It’s not the destination but the journey that counts

27 May 2024

How will we learn in the future and what does this mean for business schools and universities?  Andrew Crisp examines some of the key findings from CarringtonCrisp’s new report on the future of lifelong and executive education.


Lifelong learning as its name suggests is all about the journey.  And the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American philosopher, about the journey not the destination, written over 150 years ago, could not be more apt for the future of learning.

In CarringtonCrisp’s new report, ‘The future of lifelong and executive education’, there are many indications about the growing importance of learning journeys.  It’s not new, but perhaps its time has come.  Almost a decade ago, Stanford described the loop university where learners moved between work and study on a continuous career development journey.  In an interview prior to the COVID pandemic, the Singaporean Minister of Education, Ong Ye Kung, spoke about Singaporeans moving ‘away from the idea of "frontloading" education, that is, completing all their study before going out to work’.

Almost 10,000 learners from more than 40 countries took part in the survey behind the new report with 63% indicating they are very or extremely interested in creating their own certificate journey by combining courses in different formats.  Interest in certificate journeys may be driven by an expectation of having to change career direction at least once during a working life (70% agree) or the need to have to update learning more frequently in the future to keep up to date with skill needs (79% agree).

How learners choose to make their journey will vary enormously.  For some, as alumni of an institution they will choose to return to where they previously studied; 16% say they would choose a business school because of their previous studies.  However, a growing number may look to a commercial online provider; the choice of 55% of the survey respondents.

Others will consider a range of providers; 58% will consider a Netflix-style platform for learning where they can choose from a variety of providers.  And it’s not just a question of how people make the journey, but who is with them on their journey?

Almost three-quarters (74%) agree they would be more likely to join an organisation which offered lifelong learning as part of their package.  Increasingly, individuals may have an AI learning buddy with them on their journey, whether at one employer or across a lifetime of employers.  An AI buddy can prompt a learner to future studies aware of their career history and ambitions, they can provide content and they can grow learning impact in the workplace; 76% expect to use AI tools to help maximise the impact of learning and development.

For business schools and universities embracing the future of learning will mean change.  Degrees are not about to disappear and institutions will need to continue to deliver longer studies alongside shorter stints of lifelong learning.  However, if universities and business schools are to build successful and sustainable lifelong learning offers, they will need to think how they maximise use of their assets – pedagogy, faculty, content, alumni, accreditation and much more.  Building future learning brands will need insight, investment and imagination.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, also wrote, ‘Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you’.  If learners take these words to heart, there will be a large and growing lifelong learning market, it’s down to universities and business schools to decide what part they want to play in it.


Download a free copy of ‘The future of lifelong and executive education’ on the CarringtonCrisp website.

Watch Andrew Crisp talking about key highlights from the report on YouTube.

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