When is a business school more than a business school?

Business schools are sometimes Schools of Management, Schools of Business and Economics, Faculties of Business and Law, and, now, in a number of cases a School of Business and Society. Increasingly, schools recognise that business cannot be studied in isolation and the same is true of prospective Masters students.

The 2020 Tomorrow’s Masters report, published by CarringtonCrisp in partnership with EFMD, found that prospective students are increasingly interested in stackable degrees, up from 33% in 2019 to 39% in 2020. Stackable degrees offer students the opportunity to build their studies with modules in different subjects specific to their interests and needs.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in stackable degrees seems likely to grow. Those in work will look for options that provide flexibility in their studies and have a rapid impact in their careers, choosing to study what will help them most at the current point in their career and then returning for further modules later. For employers paying for the employees studies, the return on investment will look more attractive as they will only pay for one module rather than a whole degree.

The stackable degree will also allow students to take something of a pick and mix approach to their studies, choosing modules as required rather than being straight-jacketed into a one-size-fits-all approach from a business school. Instead of the Henry Ford approach where you can have any colour so long as it’s black, business schools will have to come up with a model, not unlike many car companies today, where consumers can personalise their car based on a standard model platform.

Part of that personalisation will involve business schools working with other faculties in their institutions.  Tomorrow’s Masters found that Economics was the fifth most popular topic for a Masters degree, selected by 17% of the respondents. Yet in a separate question when prospective students were asked if they would consider a degree in Behavioural Economics (51% agreed), in Decision Sciences (46% agreed) and Behavioural Sciences (45%) agreed.

Interest is not only restricted to studying different subjects, but also to studying in different ways. Although small, interest in studying for a blended or online Masters grew from 7% in 2019 to 12% in 2020.  The current pandemic looks likely to increase interest in blended and online options, although that may depend on the experience students have had with their undergraduate degrees switching to online study in the current crisis.

Even if students are not tempted to study their entire degree online, the data from Tomorrow’s Masters suggests that 33% would consider short online programmes with providers such as LinkedIn Learning. The opportunity to get an introduction to a new topic or to update existing skills at a low or no cost and in a convenient way for the learner is proving to be increasingly attractive.

So when is a business school more than a business school? The answer is when it’s tomorrow’s business school, a school that offers programme personalisation, that delivers bite-sized learning alongside traditional degrees, that works with different faculties across an institution (and probably beyond an institution) and much more besides.