Global Institute, The Future of Education

The Future of Global Business Education: Building Skills for a Transformed Global Economy

Although the impacts of the pandemic on market-driven global business education have yet to fully manifest, some trends in application numbers, mobility, and student preference have emerged. These indicators reveal several likely paths forward for organizations involved in business and management education. For example, in the future schools will offer hybrid learning opportunities that effectively communicate practical skills. Additionally, indicators reveal a belief among students that learned skills need better alignment with economic realities. Aligning education with real-world problems and demands, then delivering it to potential employees is one of several fundamental question for the future of business education.

Overview of Trends

Demand for business education remains high. While 2021 saw a slight dip in application numbers, interest quickly rebounded post-pandemic. Applications in 2022 outpaced both 2020 and 2021 intakes. What has changed is the origin of applications. International applications for American schools increased in 2022, while American-student applications trended across the Atlantic to European institutions, likely due to high tuition fees at home.

Several globally recognized MBA programs saw structural changes as they faced decisions about pandemic-adopted remote learning. An overwhelming majority will continue with some form of hybrid learning. Several schools are even experimenting with completely virtual campuses, utilising new VR technologies, however most programs will retain a high degree of in-person teaching and learning.

A third general trend is the addition of new program content. Recent surveys show a general desire amongst students for ethical leadership skills and education focused on the critical elements of big global problems like climate change and inequality. Climate finance, sustainability, ESG and development finance all represent new curricular and experiential learning opportunities for futures-focused higher education institutions. For many MBA candidates, it’s not just about money anymore. It’s about creating impact.

The Macro View

Education as a sector is in flux. Long before the pandemic, economic changes, caused by innovation and the integration of new technology in society and industry were already disrupting labour markets. Skills once valuable were rendered obsolete, ushering in demand for new and enhanced skills and capabilities. This market dynamism places more onus on workers to pursue ongoing skills enhancement and growth, which creates new opportunities for employers to align internal professional and continuing education with evolving market demand for skills.

As both businesses and individuals realise the importance of ongoing skills-based education in the workplace, the demand for effective education solutions increases. Recent surveys show that potential employees now value learning opportunities almost as highly as they value competitive salaries and benefits. The same surveys also reveal that employers are now more prepared to invest in ongoing training in the workplace.

Flexibility; New Programs and New Formats

Business schools are now seeking to meet a demand for flexible and remote online learning opportunities. Some programs have introduced stackable certificates. They allow students to take one-year programs to achieve a specific certificate or to stack three certificates into an MBA. These new methods have come in response to student (and employer) demand for flexible program formats, which silver specific skills training.

Schools are also diversifying program content. In addition to accounting, financial, legal, and management training, some programs are adding training on business and sustainability. Several specific MBA programs focusing on business & sustainability, and business & health were introduced in 2021. These programs meet a demand for education that leads to better solutions for the issues students care about. Recent years have even seen collaborative work between business management educators and UN institutions in efforts to align management practice with the SDGs through the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education and through its affiliation with the UN Global Compact.

Looking Ahead

The hybrid learning style isn’t going anywhere. Leaders in the education space have noted that online options provide unique benefits, like participation from a wider audience. At the same time, most educators admit that there’s still no replacement for in-person activities in some areas.

In light of visible trends, schools should continue to diversify available programs by combining traditional business training with other disciplines. Doing so would meet rising student demand for education on positive impact making. Business education through traditional MBA granting institutions is still highly sought after. Business schools should, however, continue the adaptation process, meeting the demands of employers for actionable skills and students’ desire for ethical solutions.

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