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Innovation in MBA delivery ‘top challenge’ business school leaders say

Catering to a new generation of students as well as coming up with innovative delivery methods is the biggest challenge facing MBA programs around the world, according to a recent survey of business school representatives.

Photo: AMBA

One in three MBA students is international

Produced by the Association of MBAs and Parthenon-EY the survey of 173 business school representatives found being innovative and creative in MBA delivery was cited as the biggest challenge by business schools across all regions, but was greatest among the Americas.

Specifically schools said catering to demands of a new generation of students and staying on top of digital technology trends were the biggest challenges they face.

“A primary challenge is the younger age of the students. We have to adapt to this trend in terms of our teaching ideals and teaching objectives”

“A primary challenge is the younger age of the students. We have to adapt to this trend in terms of our teaching ideals and teaching objectives,” said a respondent in China.

Historically, offering part-time executive MBA programs for those who don’t want to break from their careers was considered delivery innovation in MBA programs, according to James Menzies, market research executive, at AMBA.

Now, business schools say there is a growing need to expand their online learning resources and learning management systems. The survey found that just over a third (36%) of business schools said they use blended learning methods with four it ten respondents saying the MBA over any other program used most blended learning techniques.

With blended learning techniques already bedded down in most business schools, the study’s interviewees said that could lead to further delivery innovation.

“In recent years, the introduction of online courses allows more students to study across the world,” noted Menzies.

Only 12% of schools from the UK offer online or distance learning while just 8% of schools in Western Europe do. Just over a quarter of schools in the Americas said they are active in this delivery method.

However, implementing and updating digital platforms is costly, said Menzies. In the Americas, 85% of business school respondents said the MBA program is profitable while just 47% of schools in the UK said the same. In Western Europe 72% of schools and in Eastern Europe 90% said the programs are cost-effective.

But, of the 18 respondents from the Americas where the need to innovate is felt most strongly, 12 did not receive funding from the state, unlike many business schools in the UK and Western Europe, said Menzies.

“Likewise, of the 18 business schools in this region that provided information on their alumni donations, eight did not receive any donations and 10 said it accounted for less than 10% of their annual funding,” he said.

Only 12% of schools from the UK offer online or distance learning while just 8% of schools in Western Europe do

“These factors could suggest as to why respondents from the Americas indicated that being innovative in MBA delivery as such a big challenge.”

All respondents said they teach more than one MBA track, with part-time two year MBAs being the most popular, offered by 70% of business schools.

The study also found that one in three MBA students on campuses across the world is international, with students from India and China each accounting for 11% of global enrolments.

However, the second biggest challenge for business schools in the field is recruiting students for programs, according to the survey results.

One interviewee in the US suggested the state of the global economy could be influencing slow recruitment phases. “Are companies hiring or not? Do people feel it’s a good time to invest in education…? Maybe I’ll do an MBA next year. Right now I’ve got a job and I’m going to stick with it.”

Read our analysis on global business schools here.

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