Preventing an Enrollment Dropoff

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Business schools can navigate enrollment trends by diversifying teaching methods and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration for future-ready graduates.
Featuring Mariëlle Heijltjes, Maastricht University
  • Recruiting students from new markets is one way to help balance enrollment numbers, but business schools will need to equip faculty with the competencies needed to teach learners from different international and educational backgrounds.
  • Employers are looking for graduates who have not only academic knowledge but also strong critical thinking and communication skills, which will require business educators to reevaluate their teaching strategies.
  • The future business school model emphasizes connectivity within and across disciplines, with increased employer collaboration, fostering challenge-based learning experiences for students early in their education.


Mariëlle Heijltjes: [0:15] I anticipate business school enrollment to vary, actually, over continents. I think there's a real steep decline, predicted, at least, in the US and also in Europe. Asia, especially India, is of course driving global enrollment growth now.

[0:31] If you want to recruit, then it should be international students from Asian markets because, well, they're growing. The reason for the decline is largely demographic because it's a declining population of 18 and 19 year olds.

[0:46] In the US, they talk about the enrollment cliff and how they're afraid of that happening next year. We don't call it that in Europe, but it's a similar situation, where the domestic population of 18 and 19 year olds is just shrinking. That will lead to decreasing enrollment, of course.

To prepare faculty, it's not an overnight thing, but I think you really have to invest in their competencies in that sense.
[1:04] To protect ourselves from the enrollment cliff or a decline in enrollment, I think you can do several things. One element could be recruit internationally in markets that are still growing. There, you have to be careful to actually make sure your faculty, the faculty culture, and their competencies can deal with the increased international classroom.

[1:26] Another option would be to expand the number of types of target groups. Rather than just focusing on undergrads or graduates, really take lifelong learning seriously and focus on professional, shorter courses. Also, there, of course, you have to make sure that your own faculty can actually do that. There're several options to think strategically about it.

[1:51] To prepare faculty, it's not an overnight thing, but I think you really have to invest in their competencies in that sense.

[1:59] What we do in Maastricht University or in the Netherlands, it's a broader program that's called Recognition and Rewards, where there's a common understanding among all the universities, actually, that to really deal with these types of changes, you cannot only focus on research and education, but you have to also focus on impact, and you have to focus on leading.

[2:20] Leading your own faculty members or leading stakeholders outside. It's investing in faculty development in that sense and leadership development, and not only in the development of your own students.

The business school model of the future is much more connected than it is now.

[2:32] What we see in Europe is one of the things that employers keep saying, is academic knowledge and academic excellence is simply not enough anymore. We need students that enter the labor market that have competence in the area of perspective-taking, in the area of critical thinking, communication skills.

[2:49] All these other things that are more meta qualities, if you wish, that are not necessarily part of the education that students get. I think that's also a major shift. Also, for faculty because that's also a different way of teaching than if you just convey knowledge, transfer knowledge.

[3:06] The business school model of the future is much more connected than it is now. Connected not only within the discipline, but for example, what I see in our own school is we have a faculty of science and engineering. We are getting more and more programs together with them. Not only business engineering programs, but also circular economy, circular engineering.

[3:26] I think working across disciplines is a major change. Also, working with the different outside stakeholders, employers, for example, that they get into the classroom earlier so that students learn to work more challenge-based, rather than that they just acquire the knowledge and then apply it.

[3:45] That they actually start collaborating with employers, and with each other, and faculty on challenges that are real during their education already.

The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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