Fundamental Change Is Coming To The MBA, B-Schools Leaders Say


A huge majority of business school leaders expect fundamental change to the way MBAs are delivered in the next five years, according to a new survey released Monday (February 10). Another majority, not quite as big, says content in MBA programs generally needs an upgrade.

Research from the Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association (AMBA & BGA), sister accreditation bodies that represent mostly non-U.S. B-schools, reveals that more than three quarters of school leaders globally believe the fundamentals of the MBA will change within half a decade, and more than two thirds think the content could be improved. The AMBA & BGA Business School Leaders Survey, which polled 358 decision makers at schools across the world, also shows that a quarter of survey participants do not think their campus is being run as efficiently as it could be.

“These findings demonstrate that most leaders believe that MBA delivery methods are likely to evolve over time and that there is scope for improvement in MBA delivery,” Will Dawes, research and insight manager at AMBA & BGA, says. “Indeed, leaders predict that core elements of MBA provision will change in the next decade, which will pose strategic questions about how schools shape their own future.”



The AMBA & BGA currently accredit programs from the top 2% of B-schools in more than 75 countries. A report, The Future Of Technology In Management Education, in association with learning management platform Canvas, is the first to come out of research based on an online survey conducted between August and September 2019. Two more report installations are planned.

As part of the survey, hundreds of B-school leaders were asked how likely or unlikely it is that the fundamentals of the MBA are likely to change within the next 10 years, and 77% responded that they think it is likely, including two in five (40%) who think that it is “very likely.” Meanwhile, 67% agree that the delivery or content of their MBA program could be improved, though more than half — 53% — stated “tend to agree,” “suggesting that most leaders recognize some scope for improvement,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, slightly more than half (54%) agreed that “my business school’s campus is being run as efficiently as it could be”; conversely, 25% disagree.

As part of its exploration into questions of technical education and trend-setting, AMBA & BGA asked about a range of aspects regarding B-schools and found a small proportion of leaders who stated that they are not doing very well; equally, very high levels of perceived performance were not regularly cited. The highest rated include “updating your program so that it reflects the latest trends in business” and “portraying the defining elements of your business school which differentiate it from others to potential students” (32% and 25% of participants, respectively, believe their schools are doing “very well” in these areas). When combining “very well” and “fairly well,” these figures rise to 85% and 77%, respectively.

Potential opportunities, specifically in relation to technology, could arise in areas which schools are not considered to be performing well. This could include “engaging with alumni” (cited by 34% of participants as an area in their school where performance could be improved), “providing flexible learning opportunities within programs” (cited by 32%), and “using new technology to deliver teaching and learning” (cited by 30%).



According to AMBA & BGA, B-school leaders were asked how important various technologies would be in running their schools in the next 10 years. Big data is perceived to be the most important of these technologies, with 95% stating that it is important, followed by experiential learning (94%), digitalization (93%) ,and AI (86%). Data visualisation is considered to be important by more than four in five (83%). The least important for B-schools in the future? The answers, though still representing a majority, were automation (79%), virtual reality (63%), and augmented reality (60%).

Asked how prepared their schools are to embrace each of these technologies, respondents were most confident about experiential learning (83%), followed by digitalization (75%) and big data (75%). Perceived preparation is lower for other technologies (58% say their school is prepared to embrace data visualization, and 51% AI); asked about the introduction of automation, almost half (47%) say their B-school is prepared, with the same proportion (47%) saying they are not prepared. “Meanwhile,” the report reads, “when asked about some technologies, most leaders say that their institutions are not prepared to embrace the technology. For example, approximately three in five say that their school is unprepared for the introduction of augmented reality (63%) and virtual reality (60%).”

Dawes says the results are further evidence of mixed levels of confidence in whether MBA curricula meet the needs of the biggest tech employers. He points to the fact that only about one in six leaders (16%) are “very confident” their curricula meets the needs of tech employers, though three in five (60%) are “fairly confident.” Meanwhile, three in 10 (29%) are “not very confident” and 1% are “not at all confident.”

“It could be argued that some of these technologies not only offer an opportunity to be integrated into the curriculums at business schools, but also have the potential to be further applied in how schools are able to operate,” Dawes says.


AMBA & BGA’s research “exposed low levels of agreement when it comes to the integration of digitalization into business schools,” according to a news release accompanying the report. “Just three in 10 participants (30%) agree that their campus’s operations are fully digitally integrated. Conversely, two in five (40%) disagree. Meanwhile, slightly more than two fifths (43%) agree that ‘decisions at my business school are primarily informed by data,’ and just 6% strongly agree.

“A quarter of business school leaders (25%) strongly agree that ‘my business school has implemented new innovative ways of delivering programs in the past year.’ Overall, almost two thirds (64%) agree and slightly more than one in seven (15%) disagree with this statement.”

Meanwhile, AMBA & BGA reports that exactly half, 50%, agree that “my business school is well prepared to embrace the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution,” while only 13% strongly agree.

“These findings illuminate both the gaps and opportunities with which business schools find themselves, when it comes to technology and how they can use it to enrich their schools and the students they teach,” Dawes says. “Yet some of these opportunities or areas in which schools are not incorporating technology should not override the overall optimism of the sector and belief in its capacity to grow. Indeed, 84% of leaders believe that their business school will grow in capacity in the next three years. More than a third of leaders (34%) are very confident. On the other hand, just one in eight (13%) are not confident.

“This indicates that schools are optimistic about the direction of management education and should perhaps invest further in suitable technological opportunities which enhance the delivery capability of their schools. This report demonstrates that technology is firmly in the consciousness of the most senior individuals running business schools. Leaders are broadly optimistic about the future of the sector and appear to view new technology to be an important factor in their vision. It is also clear that some schools do not necessarily believe that they are as advanced in their journey to introduce new technology into their institutions as they could be — particularly in North America and the Caribbean and Europe.

“Yet it is also clear that schools are gearing themselves up to introduce new technological concepts and see the opportunities that this presents.”

Read the full AMBA & BGA report here.


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