Have business schools adapted to the immediate and medium term future?

On November 29, in an information published by OUR EDITORIAL STAFF entitled “Are business schools incorporating the correct curricular content based on the 2030 horizon?”


We were already anticipating from the AEEN what the trend is being, or rather, the change of direction that business schools must necessarily undertake in order to face much more complex scenarios in the coming years, if they want to continue to have the predicament and prestige that they are supposed to have as postgraduate educational institutions.

Look not only at the current status of job offers, but also investigate what the new functions and responsibilities of jobs that do not exist today will be like.


Let’s remember some of the ideas that we pointed out in this article:

“Likewise, it is not easy for a company to have proof of the return on its investment in the postgraduate training of a chosen employee who is going to occupy positions of responsibility. You have to look at it not only because of what that person earns (his improvement) but also the added contribution he is making to the position he occupies, which will surely be an improvement in productivity not only personal but of his department and / or team that he directs “

In other words, we made a clear allusion to the contribution in the real world, beyond all the knowledge acquired in the academic field. That is why we also added that “however, business schools have now been criticized from several (sometimes contradictory) directions: for paying too much attention to the return on investment of their students, for example, and for not giving a good value price quality; also because they are too academic and because they are too concerned with teaching basic practical skills, many of which have become obsolete if the programs or part of them are not permanently adjusted according to how the markets operate and what the impact of the technological innovation, especially in business thinking ”.

And for more INRI we said in this contribution, that “what is known as strategic thinking cannot be nourished by outdated practices or practices that are far from the current reality.”

Now, we are going to give another turn of the screw to the question, for which in our contribution today we entitled “Have business schools been adapted to the immediate and medium term future?”. And this is not a trivial question, on the contrary, it contains a series of fundamental concerns that go far beyond the business model: we refer to the reason for being of business schools and postgraduate education. As we will see what Professor Simon Collinson, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and president of the “Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS)” says to whom today we are going to reply for the incalculable value of his contributions in this regard.

We will agree in the first part with him, regarding certain data that are interesting to remember, such as that:

a) The growth of business education over the past 60 years has been phenomenal, with more than 16,000 business schools operating around the world, according to an AACSB estimate.

This does not mean, we are sure that Simon Collinson thinks it like us, that there are too many schools, because we are talking about a world that in six decades has gone from the serial industrial era and large corporations, to a business horizon in the fact that technology start-ups have assumed the forefront in terms not only of the different degrees of technological innovation, but also in terms of the consequences of the application of the NTS’s in all its forms, which causes a 180 degree turn in the business strategic thinking.

Training in business schools and training in organizations with which they have agreements and that facilitate the design of the adaptation of the programs to the new realities of the labor market


b) If we set a horizon of 25 years, many of our business schools will not exist and none will exist in their current form, for the same reasons that we indicated in a), which is a clear challenge not only to disruptive innovation in the field of business schools, but to a substantial change in its corporate culture.

c) Business schools have grown to meet a universal need for thought leadership, education and training for business and management professionals. But if they are not adapted to the times and the new paradigms (not scenarios) they will lose that reason for being that we defend from the AEEN.

d) Changing markets and new competitors, combined with the multiple pressures of faculty shortages and the need for research excellence, high-quality teaching, and stakeholder engagement, now mean that the standard business model of business schools is becoming obsolete. Therefore, it will be necessary to check if the marketing actions are in line with the real offer that is made with the current programs, in order to reach the candidates for the quality of content, learning methodologies and a teaching body that is online with this digital transformation that is taking place in the markets.

But what Professor Simon Collinson comes to tell us (that we share it 100%) is that while we are talking about adaptation and innovation, a much more fundamental movement is emerging, which is directly attacking (if not we are capable of defending it) the same water line of graduate institutions: that is, credibility and legitimacy. Collinson says that the questioning of this legitimacy happens because business schools continue to be the dominant source of ideas, experience and training for management and business professionals. We cannot disagree with this position. What’s more: it must be reinforced.

The future. Can business schools maintain their legitimacy?

Is the future of business schools being threatened? To answer to these questions, we must put ourselves in context: first, we are going to refer to the legitimacy of postgraduate educational institutions, which have undoubtedly contributed substantially in the last thirty years to incorporate a legion of new business leaders who, although they came from from scientific careers and not from economics or business, they also managed to open their knowledge and minds to how to manage business in today’s markets (they have also been doing it, mainly, over the last two decades).

