MBA programmes have to constantly adapt and evolve to meet the needs of the ever-changing working world.
After a year of global upheaval and academic innovation, TopMBA spoke with experts in the field to find out what their business schools are doing to adapt their MBA programmes for 2022.
Markus Perkmann, academic director of the Imperial MBA and academic director of the Imperial Enterprise Lab
Imperial has decided to redesign its full-time MBA to focus on flexibility and greater access to STEM fields.
MBA candidates often have specific career objectives and want to shape their curriculum to fit their objectives. Which is why Perkmann says Imperial is providing as many choices as possible by introducing a ”battery of flex-core modules from which students can choose.”
Imperial has introduced LEADS (Leadership, Ethics, Awareness, Diversity, Society), a new module focused on developing purposeful leaders. The module focuses on developing leaders of ethical, inclusive, and sustainable organisations through classes, case studies, practical exercises and a capstone experience out in the wild.
Perkmann said: “At a time when forward-looking leaders are more valuable than ever, the module provides a grounding in the areas necessary for students to fully reckon with the impact of business on society, and set out on the path to becoming the type of purposeful leader the world needs.”
A practical in nature module geared towards providing students with knowledge to be the most effective contributors, strategists, and leaders in their respective fields, the module enables students to reflect on who they want to be, and practice being the kind of leader they want to be. He said: “LEADS is not just about leadership skills but also about building the kind of identity that will make you a leader.”
The MBA will also integrate more with what Imperial College London can provide, including a joint elective with Imperial’s world-renowned computing department focusing on AI entrepreneurship .
Perkmann added: “There is also the Imperial Innovation Challenge where students can engage with Imperial tech professors from the engineering, science and medicine faculties to work on commercialising scientific discoveries straight out of the lab.”
For the first time, MBA candidates can choose a specialism in analytics, entrepreneurship or finance íV or continue on the general management pathway.
Perkmann said: “We defined these specialisms to match the most in-demand skills employers are looking for and give students the competitive edge in these areas when entering the job market or, in the case of entrepreneurship, to launch their own venture.”
Perkmann says the technology sector will continue to grow as businesses change and evolve. He said: “This is where we see great demand, and also a great match with Imperial’s expertise. New industries, companies and sectors will rise as technology becomes the underpinning concept as we have seen in areas such as fintech and health-tech.
There will be more of a focus on sustainability across all sectors. Over the next five to 10 years we will see much more disruption across traditional industries. MBA students need to be upskilling in these emerging areas to enable them to make an impact as future leaders of society. We are equipping our students to be able to see opportunity and drive innovative practices in their career paths.”
Yolanda Habets, head of MBA programmes at Vlerick Business School
Habets says Vlerick’s full-time MBA programme has been redesigned to become more practical, flexible, and to have a greater focus on key skills such as leadership and entrepreneurship. Courses will be grouped together in integrated modules and all modules in a semester will be relevant to each other, fitting with a specific topic area.
She said: In our teaching approach we are shifting to theory being taught through an interactive online platform and the applications and discussions around this theory dominating the classroom sessions in a move to maximise the practical peer-to-peer learning experience.”
Habets says MBA programmes need to adapt to prepare graduates for a changing business landscape as organisations look for professionals that can handle hybrid environments and unexpected changes.
She said: “To stay relevant, the MBA programs of the future will no longer be learning journeys on their own but will have to fit into the bigger picture of a student’s career and life. To do so, they will have to become more modular in delivery, evolving toward a model that allows for students to build their curriculum when it suits them.”
The pandemic has had a major impact on the global economy, impacting professional opportunities for business school graduates.
Habets said: “There are several sectors that have come out of the COVID crisis ahead of the game and will need additional business graduates to support their growth, including healthcare and pharma, telecommunications and e-commerce.”
She says banking will accelerate its move online, creating opportunities in Fintech, and the popular career track of consulting will see growth in areas that focus on digital transformation and business model innovation.
Certain industries were hit hard during the pandemic, such as the travel and hospitality industry, but people will travel again in the future and a major overhaul will be needed in these sectors to become profitable again and cater to a changed consumer pool,” she said.
Professor Dr Kyriakos Kouveliotis, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI)
Higher education is facing not just a variety of challenges but also rapid transformation according to Kouveliotis. He says COVID-19 and the effects felt on international education have intensified this transformation.
But when thinking about the MBA and its future, there is a big debate as to whether it has completed its cycle.
He said: “Many institutions have added pathways or specialisations to MBA programmes to update the course and give it a fresh perspective.
The truth is that we now have more MBA graduates than we need. More importantly, we have many MBA graduates that are young and without the relevant mid-level managerial experience that a proper MBA requires to be as effective as possible.”
Industries require specific knowledge which changes constantly, and employers often want quick uptake on this knowledge too, which created a trend of micro-certificates according to Kouveliotis íV something top institutions continue to use as an opportunity to increase their brand equity as well as enter a new market.
Kouveliotis says the MBA of the future will constantly reinvent itself with an ’open’ culture allowing graduates to return and acquire updated knowledge and expertise.
In other words, lifelong learning and continuing education are now fully integrated into conventional degree programmes. Above all, we are experiencing a transition era for higher education,” he said.