We’re all in this together, but that doesn’t mean we all see the same future

01 August 2020

Andrew Crisp reviews findings from the latest CEEMAN membership survey and different perspectives on the future of business education from around the world.


Business education is changing like never before and the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating that change.  So what is the future of business education?  Business is often the most popular subject studied in higher education and business schools often generate the largest fee income in a university.  Yet at some institutions programmes such as the MBA are closing, executive education courses are getting shorter with many adding a digital wrapper, research is focusing more on real-world impact, and curricula are shifting to cover sustainability, data and big societal changes.

For CEEMAN – the International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies, a membership body set up in 1993 to grow quality management education in central and eastern Europe and now operating in 50 countries, its members suggest the future might be summed up in three words - closer, longer and collaborative.  Business education is set to get closer to business, deliver lifelong learning and develop a more collaborative model across institutions, with other institutions and with those outside academia to deliver learning. All of these changes are likely to move faster with the recent disruption caused by coronavirus across the globe.

Grzegorz Mazurek, Rector of Kozminski University in Poland says “The current crisis is an opportunity for business schools to demonstrate credibility through supporting business and society to survive and thrive in difficult times. It’s about how we work as an organization, the possibility to make changes and skip the old hierarchies in order to deliver value.

In late 2019, CEEMAN surveyed its membership with 102 business schools completing an  online survey.  Among the respondents, 35% were Rectors/Deans with a further 22% working as Professors/Lecturers. About two thirds of the respondent schools represent Central and Eastern Europe (including Central Asia and the Caucasus), 19% Western Europe, and 13% other emerging markets in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Middle East.

The business education market place has become increasingly competitive, driven by new entrants for different parts of the world, from non-academic sectors and in some countries a declining audience for undergraduate study.  Add in the power of technology to offer a study anytime, anywhere model as well as employers seeking a raft of new skills and the business education market is being disrupted like never before.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the top two issues highlighted by CEEMAN members when thinking about the future of their business school are developing new programs to meet the needs of lifelong learners (70%) and developing faculty and staff to make the most of new opportunities in business and management education (66%). It is notable that some of the core activities of CEEMAN from the very beginning were focused around faculty development. Its flagship programme, IMTA-International Management Teachers Academy, boasts more than 650 graduates from some 180 institutions in 54 countries around the world (mostly teachers from business and management disciplines, but also increasingly executives and consultants who are moving into teaching).

The McKinsey Global Institute report on ‘What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills and wages’ in November 2017 suggested that as many as 375 million workers may need to switch occupations and, consequently, need to learn new skills. With the half-life of skills rapidly falling, especially in technology-related fields, there is an increasing need for employees to upskills or reskill in fields such as data analytics, AI, coding and more to remain employable.  The McKinsey report also suggested that workers ‘... will spend less time on predictable physical activities and on collecting and processing data, where machines already exceed human performance,’ instead, ‘requiring more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities, such as logical reasoning and creativity.’

Business schools need to respond providing a more diverse range of content in their traditional programmes, developing alternative routes to deliver intensive, short-course skills updates and ensure their staff are able to support this new range of opportunities.  Given the substantial changes that business schools are facing both internally and externally, many recognise the need to develop a new business model for their institution, noted by 42% of the survey respondents.

Sophia Opatska, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs of Ukrainian Catholic Universities (UCU), and Founding Dean of the Lviv Business School, comments “In the view of the economic crisis in the world, our team is looking for creative and low-cost solutions. Everyone is producing ideas that they had never thought about half a year ago. If we are able to continue these skills as long as possible after the crisis, we will have a much better chance of success.”

Part of the drive to find a sustainable new business model is driven by the need to deal with the entry of new competitors into the business education marketplace, selected as a priority by 35% of respondents, but a large part is also due to changes across society.

Just over a third of the survey respondents (34%) highlighted the need to ‘adapt our business school to meet the needs of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’.  With growing numbers of young people active in movements highlighting climate change, poverty, equality and social impact, and businesses recognising the need to build sustainable growth models, the embrace of the SDGs has become a key tool to drive change.

