One thing the world is not short of at the moment is predictions. Stuck at home for recent months, many people have had a lot of time to think about the future of business education, and much more besides. So why would you want to read another set of predictions?
Seven years ago, EFMD and CarringtonCrisp published their first See the Future study to examine how students, business school staff and employers were thinking about the future of business education. Now, working with EFMD and GMAC, CarringtonCrisp have run the study again, surveying almost 2500 current students, faculty, professional staff and employers from 80 countries to find out their views on the future of business education. Add in two further studies, one undertaken by CarringtonCrisp for LinkedIn which looked at the views of 1150 learners across four generational groups aged between 18 and 55, and CarringtonCrisp’s GenerationWeb study that included questions specifically on the experience of learners during the lockdown, and you have a comprehensive view of what those working in, studying in and with business education think about the future.
The uncertainty that is now prevalent across the world is not new. The scale of that uncertainty may be of a magnitude not seen for many decades, but there was already an understanding that business education was changing before the arrival of COVID-19.
2012 had been declared the year of the MOOC by the New York Times, and while MOOCs have not been the revolution that some predicted, they have become part of the landscape of higher education. Some of the MOOC providers have evolved corporate offers, providing a licence to a company that allows employees unlimited access to their courses – learning has become part of the benefits package of large employers.
Part of the market change has been driven by the lifelong learning agenda. The book, The 100 year life’, by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott from London Business School, set out some of the implications for increased longevity, not least of which will be a greater need for lifelong learning as people upskill and reskill throughout their lives to remain employable.
In some business schools, full-time MBA degrees have closed, but online MBA offerings continue to grow and there have been a host of new entrants to the MBA market, such as Jolt and Quantic. Recent years have seen business schools renewing their programme portfolio, especially at Masters level, with the introduction of programmes covering subjects such as data science, sustainability and creativity.
The world of learning has been further transformed with the arrival of providers such as General Assembly, offering short programmes in a host of in-demand digital skills, as well as LinkedIn Learning with over 16,000 online courses across a variety of topics. Business schools have responded in some cases to introduce their own short course online offers. For example in October 2017, GetSmarter worked with Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford to deliver the Oxford Fintech Programme, run over 10 weeks; the first course had just under 1,000 students each paying a fee of £2,500.
For business schools, competition is not just from new entrants but has become truly global in the last 15 years. In 2008, only nine business schools from outside North America and Europe made the FT’s Global MBA ranking, in 2020 the number stands at 20.
Despite the uncertainty, business schools have been largely thriving, buoyed by increasing international demand from tertiary level students, economic growth across much of the world since the global financial crisis and using technology to drive innovation in much of their activity. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a massive shock to the system with many now debating what future business education should embrace.