5 Business Education Trends to Watch in 2022

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022
By Marco De Novellis
Photo by istock/JayKay57
After nearly two years of crisis adaptation, business schools are finding their way to a new, positive future for business education.

As we enter 2022, business schools are once again faced with the challenge of perpetual change, travel restrictions, and the continued rise and fall of COVID-19 cases caused by new variants. Yet, this year, schools are better prepared for these challenges than they were before.

Since the first COVID outbreak, schools have adopted new educational technologies at a rapid rate, launched flexible delivery formats, and recruited and trained thousands of learners both online and offline.

Plus, amid the disruption, demand for graduate management education persists. Applications to business schools surged after the first COVID wave and remain high as professionals re-evaluate their careers and strive for job market competitiveness.

So how might the world of business education be different this year? Here are five of the biggest business education trends to watch in 2022:

  1. Rise of the Virtual Campus
  2. Climate Consciousness
  3. Stackability
  4. Interdisciplinarity
  5. Return of the International Candidate

1. Rise of the Virtual Campus

In New York, Columbia Business School opens its new campus this month with two facilities on Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus, doubling the size of the school’s current space. But mostly, in 2022, we’ll see the growth and development of the virtual campus, with schools building closer ties between real-life and virtual learning environments.

The majority of schools now offer MBA programs in hybrid or online formats, and most schools say the pandemic will have a lasting impact on their programs. In fact, Columbia’s new campus has been built complete with microphones, cameras, and an array of new technologies to enable hybrid learning.

In France, NEOMA Business School was the first European business school to open a fully virtual campus in late 2020. Using a personalized avatar, NEOMA students can study in virtual classrooms; attend conference events; meet working groups; and access the school’s library, career center, and wellness center—all via the virtual campus.

Meanwhile, at INSEAD, over 2,000 students both on-campus and at home have taken part in courses using virtual reality headsets. INSEAD’s VR Immersive Learning Initiative was launched after the COVID outbreak to teach the case method in a different, more immersive way.

In 2022, hybrid learning will become increasingly fluid as new technologies are introduced to enable learners to switch seamlessly between face-to-face study and an immersive virtual world. Some deans are even talking about a metaverse for business education!

2. Climate Consciousness

Each year, BusinessBecause asks business school deans to predict how business education will change in the year ahead. In 2022, the climate crisis is top of the agenda.

ESSEC Business School in France, for example, is aiming to reduce its program-related carbon emissions by 25 percent this year.

ESSEC has eliminated all long-haul international travel, canceling trips to destinations like the U.S. and China. Instead, students on international field trips travel by train to neighboring European countries and use VR headsets to join international conferences and company networking events.

Elsewhere, topics like sustainability and “green” finance are becoming a mainstay of the business school curriculum.

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business is launching a Master in Environment and Sustainability Management in August 2022, covering business fundamentals plus topics like environmental science; climate change impact measurement; and environmental, social, and governance issues.

Schools are also transforming themselves to become more environmentally friendly. Columbia’s new campus is the first neighborhood development in New York City to earn the prestigious LEED-ND Platinum designation, based on a rating system for green buildings from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The new Columbia Climate School will be built next to the business school, and Columbia reportedly plans to co-launch an MS in climate finance by 2024.

3. Stackability

Credentials, certificates, and stackable degree programs—we’ll see business schools offer ever more flexible ways of learning in 2022. Indeed, over 70 percent of business school leaders responding to a recent MBA Roundtable survey said alternative credentials are a required part of a business school’s strategy.

Saint Joseph’s University Haub School of Business relaunched its MBA program in a super-flexible, stackable, three-certificate model last year. Learners can study individual credit-bearing certificates online or in-person, and/or they can stack three of them to gain full MBA certification.

For many schools, stackable microcredentials will become a useful recruiting tool. These are typically lower-cost, online, credit-bearing courses, meaning participating students gain credits that count toward a formal degree program.

By offering microcredentials, schools can therefore build brand awareness, showcase their expertise, and attract a wider candidate audience, while providing a strong incentive for learners to pursue their full degree programs in the future.

The online Master in Management Essentials program, for example, is offered by ESMT Berlin, IE Business School in Madrid, and Imperial College Business School in London. On completion, participants earn a certificate from each school and can then apply credits earned to full-time master’s programs at ESMT and IE.

Students who enroll in a master’s program also get the total cost of the course (6,500 EUR, or 7,300 USD) deducted from their tuition.

4. Interdisciplinarity

Business schools in 2022 are no longer gilded outposts on the edge of the university campus. Instead, schools are collaborating with other departments, integrating the insights from diverse fields—humanities, political science, natural sciences, and design—into the curriculum.

As schools take an interdisciplinary approach, MBA and business master’s students study coding and sustainable finance, and they focus more on the intersection between business and healthcare and between business and the environment.

In September 2022, University College London will open the world’s first business school solely dedicated to healthcare. UCL’s Global Business School for Health will train future healthcare leaders and will offer a Health MBA plus specialized master’s programs in biotech and pharmaceutical management, global healthcare management, and digital health and entrepreneurship.

And there are even forays into the space industry. Arizona State University Thunderbird School of Global Management has just launched its Executive Master of Global Management with a specialization in space leadership, business, and policy, covering topics including space policy and law, space entrepreneurship, and ethical and sustainable commercial space travel.

5. Return of the International Candidate

COVID will continue to impact the plans of some business school candidates looking to study abroad in 2022. In China, travel and visa restrictions mean that schools are struggling to recruit international students.

But, in general, this year will see more international students arriving on business school campuses, as international applications continue to recover from the hit they took at the start of the pandemic.

The Graduate Management Admission Council’s Application Trends Survey, which serves as a good barometer for the year ahead, found that the total volume of international applications to graduate programs rose by 4.1 percent in 2021, while 44 percent of MBA programs saw an increase in international applications.

In 2021, 57 percent of two-year MBA programs—many of them top-ranking U.S. MBA programs—reported an increase in international applications, compared to 28 percent in 2019. One likely cause is the end to Trump-era visa restrictions that allowed for greater mobility.

More women are also applying to two-year MBAs (60 percent of programs reported application growth from women in 2021), with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania enrolling its first majority-female MBA class in its history.

Before the pandemic, applications to graduate business school programs hit a three-year low. Now, increasing demand and the diversity of the candidate pool suggest positive signs for the year ahead.

Marco De Novellis
Senior Editor, BusinessBecause & GMAC Media
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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