The Future of Lifelong Learning and Executive Education

27 November 2020

Ian Hawkings, Director of Business School Services, takes us through the changing world of Executive Education and Lifelong Learning.


It’s often claimed that the world of business education is a dynamic marketplace – and, while that is true to an extent, there are parts of the market that really haven’t progressed much beyond their traditional formats.

One such area is the world of executive education. Set quite apart from business schools’ other postgraduate offerings, this rarefied world has ticked along quite nicely, divided up into open-enrolment and customised courses, bringing in outsize revenues. Participants are senior executives, most-often from corporate behemoths. They get to use the shiny new buildings and are taught, face-to-face, in small classes by the very best faculty.

But as the world of work changes apace, perhaps all this is set for a shake-up.

For some time, employers have been under greater pressure to prove the ROI they get from sending executives to business school. And participants themselves are increasingly questioning the value of travelling to a physical location for a defined period at some point in their mid-late career.

The recently published ‘Future of Jobs Report’ from the World Economic Forum suggests that 40% of core skills in the average job will change in the next five years – so does it make sense to wait until you’re given the keys to the executive bathroom before updating your skillset? Or does a career where flexible learning opportunities are available at all times seem more sensible?

Our most recent report into the executive education marketplace, published in 2018, highlighted these views, along with the increasing importance of technology. And as 2020 has unfolded, it is clear that future participants will be entirely au fait with the concept of online learning, they will more-readily accept off-campus tuition as valid - and will even look outside the traditional business school for their ongoing education.

As technology changes the way we all engage, the likes of Google, LinkedIn, FutureLearn and myriad others are developing content to lure the corporate learner away from bricks and mortar.

Competition for traditional students will only intensify as a result; MOOC-based degrees already have more than 10,000 enrolled students. In the UK, an engineering institution set up by household products company Dyson has recently been granted degree-awarding powers. For business schools, historic sources of income cannot be guaranteed as before.

So what is the future for non-degree learning in business schools?

Early in 2021, CarringtonCrisp will rerun the Executive Education Futures study, but go beyond its traditional remit and examine the wider market for reskilling and upskilling, for short non-degree courses and online education. And to make sure the study is as valuable as possible to business schools, we want your input now to guarantee the right focus in the interviews, surveys and desk research that we conduct.

If you are interested in taking part, please contact us at to discuss further


Photo by Tobi from Pexels

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