The MBA degree has been changing over the past few years both in format, with the rise in online courses, and in ethos, with a growing trend towards sustainability and corporate responsibility.
“Years ago, business schools had a somewhat unfair reputation for grooming self-centered corporate climbers who only cared about securing a six-digit salary or landing a lucrative position at a prestigious consulting firm,” explains expert business school admissions consultant Barbara Coward.
“But that's changed. Now it's hard to come across a business school that doesn't mention a desire to develop leaders who will make a positive difference in their world. In fact, it's even an integral part of the admissions process.”
Today, creating responsible leaders of tomorrow is an obligation that business schools are facing worldwide. Nottingham Business School’s Online MBA, for example, focuses on global strategies for a sustainable world, helping grads find purpose as well as success.
In 2016, Nottingham Trent University was awarded first place in the People & Planet University League, which ranks all 145 UK universities on their commitment to and management of sustainability. It’s the third time the university has topped the league table, and it’s been consistently in the top ten since 2009.
As Barbara points out, “It would be easy for business schools to sit on the sidelines and say that topics such as energy, the environment and human rights are a problem. However, powerful solutions can only happen through people – people who have strong leadership skills, a strategic mind-set and are able to influence change. That's where business schools excel.”
Nottingham Business School’s Online MBA has a Responsible Leadership module at its core, which encourages students to reflect on topics like ethics and sustainability in business and management practice. Another core module, The Values-Led Organization, focuses on corporate social responsibility and international developments around sustainability.
Looking at the business school community as a whole, Barbara suggests this type of commitment to sustainability could be ahead of the curve.
“Business schools are widely integrating sustainability topics into their curriculum,” she says. “I suspect interest will grow. There are applicants who are so interested in sustainability that it becomes a ‘deal-breaker’ whether or not a school offers a concentration or specialization in the topic.”
With the increased flexibility offered by online degrees and with the increasingly philanthropic philosophy underpinning them, grads today have never been more encouraged to ask themselves meaningful questions surrounding their business goals.
As Barbara says, “The idea now is not just asking what your plans are after the MBA, but what is your purpose after the MBA? After all, business shouldn't be separate from society, but rather a part of the solution to society's biggest problems.”