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Future of the MBA

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I recently listened to a podcast from the Harvard Business Reviews IdeaCast talking about MBA’s and the future. Millions of ambitious entrepreneurs and business leaders have returned to study in order to learn both some of the fundamental issues in business  as well as refresh on the latest developments and insights in academia. However many of the same modules that were thought decades ago, are still being taught today. Are these still relevant? Are there other ways of learning the content?

MBA’s have been around in some from since the beginning of the 20th Century and originally aimed to provide a scientific approach to management. Over the last few decades, with many advances in the many different areas of business, MBA’s have evolved significantly.

Scott DeRue, the dean of University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business spoke about the changing needs of MBA students, how education is a lifelong process and how can we combine the theory with practice to achieve maximal benefit.
One of the biggest insights of the podcast was the idea of “Lifelong learning”. Many MBA students and employers believe that an aspirant can return to study for a year or two and be fully equipped with the skills and knowledge to help them for the rest of their careers. This is not true. An MBA does build the foundational business knowledge, but it is critical this is built on with experience in the real world. It then takes years to cement this in place. Learning is a lifelong continual process in which through a combination of study, research and practice, we can steadily develop.

A future way in which Berkley University, one of the most prominent business schools in the U.S.A, intends to develop their MBA programmes for the future is through Alumni Advantage. This is an idea of giving alumni access to the university content, counselling services and research material for the rest of their life. I personally think this partnership is a great idea, as it allows alumni to stay relevant and informed on changes in the industry. An industry that is constantly changing.

Another way in which MBA programmes are changing is through the modules that are being taught. Traditional core modules often form a basis of the degree, but is supplemented with more relevant electives such as Fintech, innovation and entrepreneurship. These modules allow the student to tailor their programme to their specific needs, background and relevance for the future, which I believe can only be a good thing.

This all raises the question, of whether MBA’s will stay in their current form in the future. With the popularity of online courses and particularly with the rise of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)’s, more and more people are studying individual modules for a much lower cost. These courses allow the participants to study when and where they like and is much more affordable to the majority of people.

In my opinion MBA’s will change. They will adapt to the increasing needs of the industry, be much more relevant to the participants who take the courses. One of the key benefits of the MBA is the programme structure, it packages all the core modules together and push the participants to think holistically about business and how they can solve problems. Of course there is also the major benefit of the networking opportunities that MBA’s provide allowing participants to meet like minded individuals, discuss ideas and even found companies together.

You can listen to the episode for free on the HBR IdeaCast website here. It’s Episode 616.

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