The à la carte future of post-graduate business education

Business education’s future will resemble the music industry, where individual songs can be downloaded à la carte without paying for a pre-determined selection, says Universidad Nebrija’s Dean, Fernando Tomé Bermejo. Interview by Tim Dhoul.

Business education’s future will resemble the music industry, where individual songs can be downloaded à la carte without paying for a pre-determined selection, says Universidad Nebrija’s Dean, Fernando Tomé Bermejo.  

Moves towards students being able to pick and choose what are often termed ‘stackable’ qualifications are a reaction to changing student needs and stand to empower them as consumers. The market demands this kind of change, and, for Tomé, this demand extends to Business Schools’ inclusion of responsible management principles and practices.

‘Consumers want to be identified with the values of the businesses of which they are clients,’ he says arguing in favour of incorporating responsible management into all of a programme’s courses rather than covering the topic and its related areas in standalone courses. ‘This… contributes to understanding the transversal value of these concepts and allows them to permeate the entire institution,’ he reasons.  

Based in Madrid, Spain, Universidad Nebrija offers an MBA programme with specialisations available in entrepreneurship, tourism, law and technology management. Its roster of master’s programmes, meanwhile, encompasses programmes in digital marketing, leadership and HR management. In the full interview with Business Impact below, Tomé also outlines the School’s plans to integrate AI into its programmes and to increase the level of diversity seen among its student and faculty. Read on to learn more.

Please can you tell me a little about typical student intake sizes and proportions of international students at your Business School? 

The student intake increases with each passing year. Nevertheless, we prioritise quality over quantity when selecting our students. In the latest MBA cohort, we have selected a total of 80 students. When it comes to our international students, the vast majority come from Latin America, with China as a close second.

Please outline the importance of responsible management to your Business School’s strategy and why you feel it is a vital topic for business as a whole today.

‘Responsible management’ is a concept that began to be included in post-graduate studies towards the end of the last century and it is now undoubtedly an essential topic when it comes to the educational development of executives.

The fact that a business should be based on ethical and sustainable principles is effectively a matter of personal and corporate responsibility. Nevertheless, it is also something the market demands: consumers want to be identified with the values of the businesses of which they are clients.

It is therefore essential that all our students are well trained in this matter. Although this training used to be given through an all-inclusive, standalone course, I believe that it should now be included in all of the courses. This way, all subjects can be taught according to these principles, which in turn contributes to understanding the transversal value of these concepts and allows them to permeate the entire institution.

Is there anything you’d like to see change among providers of business education, or that they could be doing better?

I would like to see more flexible programmes, more à la carte. If we can now choose exactly what music we want to listen to by downloading each individual song and without being forced to buy a pre-determined selection, as we had to years ago, I believe the future of post-graduate education will follow the same pattern.

We will have to offer a series of subjects or modules and it will be the student who chooses their own formative itinerary; always logically within some requirements and limitations, and with a great advisory service on the part of the School.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing providers of business education in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region, in your opinion?

I believe that we face both challenges that are unique to Spain and its neighbouring countries, and others that are common to any School in general.

In the first group, I am convinced that there is still a lot of work to do to achieve internationality in all of its perspectives: internationality of students, teachers and contents. We must ensure our students are versatile and able to build their professional lives anywhere around the world. In this sense, I think it’s important to provide our graduates with tools that allow them to learn and be adaptable in the face of ever-faster technological change.

As for the second group, I believe the challenge for everyone is to form professionals that lead this technological change. In order to do so, they must develop their innovation capabilities.

Lastly, I believe that attracting female talent is still a pending subject for every School. Although it is true that this change will only occur if it also happens in businesses, this does not mean that Schools should not contribute to it. I believe that a larger presence of high-profile women in faculties and highlighting and supporting cases of success of female leadership is essential.

How is your School working to boost the employment prospects of its graduates?

The School is devoted to improving the employability of its graduates. However, we must keep in mind that our target students, especially those in the MBA, are already employed. For this reason, the internship and practice-based approach has some very evident limitations and, therefore, this element is more present in those programmes attended by more junior students.

We attempt to improve the employment prospects of our more senior students with two different tools:

  1. Coaching – to boost our candidates’ self-awareness and help them identify areas for improvement
  2. Mentoring – to guide them when making decisions regarding their professional careers

How are programme curricula developed and refined at your School to ensure that they remain in touch with the changing needs of both students and employers?

The method we have been employing for some time to perfect our programmes – and which has given us some very good results – follows a 360° perspective, by means of analysing the feedback we get from the following stakeholders of our School:

  • Former students, by following their professional careers
  • Current students, by monitoring their satisfaction and experience
  • Businesses, which periodically evaluate the contents of our programmes and our graduates’ employment; and which monitor the performance of our employed students
  • Academic experts and members of the marketing department, who look to innovate content and teaching methods, as well as to analyse market tendencies.

Which single new programme course or initiative are you most excited about and why?

We are currently very excited by our coaching programme because it is cross-curricular, and we therefore believe it can have a very positive impact on all of our students. It is also focused on improving our students’ employability in a more practical manner.

Elsewhere, the inclusion of AI in our programmes is an exciting challenge for us in the medium term.

What are your hopes for the School in the next five years?

While we are invested in increasing the number of students in our classrooms in the following years, we are more interested in their quality and diversity.

On this last point, we are convinced that the coexistence of different nationalities, genders and generations in the classroom adds great value to peer learning. We also expect to see this diversity reflected among faculty members – having professors with differing perspectives greatly enriches the learning experience. Regarding our programmes, we believe that the integration of AI and of concepts and experiences which train our students in digital transformation should be the fundamental area of our programmes’ development.

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