Why MBAs will have to adapt to survive

Jessica Moore finds the future of business education is in question

Those contemplating the business education of tomorrow should ask not what lies in store for the MBA, but whether the programme has a future at all, according to Elena Liquete, a director at IESE Business School in Spain.

Liquete was among a number of high-profile speakers at this years' Amba International Conference for Deans and Directors, held in Geneva from 25 to 27 May. Top figures from global MBA providers gathered to hear the thoughts and concerns of business education leaders, seizing the opportunity to examine the MBA and its future.

So what did these deans and directors learn? Several overarching themes emerged for them to ponder. The importance of lifelong learning came across strongly, as did an awareness of evolution: cultures, communities, recruiters, students, ethics and, perhaps most crucially, technologies are changing, and business education must keep apace. MBA providers' new goal, the conference concluded, should be to produce holistic thinkers.

Liquete cut to the heart of attendees' fears. The MBA, she said, faces increasing competition from specialist Masters programmes, many for a fraction of the cost. She addressed changes in students and their recruitment, asking schools and the Association of MBAs to look closely at how they can evolve.

Other speakers had similarly controversial messages. Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, looked for multi-functional leaders able to serve in public and private sector roles. He urged his audience to move away from shareholder models and come back to the "stakeholder theory of the firm", which states that business is part of society and should serve that society. Schwab went further, pinning the origins of the current global economic crisis on management models that were too closely aligned with shareholders, thereby losing sight of the purpose of serving all stakeholders.

The impact of technology was of central importance to the conference. It was addressed by Lamia Walker of the Graduate Management Admission Council, Mark Stoddard of the Association of MBAs, Professor James Fleck, dean of the Open University, Karen Guerra, non-executive director of Davide Campari–Milano Spa, Gary Parkin of HR Talent Management, Janna Bastow of BraveNewTalent, and Dr. Elisabeth Kelan, an expert on generational relations – albeit in very different ways.

Walker, Stoddard and Fleck explored the rapid growth of postgraduate business education in emerging economies, such as India, China and Latin America. Walker and Stoddard highlighted the diversity of programmes students now demand, that full-time programmes, while still popular, are giving way to more flexible modes of learning. The Open University was one of the pioneers in this area, Professor Fleck arguing for this education model, saying that face-to-face interactions are not superior to online forums.

Gary Parkin, Janna Bastow and Karen Guerra all considered the impact of technology on future recruitment. Guerra painted a sobering picture, advising young people to train themselves rather than expect to be trained by employers, to plan on having multiple careers, expect to be made redundant, and brace themselves for personal and economic crises. Flexibility and adaptability, said Guerra, are crucial for business success. Bastow described a future where people increasingly engage in online "talent communities", such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, for recruitment and peer interaction.

There was also talk of the "Millennials" – the new generation of technology-savvy, social media-friendly business leaders. These Millennials are shaking up the way management is taught, responding to different stimuli and demanding immediate feedback. In her speech, Elisabeth Kelan argued that technology can be an effective educational tool if used constructively. This generation is much more open to sharing ideas, which creates opportunities for collaborative learning. However, she added, with so much information at our fingertips, educators must help students differentiate between high and lower-quality information.

Rajeeb Dey is one such Millennial. An entrepreneur at 17, he later founded Enternships.com, a portal connecting students and graduates to entrepreneurial work placements. At the conference, Dey called for MBA programmes to engender an entrepreneurial spirit in students. His words supported Kelan's theory that Millennials see long-term employment as an out-dated model. They want to increase their employability, or work for themselves, either of which stimulates a goal of constant learning.

Overall, the conference articulated the key issues facing business education. The speakers raised more questions than they answered – but that should be a welcome challenge for today's internet-savvy, information-seeking, collaborative, communicative and international business community.

Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Recruitment Consultant (Trainee / Experienced)

£18000 - £27000 per annum + doe OTE £45K: SThree: SThree are always looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own