Let’s Lead Boldly: Elevating the Value of Business Schools

Briefing | April 2023

This position paper advocates for the value of business schools globally and is the result of an in-depth analysis of business and lifelong learner needs as well as market drivers impacting the business education ecosystem. It includes insights and reflections from the AACSB Board of Directors, Innovation Committee, Business Practices Council, and other influential industry leaders.

AACSB acknowledges the many ways business schools deliver value within the industries and communities they serve. To further elevate and transform business education, AACSB offers potential innovative pathways that business schools can explore to strengthen their unique value propositions based on strategy, markets served, areas of expertise, and competencies. Visit Pathways to Innovation: An Exploratory Guide for Business Schools, a complement to this position paper.

Through the collective voice of AACSB and business schools around the world, and in partnership with business, lifelong learners, and society, let’s lead boldly!

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The Value Proposition of Business Schools

Are business schools delivering on the value they promise? Have they kept pace with the myriad social, economic, and technological disruptions? Is the world better because business schools are in it? These and other complex, far-reaching questions require business schools to evaluate the types and ways they deliver value to their stakeholders—learners, business, and society.

In early 2023, AACSB’s Innovation Committee endorsed the development of a reinvigorated value proposition for business schools and the role they play within the business education ecosystem. It is intended to inform and inspire audiences by highlighting business education’s role in career advancement for learners, ensuring businesses thrive, and reinforcing that doing good in society is good for business.

The value proposition for business schools reads as follows:

Our world needs leaders—people with the vision, determination, and knowledge required to make a positive and meaningful difference in all areas of society. The world’s business schools are where leaders are developed, inspired, and emboldened.

Every business school is unique, but each one aspires to advance economic well-being while strengthening its commitment to purpose, people, and planet.

Through teaching and mentoring, research, collaborations with businesses, and partnerships across academic disciplines, business schools create and share knowledge and insights at the speed of business. They serve as catalysts that have the power to transform companies—and the world.

By offering equitable access to learning and career opportunities for learners with diverse backgrounds and experiences, business schools help ensure that the next generation of leaders truly reflects the world we live in, and the world we all want to see.

Let’s Lead Boldly.

McRae Banks
As the expectations of business leaders and their organizations shift, so must the ways business schools provide value to their diverse stakeholders. AACSB and its network are collectively elevating the impact business schools make through knowledge creation, learner preparation, and community engagement for positive change-making.
McRae C. Banks
Dean, UNC Greensboro Bryan School of Business; Chair, AACSB 2022–23 Board of Directors
McRae Banks
As the expectations of business leaders and their organizations shift, so must the ways business schools provide value to their diverse stakeholders. AACSB and its network are collectively elevating the impact business schools make through knowledge creation, learner preparation, and community engagement for positive change-making.
McRae C. Banks
Dean, UNC Greensboro Bryan School of Business; Chair, AACSB 2022–23 Board of Directors

Some aspects of the value proposition represent the long-standing attributes on which business schools were founded. After all, business schools have created influential leaders who have transformed companies, generated prosperity for huge segments of society, and contributed to positive societal change. Business leaders have also faced criticism for contributing to economic and social inequities, among other challenges confronting our world today. The new value proposition shows how business schools develop and inspire leaders who can effect positive change—with organizations and beyond.

The Role of Business Schools

Business schools are multifaceted institutions that create meaningful change and innovation. Their ability to do this rests on three pillars:

Arrow icon outlined in teal and bright green, facing right  What They Do

Business schools develop talented and diverse leaders.

Business schools offer people from all backgrounds and all geographies the opportunity to acquire the business acumen and analytical problem-solving skills needed to achieve their dreams and grow into bold, successful leaders. 

Arrow icon outlined in teal and bright green, facing right  How They Do It

Business schools impart new knowledge and build strong partnerships.

By creating and sharing knowledge, and with a spirit of collaboration and open dialog, business schools are incubators for new ideas, innovative strategies, and actionable insights.

Arrow icon outlined in teal and bright green, facing right  Why They Do It

Business schools create positive change.

Business schools develop leaders with the analytical skills and strategic vision to imagine and implement practical business solutions to the pressing challenges facing our world today, in the corporate realm and beyond.