The changing nature of business education can also be seen in the attitudes of CEEMAN members to future business and management research. Most important among the survey respondents was the need for increased relevance and impact on business (77%).  Almost half highlighted the need for collaboration to be a priority in research with 49% seeking an increased focus on challenges highlighted by business, 46% focusing on links with faculties outside business and management education and four out of ten wanting greater connections between research and teaching.

Jiang Wei, Dean of the School of Management at Zhejiang University, China comments “We have to change the mindset and organization of research teams and strengthen links with business, government and society.”

The CEEMAN Manifesto “Changing the Course of Management Development: Combining Excellence with Relevance”, launched in 2018, provides a platform for this greater collaboration and a responsible approach to management research.  Launching the Manifesto, Danica Purg, CEEMAN President, called for action among business schools ‘to change how we value and reward teaching and research’, adding, ‘Our priority must be to develop work-ready managers who are capable and confident, and who can anticipate and adapt to rapidly shifting changes in technology, demographics and international alliances. At the same time, we have an equally important missions to be relevant in solving problems in our local environments’.

The drive for change can also be seen in business schools attitudes to rankings.  There is at times a love-hate relationship with rankings with schools seeing them as a necessary evil, although never feeling they truly assess the quality and impact of their school’s provision.

Asked how rankings might change, 61% definitely agreed that there should be a greater emphasis on the quality of teaching, 48% want more emphasis on community impact, while between 30% and 40% highlighted the need for more emphasis on non-financial student outcomes, on corporate connections, on research impact and on collaboration with other institutions.

For business schools accreditation has become a key feature, providing them with an advantage over new private entrants to the marketplace who do not have national or international accreditations.  However, the nature and focus of accreditation is changing with 38% of schools suggesting that greater emphasis should be placed on the local context of a business school seeking accreditation, the process should be less expensive for business schools to complete (35%) and more emphasis should be placed on the views of students and alumni (31%).  Alenka Braček Lalić, CEEMAN IQA Director, comments "We believe that management education institutions should serve society and make a difference through programs that are relevant to the challenges and needs of business and society in their specific contexts".

Local context is especially notable in South Africa, where Nicola Kleyn, former Dean of the Gordon Institute of Business Science and CEEMAN Vice-President for Africa notes high levels of poverty, inequality, and slow economic growth. “About 25% of our students experience hunger. We have a responsibility to serve our community in helping address their current needs (both health and economic impacts from the pandemic).

Kleyn continues “On one hand, there is no doubt that we have to significantly revise our strategies and stop doing some things we have done for years that are part of our established practices.  Equally important we have to decide how we choose to lead now, and what we choose to be. If we don’t feel comfortable to innovate, to try, to learn and fail, and to change, who are we to teach our students?”

The future of business education for CEEMAN members looks increasingly different from the past.  Of course, there will still be core courses in accounting, finance, marketing, human resources and other traditional subjects, but it will become rarer for these courses to be taught in isolation.  Instead courses will be delivered with other subjects whether that’s engineering, health care, data analytics or something else; flexibility of study will be a growing feature of a school’s offer.  Courses will also be delivered not just across faculties, but with other institutions and with partners outside higher education.  What is true for teaching will also be true for research.

Business doesn’t exist in a vacuum and business schools can’t afford to teach or research in isolation if they are to develop the capable and confident work-ready managers that Danica Purg highlights as being so important for future success.

Matevz Raskovic, Director of Learning & Teaching, Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand concludes “Global civic universities can play a key role in addressing the so-called wicked problems of our time – these are related to broad societal problems. Taming such problems and creating antifragility, agility and resiliency in our society, business and daily lives will require a new kind of societal renaissance. It will require less intellectual hubris, stronger collective action, a higher degree of social agency and above all, a shared sense of humanity. He waka eke noa=we are all in this together (Māori proverb).”



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