It’s the people that make a business school

The Business of Branding report provides data, insight and analysis to help schools improve their branding and marketing activity, understanding what differentiates them from competitors, perceptions of international study destinations and how best to meet student, staff and corporate demands.

It’s difficult at present to think the future of business education is about technology and little else. Almost every article and every conference has something about the need to digitise, to increase online learning and to offer flexibility to learners. But perhaps in the rush to embrace the future, people have been forgotten.

The latest Business of Branding report, published by CarringtonCrisp and EFMD, suggests people are key. 2270 students from 105 countries took part in the study earlier in the year and when they were asked what they associated with their school, two of the top four responses were about people.

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Second on the list was ‘Good support available from the University during the enquiry and application process’. Some of that support may be enabled by technology, but for a new undergraduate, especially if they are the first in their family to go to university, then the personal touch, the advisor who can steer them through the jargon of applications and make them feel like they belong at an institution will be incredibly powerful.

Fourth on the list was ‘High level of support available to help students complete their studies successfully’. People don’t stop being important once a student has been recruited but continue right through their university experience. Ongoing support was clear in another question in this year’s study when students were asked what already enhances or would enhance the reputation of their school – second only to a desire for work experience was mental health support for students.

Of course, career outcomes and rankings remain important in student perceptions of business schools. A highly ranked school/university was the top of the list of things that students associate with their business school, while excellent campus facilities were third. However, a school doesn’t get to be highly ranked without the efforts of its people, whether that is academics teaching or researching, career service staff advising, alumni relations teams building ongoing relationships or many more working with students across an institution and beyond; all contribute to ranking outcomes.

Career issues make up four of the top five items that respondents think should be considered by ranking bodies when assessing quality of provision. Career issues were key when students considered where to study, both for potentially accelerating their prospects and the diversity of opportunity that they might be introduced to.

Business schools can’t ignore technology as they plan for the future, but if they want to build a brand, enhance their reputation and rankings and attract students in an increasingly competitive higher education landscape, then they mustn’t forget their people.

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