More than three-quarters of global employers think the MBA is due for a makeover, according to a study published earlier this month by CarringtonCrisp and LinkedIn. The study asked more than 500 employers and over 2,500 employers in 22 countries if they thought MBA degrees needed to be reinvented to become more relevant for the future. Some 42% said they “definitely agree” and another 36% said they “mostly agree.” A scant 1% said they “definitely disagree” and just 4% said they “mostly disagree.”
It might be innovate-or-die time for many business schools as online learning, stackable certificates and degrees, and upstart B-school alternatives all gain legitimacy in the eyes of employers. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of employers either “mostly” or “definitely” agree that online learning is recognized in the same way as traditional face-to-face learning. Just 10% said they disagree that online learning is as legitimate as face-to-face learning. What’s more, 78% of employers agreed that “short bursts” of learning and “microcredentials” delivered flexibly are valuable in meeting developmental needs.
However, the classroom shouldn’t be totally ditched, the data from the survey say. Among the 2,505 individual responses, 68% believe when continuing education, a blended model of online and face-to-face learning would be best. Some 63% believe face-to-face learning provides a richer learning experience. No matter the style of learning, 71% want flexibility in learning.
‘STEPPING STONE’ PROGRAMS AND SPECIALIZED QUALIFICATIONS AND MASTER’S PROGRAMS MOST POPULAR POTENTIAL CHOICES AMONG EMPLOYEES
“The growth in digital learning means learners are no longer limited to local, regional, or domestic providers – they can choose to study globally. It means that business schools are competing in a much bigger market, and to attract students the quality of a school’s brand assumes far greater importance,” Andrew Crisp of CarringtonCrisp, author of the study, said in a prepared release.
The MBA is certainly not the most popular path among survey respondents. When asked what learning qualifications they might seek over the next five years, just 14% selected an MBA or Executive MBA. That was one of the lowest categories selected by employees. The highest was “diplomas/certificates” which was selected by 23% of respondents and was described in the report as a “stepping stone to a degree.” Industry-recognized qualifications and specialized one or two-year master’s degrees were the next most popular choices, each being selected by 21% of respondents.
THREATS TO BUSINESS SCHOOLS
Indeed, traditional learning in general — and business schools in particular — have threats to their long-term sustainability. The survey showed just 35% of current employers use business schools as part of their learning and development of employees. When asked why they don’t use business schools as part of learning and development, most respondents (24%) said business schools are too expensive. Another 24% said providers of other programs align better with their needs. And one-in-five respondents said business schools are too theoretical and not sufficient at providing learning opportunities for real-world business problems.
Perhaps more disturbingly, among the employees surveyed, more than half (52%) consider business schools too expensive for their learning needs and 44% said their colleagues that have attended business school have not seen the benefits after investing in a business school program.
“Business schools still have advantages over other providers, with 68% of employees indicating that their main reason for choosing a school is the opportunity to build personal networks,” the survey points out. “For 52% previous study with a business school would be key to their future choice of provider. Business schools will need to grow their alumni engagement if they are to make the most of such an opportunity.”
COST, IMPACT OF LEARNING BOTH IMPORTANT FOR EMPLOYERS
The issue for business schools, the survey’s report points out, is employers and employees are not seeing the value in them because of the cost while other, less costly competitors are popping up. More than half (58%) of employees that other platforms in the learning and development space make them question the value of higher education. Some 34% of respondents are interested in a degree but only if they can earn it in “modules” over an extended period of time.
When looking for potential learning partners, 81% of employers seek to build long-term relationships with a learning and development partner. The vast majority (83%) say measuring impact of the learning and development will be key in deciding on a potential partner.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMPLOYER-BUSINESS SCHOOL COLLABORATIONS
Offering low-cost learning is what most respondents (35%) said they believe is important when deciding on a learning brand or business school. Embracing digital delivery of learning was the next most popular (27%) deciding factor. Accelerating and transforming the career paths of students (27%) and being highly ranked (26%) were the other most important factors for respondents considering business school.
The good news for business schools is there is still plenty of potential growth. Some 79% of employers say they are interested in co-creation of content. And 77% would like to help develop short, inexpensive programs that deliver relevant skills for employers.
“With only 35% of employers currently using business schools, there is a big opportunity for schools to grow their share of the global market,” Crisp said in the prepared release. “However, to do so business schools need to adapt quickly. They need to co-create, working with employers to build learning, to collaborate across departments, faculties, and institutions, and find ways to deliver new learning and not wait for the bureaucracy to catch up.”