Business schools need to collaborate and innovate

A decade ago, a report titled The Global Management Education Landscape: Shaping the future of business schools, examined the global landscape of management education and indicated that “the future will demand much more if business schools are to support regional development goals, increase access to management education, develop more innovative curricula, share in the development of instructional resources and monitor and project the emerging needs of business organisations”.

In the decade since, a lot has changed in terms of the economic, political and technological context. However, organisations around the world have yet to adapt to the ensuing change of pace, according to Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends Study.

The study revealed that the vast majority (93%) of organisations worldwide are planning to redesign their structure in the next two years; yet only 4% of surveyed business executives say their organisation is ‘change agile’ – an indicator of an organisation’s ability to efficiently and effectively adapt to change.

The study, which gathered insights from over 7,000 professionals from 37 countries and 20 industry sectors, notes that “(a)s the competition for talent continues to rise and business models are disrupted by technology and socio-demographic shifts, organisations are still taking an evolutionary approach to their talent strategies in the face of revolutionary changes”.

Internationalising business schools

Despite the dramatic changes of the past decade and the expected changes within the next decade, business schools have a responsibility to produce graduates who are capable of making organisations adaptable. At the same time, graduates ought to show the capacity to build a globally connected and locally relevant society.

Pankaj Ghemawat and Phillip Bastian assert in “(Anti)Globalization and Higher Education” that, “(i)n today's turbulent climate, it’s more crucial than ever for business schools to pursue and promote globalisation in their programmes”.

This calls for designing and implementing effective global engagement strategies.

Gabriel Hawawini, in his article “Does Your School Have an International Strategy?”, argues that an international strategy should find a right balance between two key dimensions – “international reach” and “international richness”. International reach, he clarifies, indicates the breadth of international activities an institution’s profile has, while international richness indicates the diversity of the institution’s student body and faculty.

However, business schools face many challenges to achieve a strong international strategy, among them the increasing cost of education and declining brand differentiation.

On top of this, tightened immigration policies in some regions reduce international students’ chances of being able to stay in the country they studied in and find career opportunities after they graduate. These changes are prompting international students to be more conscious of what their return on investment is in business education.

For example, StudyPortals’ data of more than 11,000 business and management masters programmes around the world confirms that students are seeking degrees with lower tuition fees far more than those with higher tuition fees. In 2017, the programmes with tuition fees lower than US$20,000 had 65% more page views than those whose tuition fees exceeded US$40,000.

Leveraging collaboration and innovation

The core tenets of collaboration and innovation, facilitated through a quality-focused platform like AACSB International – Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business – can differentiate and enable business schools to pursue impactful and relevant global engagement strategies. Such an association helps students understand that investing in quality management education delivers a long-term career value.

An AACSB report on the Globalization of Management Education suggests that schools must find ways to complement one another and that “(s)trategic partnerships have the potential to be a key enabler of efficiencies leading to comparative and competitive advantages for the institutions that engage in them”.

These strategic partnerships foster collaboration at many levels, including curricular partnerships with business schools, interdisciplinary partnerships with other university departments, connections with business, engagement with government and public-private partnerships with third-party providers that support the institution’s initiative.

The tenet of collaboration complements that of innovation. Elizabeth Ziegler, chief innovation officer at the Kellogg School of Management, asserts that enhancing the impact of business education “will require innovation on the part of business schools, along with experimentation and risk-taking”. She adds that innovation in higher education has become a prerequisite for survival.

Innovation is about creating value within constraints. It is about finding the right balance in “the space between academe and practice” and exploring the role of business schools as centres that facilitate lifelong learning.

Likewise, innovation means enrolling students through technology-enabled and data-informed strategies.

Finally, innovation is exploring newer academic offerings (for example, degrees, diplomas, certificates and micro-credentials) and delivering them through transnational education models to accommodate the global student market (for example, through joint-degrees, double-degrees, online and as blended programmes).

The next decade will be characterised by intensified competition for talent, resources and reputation among business schools. However, they share the common purpose of developing global managerial talent who can make organisations adaptable to change. To this end, business schools are encouraged to accelerate global engagement strategies based on collaboration and innovation.

Dr Rahul Choudaha is US-based global higher education strategist at DrEducation. As a scholar-practitioner, he publishes, presents and advises on data-informed internationalisation strategies in the context of shifting student mobility trends and evolving transnational education models. Follow him @DrEducationBlog.