Deans & Faculty Agree: B-Schools Are Becoming More Inclusive

A new study by MBA Roundtabvle shows a big majority of deans, faculty and directors believe their MBA programs are becoming more inclusive

What is inclusivity, as it pertains to business school? The obvious answer is that it involves greater outreach and sensitivity to issues affecting under-represented groups, in the classroom as well as the curriculum, particularly women and Black and Latino students. The MBA Roundtable, a global association of B-schools dedicated to advancing graduate management education through curricular and co-curricular innovation, defines inclusivity in a new report as “the practice of providing equal access to opportunity and resources to everyone, including those that might otherwise or historically be excluded or marginalized, in the curriculum, which includes the overall content, learning experiences, structure, sequence, as well as co-curricular activities offered by the business school.”

And in a new poll of deans, directors, and faculty at more than 100 of its member schools, the group finds a strong inclination toward the belief that B-schools are becoming more inclusive — but also that there is a great deal more work to be done, and better metrics needed to measure progress by.

“Business schools are making considerable effort to make their program curriculum much more inclusive, but it also tells us that we are still early on this journey,” says Dan Turner, MBA Roundtable chair and associate dean of master’s programs at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.


The MBA Roundtable’s new report, Inclusion In The Classroom: How Are We Engaging, surveyed 105 deans, directors, and faculty at 93 graduate business schools about their impressions, effort, and activities to increase inclusivity in the B-school curriculum. The poll, conducted in March and April of this year, found that most report improvement in their B-school offering an inclusive learning environment during their tenure at the school, with more than two-thirds — 68% — rating their school positively as it stands now. Only 37% say their schools made the grade in inclusivity retrospective to the time they first became affiliated with the school.

But while progress has been made, according to poll respondents, more needs to be done. Overall, 62% say too little effort has been exerted to increase inclusivity in the learning environment; about a third (30%) say the amount of effort is just right. Most say that their B-school provides faculty and staff training and have explicit policies about inclusivity; however, fewer than half (48%) report that inclusivity is measured at their school.

“We are just beginning to have the metrics to track our progress and to help us make graduate management education curriculum as inclusive and representative of our students today and in the future,” Dan Turner says. “There are tremendous opportunities to take this to the next level, and we hope this survey helps schools start to meet those goals.”

What is the practical effect of the embrace and pursuit of greater inclusivity? Two-thirds report that inclusivity initiatives in the learning environment have impacted learning assets (68%) and co-curricular activities (67%), while about half say instructional models (53%) and learning objectives (50%) have been impacted. Course offerings show less change, with only 29% reporting the creation of new elective courses and 15% report the creation of new core courses.


Change is coming: According to an April 2021 study by MBA Roundtable, B-school deans anticipate that alternatives to MBA programs will, by necessity, continue to grow. The report, Alternative Credentials In Graduate Business School, captured a snapshot of attitudes about certificates, badges, microcredentials, and more, finding that seven in 10 (70%) deans, directors, and faculty agreed or strongly agreed that alternative credentials are a required strategy for business schools.

Overall, 71% agreed or strongly agreed that alternative credentials are needed to remain competitive in graduate business education, with directors (40%) more likely than deans (21%) to strongly agree with the sentiment. Respondents at both private and public institutions had similar opinions.

Another way for B-schools to stay in the conversation among top talent: analytics. In December, MBA Roundtable released the findings of another survey showing that as much as analytics have been key parts of MBA curricular overhauls of the last five (and 10) years, B-schools with redesign plans for the coming half-decade see no reason to diverge from the orthodoxy — that analytics is The Future.


Among the other findings in MBA Roundtable’s latest survey:

  • A majority agree their B-school encourages open communications, offers opportunities for all, and values diverse perspectives.
  • Most of the faculty, deans, and directors agree the faculty respects diverse perspectives and refrain from improper remarks.
  • Most also agree that faculty, staff, and students at their B-school contribute positively to creating a participative environment for each other.

“The university, current students, and staff are driving the demand for increasing inclusivity at business schools, while the need to be responsive and relevant are considered the prime impetus for increasing inclusivity according to the respondents,” according to the report. “In addition, many say that increasing inclusivity is ‘the right thing to do.’ One respondent wrote, ‘We wanted to offer a relevant and responsive curriculum. We wanted our students, faculty, and staff to feel a sense of belonging in our program. It was the right thing to do.'”

See the full MBA Roundtable report by clicking here.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.