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Future Business: Business School

Posted on Jul 19, 2013


Boom or Bust?

It’s been a volatile time for the world of business with a recession in the West, the rise of new markets, the light-speed emergence of new technologies, and market disruption creating and destroying entire industries in the blink of an eye. And it’s just as volatile for business schools with declining MBA numbers. So, how are the world’s business schools responding? Are they still battening down the hatches and waiting for the worse to pass? Or are they adapting, changing and innovating like their counterparts in the world of business? We posed these questions to The Lab. And after much distilling of information and delving into the Index, here’s a round up of some new developments, interesting trends and stories that caught our eye.

Improving the application process – Nobody likes having to fill out long applications, particularly when your future, quite literally depends on it. So, Harvard has scrapped its entrance essays and now you don’t have to write anything at all – unless you really want to. In our brave new socially connected world, they boldly state – “We can see your resume, school transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”

Meanwhile over at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, they’re asking applicants to tweet why they want to do their MBA. And the University of Toronto’s Rotman School has replaced one of its traditional written essays with a 90 second video interview where people answer one set question and one at random. “We wanted to know more about the personality and passions of our applicants”, explains Niki da Silva, Rotman’s Director of Admissions. “Candidates were picking out keywords from our website for their essays, and we felt that we were losing in authenticity.” Wharton meanwhile is exploring group interaction as part of the admission process with a new ‘team discussion’.

Taster courses – Staying with Wharton they have just launched their first FREE online course that will teach Gamification Techniques in the Business World via Coursera. All students who pass the final exam will receive a ‘certificate of accomplishment’ and will hopefully be hooked enough to take their studies further.


Free courses – In a world of escalating tuition fees, some universities have been even braver and decided to give some courses away for free. An excellent article ‘Business Schools facing a challenging future’ by the FT states how Stanford University offered free online courses on machine learning, database systems and artificial intelligence to 100,000 students.

Inspiring innovation – Big business ideas don’t always come from business people. Wisconsin School of Business recognises this, which is why they have started to hold Entrepreneurial Boot camps. Here graduate students in engineering and life sciences mix with and learn from successful entrepreneurs to encourage more start-ups.

Industry collaboration – Real business links have always been important, but some businesses are now investing in business schools.
Tektronix have given a generous $250,000 gift, as Portland State University invests $60million dollars to triple the size of its business school. They certainly believe it’s boom time for business schools. Nottingham Trent University have also integrated themselves firmly into the world of business, as their BA (Hons) Business Management (In-Company) involves working at companies like Rolls Royce and Tesco for two of the three years. And there are many more examples of industry collaboration out there such as Thunderbird’s controversial collaboration with Laureate. Sell out? Or savvy? You decide.

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A total makeover – A great article by Fast Company tells how Harvard Business School is transforming its physical spaces, not to mention its image by drawing on inspiration from arguably their most famous dropout, Mark Zuckerberg, and working in hives just like they do at Facebook. Their aim? To reinvent the MBA and inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and start-ups.

New ways of learning – As we mentioned earlier, ‘innovation’ is the new business world X-Factor. And different business schools are trying very different things to inspire creativity and develop soft skills. For example you can put yourself in the spotlight with some singing or acting on the Lisbon MBA. Warwick University has a Shakespeare boot camp as part of its MBA. While Harvard’s finest recently followed the wail of the gaita – Cristiana Pato as part of the Silk Road Project as they aim to join artistic and entrepreneurial spirits. Then over at the University of Bradford, who better than yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur to use her experience of singlehandedly circumnavigating the world to help create a postgraduate course on creating a ‘circular economy’?

It would be remiss of us not to touch on the rise of the MOOCs at this point, which are a massive threat or opportunity to business schools depending on your viewpoint. However business schools have always been at the forefront of online learning to meet the needs of the fast-paced world of global business. And Colombia Business School speak for many, remaining buoyant about the future of MBAs.

Eric Fischer

Wider world

Whatever your field, China could be a massive competitor, or a huge opportunity in equal measure. And business schools are no exception. Universities around the world have welcomed Chinese business students with open arms, mainly due to the fact that many Chinese business schools aren’t as appealing with only a handful managing to attain accreditations from Equis or AACSB. But the rise of China’s 233 business schools could halt this migration and even turn them into magnets that attract students from every corner of the globe.

One of the business schools leading the way is the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), an unusual collaboration between the Chinese Government and European Commission. They have campuses in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Accra, Ghana. Their Executive MBA programme was ranked 11th in the world by the FT in 2011. And they boast the largest EMBA programme in the world in terms of student numbers, as well as strong links with Harvard, Wharton and Columbia among others.

Building on this collaborative approach, in India business schools are also adopting a more harmonious approach, partnering with others to move beyond exchange programmes with students spending equal time in campuses in India and abroad.

Knowledge is power – Everybody wants to be at the forefront of thought leadership, especially as new thinking in another industry can be quickly harnessed and used to blow markets wide open. Which is why many business schools keep their students and alumni up-to-date with the latest stories through blogs. And some like the Open University Business School have taken this to a whole new level with regular periodicals covering the latest business thinking, such as Innovation, Leadership and Strategy. Take a closer look at the back page and you’ll notice that this knowledge is powered by The Future Index.

OUBS_Perspectives_Innovation COVER

Click on this link to download a copy OUBS_Perspectives_Innovation_01

To get further free insight into the latest business school trends and to find out how The Future Index can help you apply the inspiration out there to your own challenges, then click on this link and have a look at our summary and email or

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