The Alumni Matters study by CarringtonCrisp and EFMD found that of the 2,489 alumni surveyed from 82 countries, 48% would like their former schools to offer more opportunities for further learning.
“Alumni already know and trust their former school, and that makes it an obvious place to turn to for reskilling and upskilling when people are changing careers or want to remain employable,” said author of the study and CarringtonCrisp co-founder, Andrew Crisp.
The research also found that 51% of alumni are currently unaware of what learning opportunities are available to them.
“It’s clear that business schools are missing a trick when it comes to engaging this market,” Crisp added.
While 88% are proud to be associated with their schools – and 87% are positive towards their former institutions – only 54% indicated they are connected with their business schools and 49% consider themselves part of the alumni community.
Those saying that they are engaged with their school was even lower, with 42% agreeing with the statement.
“Lifelong learning amongst alumni is a huge opportunity for business schools”
“Alumni are inevitably interested in not only developing their careers, but growing the reputation of their school; one impacts the other,” the report noted.
“If alumni don’t feel engaged and unable to contribute to a school’s success, they are likely to increasingly seek other opportunities to grow their network and their career.”
It added that “stronger, wider, easier to access and more resilient networks are key for alumni in maintaining and building friendships as well as helping to develop their careers”.
In order to strengthen relationships with former schools, some 53% respondents said they wanted easier means to connect with other alumni, 48% said they expected more opportunities for further learning and 47% said alumni should be offered more opportunities to use alumni networks.
The paper added that the 34% wanting to grow the global activities for alumni is “increasingly important as international student cohorts become ever more significant for business schools”.
“Engaged international alumni will be key to growing awareness, recognition and consideration of an institution among prospective students,” it said.
However, it is not a one-way street, with one in five alumni saying they had supported their former schools in the previous 12 months to November 2022, when the analysis was carried out.
“Any relationship has to work two ways and as much as alumni want services from their former business school, they also want to give back,” the paper stated.
“Sometimes that may be financially, but there are a host of other ways in which alumni want to offer support – promoting their school to prospective students and recruiters, providing student mentoring, offering internships and volunteering their professional expertise.”
Some 65% would consider student mentoring and a further 55% might provide internships/ projects/ paid work experience for current students, it found.
Respondents also identified the type of support they would like to see from their schools.
With seven of ten respondents suggesting schools should create programs for alumni to enable lifelong learning, the research said there are “perhaps some clues as to what this means in practice”.
Some 69% said they would like to have online access to lectures and other content from faculty, and the report also suggested that alumni may be prepared to pay for some of this content.
However, alumni will expect discounted prices, with 53% saying they should be offered “preferential rates” to study at future programs at their alma maters.
“It is also clear that large numbers are unaware of what they might already access; 51% indicate that they are unaware of what is currently available to alumni to continue their learning,” the report added.
To further develop their careers, respondents had a “strong preference” for short course non-degree executive education, identified by 57% of respondents.
“New types of qualifications are also popular with 21% keen on digital badges and 18% interested in microcredentials,” it added.
“Lifelong learning amongst alumni is a huge opportunity for business schools. There are two key steps schools need to take,” Crisp added.
“First, schools need to develop relevant learning opportunities for alumni. Second, they need to communicate clearly with alumni about the ways they can help them with their ongoing development.”