The MBA Roundtable, a nonprofit organization focused on MBA curricular design and innovation, has released the results of its 2009 MBA Curricular Innovation Study. The study indicates that MBA programs are reacting seriously to criticism that they are not relevant enough to today’s business needs and are making corresponding curricular changes.
Among the findings
-69% have made a significant revision to their MBA curriculum within the past four years.
-The most common curricular revision was “adding applied content” such as project-based courses.
-Integration across topics and disciplines and interdisciplinary content were also popular curricular revisions.
-25 percent have added an industry specialization in the past three years; the most common were healthcare/biotech/medicine and entrepreneurship.
About half the programs reported that they had added leadership development offerings and provided more emphasis on global perspectives.
14 percent of the programs surveyed were new MBA programs that had been launched within the past three years.
Most of the new programs had moved from concept to enrolling students in less than 18 months, indicating a fairly rapid development cycle.
Full-time MBA programs experienced the most changes
-89 percent of all MBA programs surveyed are planning additional curricular changes.
“I think this is very promising news,” said Rodney Alsup, president of the MBA Roundtable. “It shows that there has been a concentrated effort among MBA programs to innovate and make changes that increase their relevance to both students and employers. Furthermore, this has been done in an educational environment that can be resistant to change, or, at the very least, has approval processes that make it difficult to make changes in a timely manner. Some schools need approval from their state boards of education prior to revising their curricula, for example.”
The motivation for these changes comes from both internal and external sources, according to the study. The most common motivator by far was internal quality improvement initiatives, with 64 percent of participants selecting it as one of their motivators. Among external motivators, “competitor schools” was the most commonly chosen answer, with 34 percent of respondents choosing it as one of their motivators.
“The best news to come out of this study is that 89 percent of MBA programs are already planning additional curricular changes,” concluded Alsup. “That indicates that these programs are on a cycle of continuous improvement.”
Tuition Fees Getting Pricier, Applicants Increasing
According to industry research firm IBISWorld, tuition fees for both public and private institutions grew in real terms, and accounted for a higher proportion of total revenue in 2009 than in 2004. Tuition fees per student have also grown faster than household incomes.
“Higher tuition rates and a high unemployment rate is good news for business schools”, said Toon Van Beeck, senior analyst at IBISWorld.
“Prior to the recession, there has been an ongoing trend of people prolonging their education. Now more than ever, we’re seeing a rise in MBA applicants, invariably altering the selection process to become a lot more competitive”.