Reinventing management education

Business Impact: Reinventing management education
Business Impact: Reinventing management education

If you had to explain management education to someone who had no prior knowledge of the world’s teaching systems, would it make sense? 

Would an alien, for example, find it strange that the majority of people study degrees for a fixed length of time before venturing out into the world of business for the rest of their career?

Today’s business world is, after all, one that is marked by constant change and uncertainty against a backdrop of rapid technological advancement, so it seems likely that anyone looking in from the outside would have some follow-up questions.

“How can any qualification completed now prepare you for a future that is as yet unknown?” they might ask, or equally, “How can you keep pace with new techniques later in life if you have no access to ongoing learning?”

That’s why business education needs to look at how it can reinvent itself to better serve society, argued Victor Hedenberg, BGA’s business development manager, in a session at the recent AMBA & BGA Latin America Conference 2022 in Cartagena, Colombia.

From Prussia to Ancient Greece

Institutions of higher education across much of the world are, in Hedenberg’s opinion, based around a structure of offering fixed degree programmes. This makes them rigid in scope and means that they are only able to provide a small part of what we need from management education.

These structures, he goes on, may have outgrown their original purpose. This is because their roots lie in an educational model that took shape in Prussia in the crucible of industrialisation, with the onus on meeting the state’s nation-building aims. While this was a great way of producing large numbers of graduates who possessed a certain homogeneity of thoughts and skills that chimed with the needs of the state at that time, Hedenberg says that it should not be assumed that it remains the best educational model from which we can draw today.

He points to Ancient Greece’s system of mentorship by way of example. In this model, mentors supported and advised their mentees throughout their lives. It was also a two-way process in that the mentor would learn from the mentee by addressing problems together.

For Hedenberg, such a model has a lot of relevance to management education and the increasing need to adapt to change and acquire new skills over time. Business schools embarking on BGA’s accreditation process are assigned an academic mentor, with precisely this value of continuous learning in mind.

No single path to quality management education

Mentorship is also a way in which BGA encourages business schools to break new ground as they seek to make a positive impact on business and society. Once assigned, they help schools form a measurement plan that fits their specific circumstances and aims, using BGA’s continuous impact model (CIM). The CIM features six areas against which schools can measure their impact, from intent, graduate achievement and value creation to ecosystem, society and academic scholarship. It is designed to allow schools to focus on areas where they are best placed to specialise, while encompassing all the necessary attributes for meeting international standards of quality.

The underlying belief for Hedenberg is that other methods of accreditation can sometimes be too prescriptive in their criteria and that this might even hamper innovation and the development of alternative models in management education.

BGA, on the other hand, takes the view that there is no single destination offering impact and value to a business school’s stakeholders and no single path to get there. 

Imagine, for example, an entrepreneurial-oriented business school with no formal degrees that instead offers bite-size courses taught largely by practitioners to small cohorts.

Such a school might find it hard to secure recognition from many established accreditation bodies, but BGA’s CIM model can be adapted and tailored to its unique set of circumstances and objectives as long as it can demonstrate the quality of its educational offerings and the impact on its intended audience with the help of the CIM.

As Hedenberg postulated in his presentation at the Latin America Conference, accreditation doesn’t need to be purely a case of “my way or the highway”. It can also be an opportunity to help broaden the possibilities of management education and better serve both the business sector and society in general.

This article originally appeared in the print edition (November 2022) of Business Impact, magazine of the Business Graduates Association (BGA).

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