A sound business education is viewed by many as a passport to prosperity. In the past 20 years there has been huge growth in business education and the creation of many business schools, unmatched by that in other academic disciplines. While this has led to greater choice and lower costs, it can also dilute the value of the qualification.
In India, only 7% of graduates from 5,500 business schools reportedly find a job on graduating . This illustrates the impact of unbridled growth. Plainly, the proliferation of schools and faith in investing in an MBA are not yielding dividends for some.
Yet the business of business education is thriving. International debates about the MBA have crystallised around two questions, as observed by SA’s Council on Higher Education.
First, is it possible for MBA programmes, in the framework of a two-year degree, to produce a well-educated and well-rounded person able to tackle the problems faced by managers in all business contexts?
And second, does the existing curriculum deliver on expectations of management knowledge and skills that are relevant and responsive to an ever more complex business environment?
Complex and interdependent global problems require the development of business leaders and managers with global, cultural and contextual intelligence, understanding, political acumen and sensitivity. A vast array of knowledge-intensive businesses and operations require new types of creative and entrepreneurial flair, as well as creative insight to spot opportunities long before everyone else. It’s what provides a competitive edge. MBA graduates must possess these capabilities.
Business schools should be aware of trends and demands in the world of work globally, but tailor their curricula and teaching to local contexts. This is what makes a relevant, responsive, internationally benchmarked programme.
Leaders must not only be able to see the work environment in a structured, rational and analytical way, but also to develop the capacity to see it as a dynamic and complex system .
Futurist trends consultancy Kjaer Global identifies three key trends of the MBA of the future.
The first is the concept of the global brain. As physical and virtual borders dissolve, more than 20bn devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, resulting in a readily available "library of knowledge". This presents huge opportunities for deep learning and will force business schools to reconsider conventional ways of teaching and learning.
The second is disruptive technologies. Mass-participation technologies like massive open online courses, or Moocs, and other online offerings are powerful disseminators of knowledge. They are also cheaper.
This will force business schools to offer quality programmes that differentiate them from online offerings, with a particular eye on cost.
The third trend is the rise of the "betapreneur" — an impromptu, risk-friendly entrepreneur. This new entrepreneurial mindset is informed by knowledge of the Web, the digital world and the power of launching ideas in "beta mode". Betapreneurs take their products and services to market while still in testing mode.
Betapreneurs are taking their digital know-how into non-IT, real-world industries. New business models are arising, where agility and innovation are key to the success of adaptable teaching and learning practices.
Central to securing agility are systems of world-class education and training, including an adaptive, innovative and high-quality higher-education sector.
Finally, it is worth noting the remarks of Australia’s education & training minister, Simon Birmingham, on the subject.
A world-class business school, he declared, would be characterised by excellence, diversity and choice.
Business school executives should take heed.
• Baijnath is the CEO of the Council on Higher Education