The curriculum at any given MBA program is bound to shift over time — and that’s something for which business schools must have contingency plans, according to a majority of B-schools in a newly released survey. Most say they do.
The Graduate Business Curriculum Roundtable, formerly the MBA Roundtable, released its biennial survey this month of nearly 100 global B-schools with almost 600 graduate business programs serving tens of thousands of students. The poll results show that most schools have policies regarding curriculum revisions, with a third requiring ongoing reviews and a quarter mandating revisions every three to five years.
But the survey goes deeper than that, exploring just what those MBA curricula contain — and what they don’t. GBC Roundtable found that for most surveyed B-schools, the core curriculum represents more than half of a student’s experience in the program, on average requiring instruction in nine areas of study. The most common: marketing, strategy, and finance, in which 9 of 10 programs require students to complete a course of instruction before graduating. Other foundational areas are operations management, which 73% of programs require that students study, accounting-management (69%), and accounting-finance (65%).
AFTER THE MBA, ACCOUNTING MASTER’S IS MOST COMMON DEGREE OFFERED
GBC Roundtable is a global association whose mission is to advance graduate business education through curricular and co-curricular innovation. The group defines curriculum as “the overall content (theories, ideas, concepts, skills, knowledge, etc.) taught and delivered within the formal courses and other required learning experiences, the structure of those courses, and their sequence as well as co-curricular activities/opportunities of your graduate degree program(s).” GBC Roundtable commissioned an online curriculum survey of graduate business schools between February 1 and March 21, 2023, and released its new report, The Graduate Business Education Curriculum Survey, on May 15.
In it, more than 200 graduate business programs at 99 B-schools share information about the curriculum for 110 MBA and 97 business master’s and Ph.D./DBA programs, representing 36% of programs at the B-schools. The schools serve more than 68,000 enrolled students with 581 graduate business degree programs and 4,901 full-time equivalent faculty. The median student-to-faculty ratio at these graduate programs is 16 to 1.
Among the findings: The MBA degree “continues to be the most common type of graduate business program offered by business schools,” GBC Roundtable reports. “Nine in ten (93%) schools offer an MBA degree in this year’s survey, similar to the percentage in 2021. A master’s of accounting (61%) is the next most commonly offered degree at business schools, followed by business analytics (39%), finance (35%), and Ph.D. (32%).”
60% OF SCHOOLS REVISE CURRICULA EVERY 3-5 YEARS OR ON AN ONGOING BASIS
Among the nine other key findings in GBC Roundtable’s report is that four of five B-schools, or 82%, have a policy regarding curriculum revisions for degree-granting programs: 36% require an ongoing review of the curriculum and 24% require revisions every 3 to 5 years. More than a quarter — 26% — indicate their policy does not specify a time period for revision; additionally, only 14% of schools offer a stipend for curriculum revisions.
“From our study we see that while the MBA remains a leading degree, the graduate business degree portfolio is continually growing requiring business schools to constantly refresh and innovate their curricula to remain competitive as well as find ways to successfully manage their resources across that portfolio,” Jeff Bieganek, executive director of the GBC Roundtable, tells Poets&Quants.
“It is no longer an option to only review and update your curriculum every 5 years. That is why we have been building resources and workshops to support business schools to create an ongoing curriculum management process. This is not an easy task as it will take dedicated staff, learning analytics systems and other resources such as curriculum mapping and assurance of learning tracking to make this happen.
“The challenge for business school leaders is that employers and students are now demanding that they deliver graduates with career-ready skills along with strong leadership competencies, all in shorter, more flexible delivery models. As we can see, business schools are working hard to drive that innovation through a multitude of degrees and a variety of curriculum. I would expect even more variations and innovations in the future.”
9 OF 10 PROGRAMS REQUIRE STUDENTS TAKE MARKETING, STRATEGY & FINANCE COURSES
More from the report:
- “Faculty committees have decision-making authority for the curriculum at more than half of the business schools. At about two out of five schools, the academic directors and deans have decision making authority. Most business school rely on advisory boards, student groups, and employer groups for input about the curriculum.”
- “Course assignments and learning experiences should be revised on an ongoing basis according to a majority of respondents. Program goals and course sequences should be revised every two or more years according to most respondents. About half (46%) of the respondents say content should be revised on an ongoing basis.”
- “A business school’s core curriculum represents more than half of a student’s experience in the program and business programs require students to have instruction in 9 areas of study, on average. The full-time MBA (19 months or longer) program provides students with the greatest opportunity for elective areas of study. Today, post-pandemic, most programs are delivering the curriculum in-person and not online, except for online and flexible MBA program.”
- “Marketing, strategy, and finance are foundational to the MBA curriculum as nine out of ten programs require all students to complete a course of instruction in these areas of study. Other common areas of study required by a majority of MBA programs include operations management (73%), accounting-management (69%), accounting-finance (65%), organizational behavior (64%), micro-economics (61%), statistics (53%), leadership (51%), and information systems/technology (50%)”
- “A business master’s program curriculum is rooted in the degree offered, not surprisingly. For instance, a majority of master’s of accounting programs require a course of study in the following areas, including accounting management and finance, auditing, and taxation, whereas a master’s in business analytics require students to study business analytics, data analytics/modeling, and statistics.”
MOST COMMON MBA CONCENTRATIONS: FINANCE & MARKETING
Another key finding in the GBC Roundtable report concerns MBA concentrations — namely that some are very common and others, not so much. While most offer concentrations (sometimes called specializations, focuses or tracks), a majority offer them in finance and marketing, with fewer offering them in entrepreneurship, business analytics, and general management. Business master’s programs, on the other hand, are less likely to offer students the ability for specialization beyond the degree.
In other findings:
- “Business schools offer students a variety of co-curricular activities. The most common activity required across all program types is the capstone course or project. A majority of full-time and part-time MBA programs require students to participate in experiential learning opportunities. Most of the MBA programs offer or require students to participate in a global experience, except for the online MBA. In addition, a majority of MBA programs offer or require students to participate in a bootcamp prior to enrollment.”
- “Case-based learning, assessments, and collaborative/cooperative learning are the pedagogical methods most often used to deliver the graduate business school curriculum. Case-based learning is used a great deal by 62 percent of schools and 29 percent utilize this method a moderate amount. More than half of the schools utilize the following pedagogical methods a moderate amount or a great deal, including case-based learning (91%), assessments (90%), collaborative/ cooperative learning (90%), experiential learning (84%), learning by making and doing (58%), research-based learning (57%), research-based learning (57%), global learning (51%), and inquiry-based learning (51%).”
“The growing demands of the graduate business degree market and the broadening portfolio of offerings from business schools has driven the evolution of our own organization,” Jeff Bieganek says. “This year we have advanced our mission and scope, which is now reflected in our name change from the MBA Roundtable to the Graduate Business Curriculum Roundtable. We are excited to support our members drive the curricular innovation necessary to succeed across all graduate business degrees, formats, and modalities.”
See the full GBC Roundtable report here.
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