Will MBA schools fade?

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YUE in Beijing

While on­line cour­ses have over­whelm­ingly im­pacted peo­ple’s learn­ing habits, heads of sev­eral of the most renowned business schools be­lieve that it will not bring bricks-and-mor­tar business schools to an end, es­pe­cially those with a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion.

The view­point was raised dur­ing the ad­vi­sory board meet­ing of Ts­inghua Univer­sity School of Eco­nomics and Man­age­ment (SEM) on Oct 23. The meet­ing was at­tended by deans of three top business schools in the US and Qian Yingyi, dean of Ts­inghua SEM.

On­line ed­u­ca­tion’s po­ten­tial im­pact — or threat — to the tra­di­tional form of business schools was one is­sue that raised a heated dis­cus­sion dur­ing the fo­rum. One stu­dent asked if, with the ro­bust de­vel­op­ment of on­line ed­u­ca­tion, the tra­di­tional form of business schools would com­pletely dis­ap­pear in the next few decades.

“I don’t think on­line ed­u­ca­tion will lead to a dead end for our ex­ist­ing business schools, as we will also make an ef­fort to blend into the trend,” said Ge­of­frey Gar­rett, dean of the Whar­ton School of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. “For us, a more cru­cial thing is how to keep the con­tent of our on­line ed­u­ca­tion equally good as what we pro­vide in tra­di­tional class­rooms.”

“The other thing we also need to con­sider is whether we have enough re­sources for on­line ed­u­ca­tion to keep a good teach­ing con­tent,” he said.

Whar­ton has al­ready made a move to meet the chal­lenge of on­line ed­u­ca­tion. The school set up a China Cen­ter in Beijing re­cently. Lo­cated in down­town Beijing, the cen­ter plans to pro­vide re­mote ed­u­ca­tion to a class of business ex­ec­u­tives.

Jef­frey Bern­stein, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Penn Whar­ton business cen­ter, said that the cen­ter will open in March 2015.

“I am not that sure about on­line ed­u­ca­tion’s im­pact on business schools,” said Qian Yingyi. “At the mo­ment it is def­i­nitely not bring­ing an end to the tra­di­tional form of business school. But the stu­dents we have now are mostly in their 30s, 40s or even 50s. I am not sure about the learn­ing habits of those born after 2000, or even 2010. How they pre­fer to study is the real fac­tor to as to whether business schools dis­ap­pear or face other chal­lenges.”

Garth Saloner, dean of Stan­ford Grad­u­ate School of Business, and David Sch­mit­tlein, dean of MIT Sloan School of Man­age­ment, also at­tended the fo­rum.

It’s an ob­vi­ous fact that business schools have gone through big changes over the past decades, said Saloner, adding that Stan­ford had been mak­ing changes in its cur­ricu­lum year by year.

“If you look at the cur­ricu­lum of op­tional cour­ses at our school this year, 28 per­cent of the cour­ses did not even ex­ist in last year’s cur­ricu­lum,” he said.

“What we have been teach­ing in the past 10 to 15 years has be­come very stan­dard now, and stu­dents need more ad­di­tional value from the tra­di­tional cour­ses like fi­nance and mar­ket­ing. They need to ap­ply such value into real prac­tice,” he said. “That’s why I think fu­ture adjustment is in­evitable.”

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