From the inside out – how faculty and professional staff see the future.
Business schools already seem to have glimpsed at least part of what the future might hold, although making the change may be more difficult. Both faculty and professional staff say they want to work at schools that challenge world views by combining innovative and critical thinking, that encourage staff and students to challenge the status quo and think differently, that have a focus on social responsibility and if all this leads to their school being well ranked, that’s a bonus, but not a priority.
Much of this is not new, the difference is the speed with which it is likely to happen, driven by both new demand and a loss of income from traditional sources. Faculty and professional staff also foresee changes in the way students learn – just under half believe that a blended model combining face-to-face and online learning is an ideal skills development path.
A shift to blended delivery or fully online is highlighted when business school staff are asked about the nature of their programmes and the opportunities for growth in the decade ahead. Less than a third of business school staff indicate that their school currently offers digital badges or micromasters, but more than 70% expect to do so in the next three years. Today, 62% of faculty and 64% of professional staff believe there are opportunities to grow their digital/online provision.
However, these are not the only opportunities for growth at their institution that are identified by business school staff. Currently, staff see strong opportunities for growth through international partnerships, chosen by more than 70% of respondents, although the pandemic may put this on hold or produce virtual partnerships. More than 6 out of 10 staff also highlight the opportunity of executive education, as well as growing both undergraduate and postgraduate student numbers.
Over the next ten years, faculty identify three other areas for growth in their schools – partnerships with private companies to deliver new programmes, developing degree programmes with other faculties in our university and creating lifelong learning opportunities, chosen by 60%, 61% and 62% respectively.
However, there are likely to be some bumps in the road as business schools change. Three out of every ten faculty and professional staff taking part in the survey say schools will increasingly close their full-time MBA, while just over six out of ten believe that growing competition will lead some schools to merge or close completely.
Almost nine out of ten staff also suggest that schools need to do more to enable lifelong learning. Nearly eight out of ten think their school needs to offer more flexible approaches to taking a degree, while almost two-thirds see the need for a broader curriculum including arts and sciences. Among faculty 85% agree that their school needs to introduce more experiential learning, while 95% of professional staff have the same view as do 85% of employers. Yesterday’s business school may look very different from the school of the future.
Research is also likely to change in the coming years. Just over half of faculty definitely agree that their school needs to produce more relevant and practice-oriented research (52%), while just under half that they need to better leverage their research to produce a richer classroom experience for students (49%). Again just under half definitely agree that they need to work more closely with employers to produce research with impact (48%) and 43% that their school needs to work more with other faculties to produce relevant inter-disciplinary research.
Business school staff also have views on changing content in programmes. Asked what would be most valuable for students to study in the next five years, faculty identified Data analytics and data-driven decision making (46%), Decision making in uncertain and complex times (41%) and Sustainability (35%), with professional staff picking the same top three but putting sustainability slightly ahead of decision-making. Fourth and fifth in both faculty and professional staff lists are digital transformation and ethics. No one is suggesting that finance, accounting, marketing and HR are about to disappear from the business education curriculum, but these subjects can’t be studied in isolation and schools will need to think about the best way to deliver broader programmes that connect with the issues graduates will face in their careers.
Career connections have always been important for business school students, meaning schools will have to meet changing needs from employers. Faculty and professional staff identified three priorities for their schools to meet these changing needs – reviewing their degree portfolio, growing their executive education offer and utilising digital tools to enhance current learning offers. School strategy has in part meant thinking about what not to do and as schools respond to employers with new courses, some existing courses are likely to be removed from portfolios. Schools may find that while they continue with strong undergraduate offers, more of their revenue begins to come from their lifelong and executive education offers, creating a new dynamic in their school strategy.