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B-School Deans' Predictions For Business Education In 2015

The heads of top global business schools forecast changes to MBA students' careers, and course content and delivery methods in 2015.

Sun Jan 11 2015

What do the heads of the world’s leading business schools expect in 2015? BusinessBecause asked executives and management academics what lies in store.

The pressure on educators to innovate both their content and methods of delivery is unabated – but they are finding a surge in demand for specalist programs, adapting to the needs of business.

New Competitors

Ivan Bofarull, director of the Global Intelligence Office at ESADE Business School, has a cynical view of 2015. He expects the irruption of new players with lower cost structures, tapping into the ocean of opportunities that digitization has unleashed.

“Some of these new players will deliver appealing value propositions in the elite segment of business education, which will push traditional players to choose between reasserting their value propositions or go into troubled waters,” he says.

Digital Disruption

Digital has garnered many headlines in 2014, but Jean-François Fiorina, associate dean of Grenoble Ecole de Management, predicts further disruption of business education this year.

“[We] will see a rise in digital technology use, ever more globalization, and multi-pedagogies to boost learning,” he says.

The French business school was one of the first to pioneer Moocs – massive open online courses – that have swept through universities like a tidal wave, forcing institutions to alter their deliver methods. Grenoble published a white paper on the topic – Thoughts on the School of the Future – in 2014.

“Disrupted by technology and market forces, business education is facing a revolution… The teaching methods of tomorrow are being tested today,” says Jean-François.

Shifting Careers

The future of business education will be shaped by changing career trends, according to Bernard Garrette, associate dean of HEC Paris’ MBA.

He says that MBA students are either flocking to blue chip, multinational companies or smaller, more innovative firms and start-ups. “Thus [they] need students who are able to deliver; who have a solid understanding of technology, but simultaneously possess solid managerial skills.”

Business schools are adapting to meet the demands of the jobs market, he says. There has been “a surge in business schools emphasizing analytical skills and teaching topics such as big data and analytics”, while others “focus on leadership and managerial aptitudes”.

This includes HEC Paris. The French business school recently partnered with IBM to provide students with training in business analytics.

“It is becoming increasingly important to instil in students a data-oriented mind-set, so that they can adapt to future business challenges,” says Bernard.

However, he adds that recruiters also want MBAs with a global outlook, leadership skills, and those who are capable of spotting new growth opportunities. “The future of business education will thus centre on rising to this challenge.”

Case Studies’ Demise

Case studies have been schools’ bread and butter, but contextualized learning experiences in real-time are forecast to gain ground in 2015.

Joseph Pistrui, professor of entrepreneurial management at IE Business School, says that the pace at which workplace challenges are evolving is making traditional case studies less appealing.

A key theme that began emerging last year was the rise in adoption of Silicon Valley practices – entrepreneurship and bold idea testing. Joseph believes business schools will move toward a “laboratory environment” where testing ideas becomes more important than traditional analysis and solutions.

“This of course is part of a wider trend in business, away for the more algorithmic approach to problem solving [and] toward a more explicit emphasis on developing the entrepreneurial capacities of managers,” he says, such as design thinking and lean start up frameworks.

Brand Appeal

2014 saw China overtake the US as the world’s largest economy, and its business schools too may be set for changing times, according to Roy Chason, assistant director at China Europe International Business School.

He thinks there will be more of a focus on experiential learning “What can be learned online will shift to the net, and what can’t be learned or experienced online will be intensified in and outside the classroom,” he says.

He adds that business schools should try to differentiate their brands – cited numerously in our articles in 2014.

A Focus on Culture

Dana Brown, director of the MBA program at Oxford’s Saïd Business School, says that 2015 will be a year of culture – its meaning and significance for political, social and economic developments will become an educational focus.

“Business students will find that they need to understand the ‘rules of the game’ that shape business environments, and the underpinnings of healthy business such as good education systems,” she says.

Oxford has revamped its MBA to focus on themes such as entrepreneurship and leadership. Further change in curricula may be abound: Dana expects schools’ teachings to become more diverse. “Students require ideas and tools to help them address complex issues,” she says.

In the classroom, there may be more innovation in pedagogical techniques, she adds. “Today’s students learn well through experience, and are cognizant of the value of soft skills, such as how they interact and are perceived by others.”