Michael Arena, Chief Science Officer, Syndezo
Business schools and their industry partners need to look for opportunities to co-create theory as learning laboratories. Business often looks at academia as primarily a channel for talent, rather than also viewing it as a problem-solving chamber.
Michael Arena
Chief Science Officer, Syndezo
Michael Arena, Chief Science Officer, Syndezo
Business schools and their industry partners need to look for opportunities to co-create theory as learning laboratories. Business often looks at academia as primarily a channel for talent, rather than also viewing it as a problem-solving chamber.
Michael Arena
Chief Science Officer, Syndezo
White outline of a person's head and shoulders

Communicating to Stakeholders

Business schools serve the needs of several stakeholder audiences: students and lifelong learners, businesses, educators, and society more broadly. Whether inspiring students to find their purpose, providing top talent to organizations, reinventing business, or solving societal challenges, business schools are a force for good in the world.

Four different-colored boxes each with different text: upper left, "Students. Find your purpose." Upper right, "Educators. Embrace changemakers." Bottom left, "Business. Ready to lead." Bottom right: "Society. Up to the challenge."

Students and Lifelong Learners: Finding Purpose

Students today are committed to building a rewarding career and are equally committed to having a positive impact on the world. Business school prepares them for both. At all points of learners’ careers, business education can provide them with the leadership mindset and new knowledge needed to take on business challenges, navigate new technologies, and contribute to overcoming societal problems. In person or virtually, through experiential learning, and by building meaningful connections, business schools prepare students to impact the bottom line while tackling the major issues of our time. With a business education, there’s no trade-off between doing well and doing good.

Jeffrey Brown, Dean, Gies College of Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Business and Business Leaders: Ready to Lead

Business schools develop leaders who are prepared on day one to solve challenges and have a positive impact on any organization. More than competencies, business schools instill an entrepreneurial mindset in students, nurture future leaders who can motivate teams, and develop the keen judgment and analytical thinking to continually reinvent business and transform the world.

I look to business schools to create the business leaders of the future. Alumni and lifelong learners have access to business school insights and knowledge and opportunities to continue to learn and upskill based on market needs and personal motivations.
Tracey Golden
President, AICPA Foundation, and Past Chair, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and American Institute of CPAs
I look to business schools to create the business leaders of the future. Alumni and lifelong learners have access to business school insights and knowledge and opportunities to continue to learn and upskill based on market needs and personal motivations.
Tracey Golden
President, AICPA Foundation, and Past Chair, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and American Institute of CPAs

Business Educators and Faculty: Creating Changemakers

Business school faculty are the bridge to mentoring and nurturing the next generation of leaders, people with the agility and innovative mindset needed to transform businesses and the inspiration and data insights needed to make a positive impact on society. By advancing industry knowledge through intellectual contributions, encouraging experimentation, and developing problem-solving skills, business schools are laboratories for new ideas and incubators for entrepreneurs. 

Agnieszka Chidlow, Chair, International Business, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham; Working Board Member, Responsible Research in Business & Management
As significant stakeholders in the education and research ecosystem, it is vital that business schools contribute to the knowledge creation that transforms scientific and responsible research into credible and viable solutions for today’s most pressing challenges.
Agnieszka Chidlow
Chair, International Business, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham; Working Board Member, Responsible Research in Business & Management
Agnieszka Chidlow, Chair, International Business, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham; Working Board Member, Responsible Research in Business & Management
As significant stakeholders in the education and research ecosystem, it is vital that business schools contribute to the knowledge creation that transforms scientific and responsible research into credible and viable solutions for today’s most pressing challenges.
Agnieszka Chidlow
Chair, International Business, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham; Working Board Member, Responsible Research in Business & Management

Society: Up to the Challenge

The challenges facing our world are bigger than any one person, one industry, or one field of expertise. Developing solutions will require specialized skills, new sources of knowledge, cross-disciplinary research, close collaborations, and, above all, bold leadership. Partnering with businesses, NGOs, and governments, business educators are at the forefront of leading sustained, positive societal change and ensuring that businesses and economies thrive.

Jan-Willem Vosmeer, Global Manager, Sustainable Development and Stakeholder Engagement, The HEINEKEN Company
We face multifaceted challenges that require specialists and problem-solvers who can operate sustainable businesses, while increasing innovation. Business schools are where you can learn to lead organizations that positively contribute to stakeholders and communities, while also advancing revenue goals.
Jan-Willem Vosmeer
Global Manager, Sustainable Development and Stakeholder Engagement, The HEINEKEN Company
Jan-Willem Vosmeer, Global Manager, Sustainable Development and Stakeholder Engagement, The HEINEKEN Company
We face multifaceted challenges that require specialists and problem-solvers who can operate sustainable businesses, while increasing innovation. Business schools are where you can learn to lead organizations that positively contribute to stakeholders and communities, while also advancing revenue goals.
Jan-Willem Vosmeer
Global Manager, Sustainable Development and Stakeholder Engagement, The HEINEKEN Company
Best Practices Icon

