‘Business Education – case studies’, Economist, 6th May 2010

Ben Crowley2 Blogs Leave a Comment

As usual, the Economist provides an article that is concise and full of insight. It starts by mentioning that most of the top business schools – Harvard, Kellogg, Michigan, Northwestern – have had recent changes at the top. The author also describes an interesting dichotomy in the sector, that while the few top schools are rolling in money due to endowments and a booming market, the smaller less recognised players have been struggling during the recession.

The recession has however brought about threats and challenges, even for the elite of management education. The business school boom has been largely built upon the success and expansion of two professions – bankers and management consultants – and the recession has brought about declines in both numbers and reputation. Even more worrying for the business schools is the fact that the newly slimmed down banks and consultancies are no longer going for MBAs in the same unquestioning way, preferring mathematicians, computer scientists and even home grown traders. These firms and other major corporations are questioning the benefit of the generic theory that is contained in most MBAs, particularly if it takes their employees away from the job for two years.

Many business schools – particularly those in Europe – are already responding to this trend by offering shorter one year courses with more specialisation and practical application. They are also answering criticism of narrowness by making their courses more international. However, the impact of these changes is that the already expensive courses are becoming even more so.

As I considered these trends, I thought back to an article I wrote nearly 20 years ago just after I left Ashridge, which upset my former colleagues in a big way. It was titled ‘When Business Schools fail to meet business needs’ and, though it was a self-serving attempt to draw attention to a newly-formed MTP, it made many of the same points as this article. I made a prediction that business schools would have to change to survive; I was clearly wrong but maybe the article was just twenty years ahead of its time?

To read this article go to:
http://www.economist.com/businessfinance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16067747

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