Business schools’ impact during the COVID-19 pandemic

Business school impact report

Four in five business schools are confident that they have sustained or increased their impact during the pandemic

The latest EFMD report, The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Business Schools, analyses the pandemic’s impact on business schools’ internal and external environments. Published in collaboration with survey software Le Sphinx, the report sheds light on how business schools are responding to the crisis and how they see the future.

The pandemic has shaken the foundations of business schools’ operations and teaching, but even more importantly, schools have re-evaluated the core of their missions, re-established relations with global and local environments, realigned their approach to key stakeholders, and redefined their business models. The survey collected responses from over 100 business schools between October-November 2020 and analysed responses according to the Business Schools Impact System (BSIS) model.

Four in five business schools (79%) are confident that they have managed to sustain or increase their impact during the pandemic. The only significant difference between schools is based on their location: in Europe, fewer schools believe that their impact has increased (17% instead of 30%, on average).

Global impact of business schools

Impact dimensions

Perhaps not surprisingly, the pandemic’s most significant impact to date has been financial. Overall, 44% of schools indicate that their financial impact has decreased, with greater falls in revenue in private business schools than public ones.  Schools have seen decreases in revenue (in 43% of schools) student numbers (29%), including a 46% drop in executive education programmes, employability opportunities (54%), and increasing pressure on student fees (49%).

Regional ecosystem and societal impacts are considered to have remained stable (in 42% of schools) or increased (35% for the ecosystem and 38% for the societal impact). Over a third of business schools have thus taken the opportunity to be more active in their region and to launch CSR actions in response to the crisis.

“Whilst global ambition has been at the core of many business schools’ strategies, in the aftermath of the pandemic, many institutions have re-evaluated and reaffirmed their commitment to and relation with local stakeholders. Businesses and other private and public organisations could benefit from their research, expertise and impact projects,” commented Debra Leighton, BSIS Senior Advisor, and one of the report’s authors.

Active and effective communication is key, especially during a crisis, and overall, schools have lived up to the challenge. Schools’ image impact is said to have remained the same by the majority of respondents (53%) and even increased for 41% of them.

Internal and external challenges

The biggest internal challenge, unsurprisingly, has been adjusting to a remote learning environment. Schools focused on meeting student expectations of their new learning environment (indicated as very important by 77% of respondents), aligning faculty skills to remote delivery, and investing in necessary technology. Not all students have access to remote learning technologies and addressing this issue has proved particularly challenging, together with the need to ensure a COVID-safe campus when in-person attendance was possible.

International student recruitment and student mobility are indicated as key external challenges, with 70% of business schools regarding this as very important. Undoubtedly, global and regional travel restrictions and quarantine requirements have impacted admissions, placements, summer schools and international study visits. Government HE policy is reported as the second greatest challenge, with political uncertainty causing additional pressure on schools.

External challenges business schools impact

Future scenarios

In terms of future scenarios, business schools recognise an urgent need to adapt their business models, with 73% of schools considering change highly likely, as disruptive change becomes a feature of their working environment. 60% of respondents consider the mass introduction of digital teaching and learning a highly likely scenario.

Nine out of ten respondents (91%) believe that schools will need to engage in more widespread collaboration. Simultaneously, an almost equal number of respondents (90%) consider it likely or highly likely that competition between schools will become stronger.

Many schools (66%) believe it is increasingly important to demonstrate their impact on the world around them.  Strikingly, there is an overwhelming belief that schools will work to regenerate themselves and the economy, with 92% of respondents finding this likely or highly likely.

Looking forward

The societal role and responsibility of business schools are already present in mainstream discussions about the ethos of management education, but the unfolding global health crisis has demonstrated the urgent need for a holistic and ‘glocal’ approach to the impact agenda. Schools, it seems, have taken an even greater interest in their impact measurement and communication tools.

Michel Kalika, BSIS Director and the report’s co-author, concluded: “We have examples of business schools that have been very active in helping their students and communities who faced difficulties during the pandemic. These actions and a positive outlook reflect an overriding optimism regarding the future direction of the sector and bring a message of hope for the development of business schools.”

You can download the report HERE.

About the survey

BSIS impact coverThe EFMD Impact Survey was conducted between October and November 2020 and focused on the challenges which business schools face across the world as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact dimensions were based on the seven chapters of the Business School Impact System (BSIS) tool, which helps schools measure and communicate their impact. An online questionnaire gathered responses from deans representing 114 schools around the world.

The data generated by the survey will be used to inform and further develop the Business School Impact System (BSIS) tool, both enhancing the assessment of schools undertaking BSIS, and also to develop the programme of BSIS events and activities.