Some analysts and critics, also colleagues in our sector, on a global scale, have also been demonstrating in the last twenty years about the benefits and those that are not considered so much, of business schools. It appears that the dominant position of business schools as thought leaders in recent years has been threatened for two key reasons:

a) An excess of academic articles that are not relevant in their practical application

First, a large and perhaps growing proportion of scholarly articles, the main product of business academics, which a great majority are considered irrelevant by critics and analysts, but especially by those organizations that have succeeded in the market and want to solve problems of practical application, not theoretical, or intellectual disquisitions that do not add value, neither to the benefits, nor to the income. In other words, a literally useless contribution in any real business context. Of course, there is an explanation for this, as academics are given strong incentives to publish, and the competitive drive for technical sophistication in the world of peer-reviewed journal has outpaced the drive to focus on solving real-world problems we allude.

That is why Professor Simon Collinson clearly expresses this phenomenon as follows:

“A wide range of experts, professionals, consultants and nonacademic journalists, some credible and others not so much, are challenging this hegemony. They are riding the wave of social media and profiting from widespread disillusionment with established experts. The demand for useful information to shape business and management practices is growing steadily and new challengers are filling the void left by business school academics, many of whom prefer to stay in their ivory towers. “

b) Loss of legitimacy

Simon Collinson believes that “at a fundamental level, legitimacy underpins the reason for being of an organization. It stems from fitness, dignity, and dependability, allowing you to have influence and impact, and secure resources. The future of business schools is tied to their future legitimacy. Without it, they will have diminishing influence on the next generation of business leaders and will not be able to shape the behavior of companies or address the great challenges facing the economies and societies that host them”.

Note that Collinson is issuing a warning that is of a very serious tenor (in case our industry is not aware of it) based on legitimacy. Why? Because although as he says, it is something inherent to the very essence of any organization, without a doubt in the world of specialized business education, this training can only be given by business schools, which is supposed to make a decisive contribution to GDP of a nation or a certain community. Hence, if a gap is opened between the current takeoff of what is the business reality driven by unstoppable technological advance that transforms methods, procedures and types of products and services, and what business schools can contribute to said reality (specifically better training for more demanding jobs), as well as for positions that until yesterday did not exist in companies and have to be created because reality means that such a function must exist, what is affected is that legitimacy because then its teaching will not live up to the demands.

The practical implementation of the knowledge acquired in business school will be much easier to the extent that the curricular contents of the programs are adapted to the demands for new functions in newly created jobs.


Collinson believes, and he is right, that a possible solution to this challenge is for business schools to move away from being too market-led. Although new competitors are emerging to meet the current needs of students and managers, the long-term perspective of business school researchers can give them an important advantage, because it will be precisely the search for that new job (role and responsibility) to which the school must anticipate due to its own investigative characteristic, but in application issues, not only in philosophical and doctrinal matters.

The doctrine of management and leadership if they are applied well they serve. If they are confined to the merely academic debate without a single proof of their validity, at least proven in some organization, they are of no use.

Collinson says that “business school academics have considerable experience teaching students how to learn, derive meaning from information, and question, collect evidence, frame, and debate complex issues. This serves them well when the information is not only available, but is increasingly transitory”, which, this issue of temporality is a crucial point for the adaptation that we have been discussing in this contribution. Because, based on the fact that many products and services are ephemeral, which is due to the fact that the degrees of obsolescence have increased in all areas of society for any product and / or service, because anything can be disused for competitor innovation in a matter of weeks. That is why, without hesitation, what Collinson argues is that education that allows students to adapt beyond the current context and immediate occupational demands, provides lasting skills that will differentiate career paths, is giving a clear kick to the dashboard of business schools, to prioritize this future that we are talking about, over those things that we do not yet know but that if the research is done as it should on the part of the schools in line with projects shared with leading organizations, it will be creating an extremely interesting learning scenario for students, contributing to productivity for organizations thanks to the latest generation of applied knowledge, and of course, an improvement in the standard of living of that community due to the impact it has socially and economically speaking.

Together with Collinson, we believe that business schools should improve their efforts on both fronts, the curricular content and support a model that is legitimized by reality itself (demand for postgraduates from organizations). An ability schools must demonstrate to provide a more future-proof education and relevant research, to stay ahead of the competition. This will mean more explicitly and forcefully demonstrating its worth and legitimacy in a challenging world.

Antonio Alonso, president of the AEEN (Spanish Business School Association) and general secretary of EUPHE (European Union of Private Higher Education)