For MBA to Thrive, Relevance Is Key

Matt Symonds, editorial consultant to Times Higher Education and the Wall Street Journal Business School Rankings, looks at what is needed for the MBA program we know today to continue to be relevant in the future.


Matt Symonds: [00:19] The MBA has proved to be remarkably resilient, and has adapted tremendously in the last 95 years, so the signs are good for the future. I think it faces many new challenges. Certainly, as we look at the future of work and the volatility of the job market, relevance is key.

[00:35] I think that the MBA needs to listen. It needs to listen to students and their learning needs, listen to how they would like to work ... they're making a major investment in time, in money, in their energy ... and really understand the transformational, personal, and professional journey that they're looking for.

[00:58] I think that the MBA needs to listen to faculty and partners, perhaps technology providers that are part of that mix, in terms of the relevance and effectiveness of the learning environment. The MBA needs to listen to its community. I include in that, of course, the alumni that are an invaluable resource for any business school, and how the MBA continues to engage and inspire them.

[01:23] Finally, I think the MBA needs to listen to recruiters as they share what they see as the future skills, whether that be business analytics and big data. It's certainly been a flagship in the last century. We'll face a lot of competition, and I think technology will be one of the drivers of that.

[01:44] We're already seeing a lot of demand at the undergraduate level, many more BBA graduates than we would have seen 15, 20 years ago, and of course, the appetite for pre-experience master's degrees that for many occurred just at the right stage as they're taking those first steps, thinking about the direction of their career.

[02:05] That's particularly popular with the international market, and I think that we'll see greater demand for that in the US. Let's not forget all of those mid 30s, 40s, 50s. Our careers just will keep running, I think, and this idea of lifelong learning, business education has a tremendous amount to offer for those individuals as they themselves adapt to the workplace.

[02:30] I'm sure that the MBA will still be around but will face very healthy competition from those other alternatives.

Filmed February 2018 on site at AACSB's annual Deans Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.