The future of the MBA lies beyond the business school

27 January 2023

Andrew Crisp looks at some of the challenges and changes facing MBA degrees, drawing on findings from the new Tomorrow’s MBA study.


What does a business leader need to learn to be successful?  Perhaps some accounting, some leadership and people management, certainly some strategy and probably marketing and finance.  All have been components of an MBA degree for many years, but tomorrow’s business leader needs more.  Increasingly they need to know the world around them, how their business impacts that world and what contribution they can bring to the world.

Tomorrow’s MBA, the long running annual study of prospective students by CarringtonCrisp and EFMD, clearly signposts what students value in their MBA studies.  Last year the study found Artificial Intelligence had become the second most valuable piece of content desired by prospective students, while this year it is joint top.

More significant, Climate Change is now the seventh most valued piece of content among prospective students, ahead of Financial Accounting, Entrepreneurship, International Business and Leadership.  The data confirms a trend of recent years where around seven out  of ten respondents have regularly suggested it was very or extremely important that their degree contained content on global challenges, responsible management and ethical leadership.

Of course, it does not mean that these other subjects are unimportant.  Just under 4 in 10 are motivated to study and MBA to develop entrepreneurial skills.  One third want to develop leadership skills as part of their studies.  There is much that is good in many MBA degrees, but for an MBA to have a sustainable future, change must be part of its agenda, reflecting what’s important across business and society.

Without change, no doubt many of the 60% who mostly or definitely agree that post-COVID they are now considering study options other than an MBA to support their career will act on these thoughts.  The market is awash with new providers offering ‘MBA-style’ courses. Udemy even offers an entire MBA in one course, recently listed in their sale for just €12.99.  Add in recent comments from John Byrne at Poets & Quants about the low cost of self-assembling an MBA from leading business schools offering short online courses and challenges to traditional programmes are coming from many directions.


Tomorrow’s MBA drew on findings from 1658 individuals from mor than 30 countries.  Further details will be published shortly on the CarringtonCrisp website. The next study will take place in November 2023 and further details about how to participate will be available later in the year.


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