Delivering on Market Expectations

AACSB recognizes and celebrates the diversity of business schools across its network. As unique as the markets they serve, so are the innovations that business schools pursue in creating value. But with the incredible rate of technology advancement, along with unprecedented socioeconomic, environmental, and geopolitical change, it is evident that the shelf life of innovation is decreasing; what is innovative today will likely not be innovative a year or so from now. Business schools that embrace a culture that nurtures ongoing innovation and prioritizes strategic partnerships comprising a variety of players can Lead Boldly in ways that create relevant solutions to their unique market needs. The Pathways to Innovation: An Exploratory Guide for Business Schools presents six strategic innovation opportunities for business schools to explore as they aim to align with market expectations of business education.

Alex Triantis, Dean, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
Vice Chair-Chair Elect, AACSB 2022–23 Board of Directors

What the Market Expects of Business Schools

Below are market expectations across six thematic areas where business schools can continue to innovate and drive value. Although business schools can provide value in other ways, these six value drivers highlight key areas that surfaced throughout AACSB’s Innovation Committee and thought leadership work.

Business schools develop lifelong learners who can thrive in established businesses, entrepreneurial startups, nonprofits, and government. All current and prospective learners, globally, have equitable access to quality business education, employers, and alumni networks for career advancement. Business schools’ recruitment and admissions processes are inclusive and promote environments that enable student graduation and faculty retention. Business education directly supports the professional workforce by creating advancement opportunities for employees at all levels, ensuring the success of a diverse talent pipeline and developing socially conscious and courageous leaders.
The complex challenges at every level of the global economy require leaders with the right blend of technical and durable skills who can incubate, accelerate, and grow new businesses or transform existing practices. Demands for innovation include entrepreneurial ventures that create jobs in both developed and emerging markets, as well as the reinvention of ideas, processes, and structures that allow for existing organizations to thrive and create value in new ways for a wider audience of stakeholders. Sustainability, positive societal impact, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an innovation mindset are foundational pillars for organizational long-term success. Business schools create future problem-solvers and are the innovation ecosystems that existing and aspiring business leaders rely on to realize their business dreams.
Business schools effectively prepare students with the competencies, mindsets, and analytical knowledge needed to successfully take on business and societal challenges. Additionally, curriculum is rapidly developed and deployed in response to technological advancements, new competition, and dynamic global markets. Faculty are master curators of quality content, gleaned from a variety of sources, to create the most effective learning. As the shelf life of certain skill sets continues to shorten, business schools anticipate evolving needs and expeditiously release learning solutions for students—including targeted microlearning experiences and credentials that are of verifiable quality. Through a combination of traditional degree-based and ongoing, bite-sized learning, lifelong learners are empowered to continuously upskill and align with business needs.
Business schools continually adapt to align with unique lifelong learner needs, technological advancements, and evolving employer demands. In addition to teaching, faculty mentor students in their interpersonal development. Business schools offer diverse portfolios of learning and provide more opportunities for a multifaceted learner audience, including flexible in-person, digital, and hybrid learning experiences that are engaging and experiential and embody effective pedagogy and technology solutions. Their offerings are differentiated from their competitors’ through quality and assurance of learning.
The challenges facing the interconnected business, economic, and social environments require cross-disciplinary solutions. Business schools are leading and co-creating knowledge grounded in business practice. Business schools’ research priorities attract, empower, and reward faculty whose research addresses society’s pressing challenges and results in actionable insights that advance industries. Research success is not solely dependent on top-tier journal placement and includes metrics relevant beyond academic communities. Shifts in the academic research culture begin in doctoral programs that prepare future generations of faculty with a renewed mindset and approach to knowledge creation across their teaching, research, and community involvement.
Business schools are seeking to evolve traditional views of business from agents of wealth creation to organizations that balance profit with purpose, people, and planet. As hubs for future leaders, business schools develop well-rounded changemakers with the required acumen, mindsets, and experiences that allow them to adapt and thrive in a diverse, global, and dynamic workplace. These graduates understand that doing good for society is good for business and vice versa. By forging partnerships across disciplines and with businesses, NGOs, and governments, business schools are a force for positive change by progressing socioeconomic priorities through scholarship, teaching, and outreach.

Visit Pathways to Innovation: An Exploratory Guide for Business Schools to uncover innovative opportunities for business schools to address market expectations.

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