Business schools, forced to update

Cinco Días, January 10, 2016
uis Vives , Associate Professor in the Department of Strategy and General Management



Executive posts in corporations are no longer limited to only the more classical departments. Financial, commercial and legal aspects now coexist with others that have arisen above all out of the present technological age: specialists in process digitisation, social networking strategy or cybersecurity, who in turn need a training. And this is where business schools come in.

The traditional Masters in Business Administration (MBA), the classical training that has always been offered by these schools, are now to be found alongside other subjects and also new structures. These comprise focused sectoral programmes and open courses stemming from a need for flexibility expressed by the students themselves, who in many cases have to combine their working, family and educational life. “All sectors are changing and higher education is no exception,” says Iñaki Ortega, director of Deusto Business School in Madrid.

The institution, which celebrates its centenary this year, has not resisted across-the-board changes: “The school has made radical changes to its entire range of executive education over the last three years. Changes not only in the syllabuses but also formats and even faculty.” Ortega explains that “We have evolved from the classical MBA and finance programmes to postgraduate studies in everything from innovation, entrepreneurship and big data to sport, gastronomy and retraining for politicians.” This evolution has also affected their structure: “There has been a change from full-time formats to focused programmes, aimed at inspiring executives, with sessions that are held just once a month; without forgetting the incorporation of formats that combine physical presence and online training, throughout practically the whole educational offering.”

Luis Vives, associate dean of the full-time MBA at ESADE, explains that “as a business school, we have to be capable of getting ahead of the market. As businesses, we also have to identify key trends and provide an appropriate training.” In the case of this school, Vives explains that the offering has increased through the focused programmes and other modular formats, which concentrate the content into just a few intensive days; and that the sort of content that is becoming most popular is related to digitisation and innovation. “It is an adaptation to the reality we are experiencing, and within this reality, it is our job to equip executives and companies with practical tools that will get them better results.” The international component is also gaining a higher profile in the courses.


Identifying trends

The incorporation of new courses into the educational offering entails a thorough study process. As Luis Vives relates, in the case of ESADE, a committee for each area of specialisation evaluates the various ideas, which are then submitted to the curriculum committee, who finally determine whether the proposal has sufficient substance to merit a course. “Then there’s a launch, an impact assessment… Like in any company with a product, each year the portfolio is assessed and it is decided what to do with each one. And then some continue, others don’t, and some evolve on a yearly basis.”

On the subject of course length, Vives points to a tendency towards concentration, “intensive periods and online follow-up. This allows something that is fundamental for executives and their companies, namely, being able to put what they’ve learnt into practice almost on the spot.” He concludes that three elements have set the agenda of change: globalisation, personalisation and innovation.


“The MBA isn’t going to die; it’s going to be transformed”

All these novelties in business schools’ offerings could affect their star programmes: the MBA. But Luis Vives, associate dean of the full-time MBA at ESADE, thinks that “it isn’t going to die; it’s going to be transformed, and to find the way to continue to be relevant.” He explains that the MBA has also evolved, offering, in addition to an overview of management, “greater connection with the real world, by widening the spectrum of subject matter.” And also the structural spectrum: part-time MBAs and more concentrated executive MBAs.

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