Changing schools
With the Euro in crisis and previously unknown levels of change and complexity in business environments, demands on leaders are constantly evolving. As a result, business schools across the globe must shape up at a heady pace to prepare their MBA cohort for tomorrow’s world.

Course content is not the only challenge for business schools today. ‘Organisations need to satisfy Generation Y, the next wave of business leaders and innovators’, acknowledges the Institute of Directors1. Some maintain that technological changes that this era has grown up in may well have led to them missing out on a large segment of learning – that of exploring more deeply, enquiring and reflecting. By the same token, the learning process needs to be relevant and effective, encompassing the green agenda, sustainability, co-operative working and mentoring leadership styles. The fall-out from the continuing financial crisis is also forcing students to adopt a more pragmatic attitude to life and their next steps.

‘In our experience, an MBA from a good business school is a definite asset, and is the norm for many of our candidates,’ explains AHEAD’s managing consultant Guy Vereecke. ‘As many companies adopt a more cautious approach to recruitment in these difficult times, an MBA from a leading school shows not only an ambition for senior positions but also is a reassuring safety standard in these demanding times. That said, it is no guarantee of success in itself.  It’s just part of the picture.’

So what are the top trends in business education recently?  Regarding content, risk management is now generally seen as core to every manager’s role not just the specialists.  Greater focus on corporate governance has been another consequence of the financial crisis and greater scrutiny of ethics and values of companies and individuals.

‘Corporate governance is linked to performance not just compliance’ says Ryan Ahern, the IOD’s learning and development director in Director Magazine.  Irrespective of the sector you work in, he argues that ‘directors are faced with a simple choice: improve and raise standards or face the consequences.’

The Institute of Directors identifies the following trends:

Growth markets
More study groups in BRIC countries and other fast growing countries not only to learn a new language but to look at opportunities for growth, experiencing new environments and understanding opportunities and pitfalls at first hand.

Flexibility
Business education has to adapt to the rate of change in the marketplace and in the workplace. Astute business schools have been quick to react with major changes to their curricula in the past year and will surely keep content and methodology under close review.

Embracing social media
A decade ago e-commerce was the must-have module. Today it’s social media, as many, including Harvard and HEC Paris, will vouch. So it’s no surprise that schools have rushed out new programmes and course to help students and executives turn these communication channels into money-making machines.
HEC Paris has launched a Digital Innovation for Business programme involving France’s five top online entrepreneurs, which provides more than 100 hours’ teaching on how to innovate and engage through social media. Bernard Ramanantsoa, dean of HEC Paris, says ‘the creation of an e-business chair directed towards innovation demonstrates our ambition to train future managers and entrepreneurs in the digital economy’.

With sites like LinkedIn attracting a new user every second, what students now want to learn, and what schools such as Harvard, INSEAD and LBS are all too keen to teach them, is how to monetize the spread of social media and respond to a corporate demand for employees who are savvy about the new media landscape.

New destinations
While US and UK business schools still figure highly in the rankings, watch out for newer challengers: Russia’s Skolkovo, the IndianSchool of Business, Slovenia’s Bled and HEC Paris’s off shoot in Qatar, INSEAD’s new campuses in Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Distance and blended learning
Improvements in technology make virtual classrooms viable (such as Warwick’s wbsLive), whereby students interact with each other and faculty on a real-time basis.

Operating in a global context
Programmes such as the executive One MBA using resources of schools in the US, NL, HK, Brazil and Mexico aim to develop managers who can run teams operating across multiple frontiers spanning Asia, Europe and Americas.

Greater classroom diversity
Not just gender, nationality, culture but by attracting students from a wider professional sphere: government, arts, not-for-profit, academia. A balanced board should be an aspiration, and it’s good for business.

For more information, see www.director.co.uk and www.iod.com/development.

1Director, published by Director Publications Ltd for The Institute of Directors, London, p62-66 October 2011. See www.director.co.uk.