What the future holds for the MBA according to EHL Hospitality Business School Dean

Whilst the MBA remains the flagship programme for many business schools, what does the future hold for this degree? And what perspectives does the Dean of a specialist business school think about the MBA, it’s role today, and hopes for graduates? 

We spoke with Dr. Achim Schmitt, Dean of EHL Hospitality Business School, to find out.

Please introduce yourself and your career to date

I currently hold the position of Dean of EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland and am a member of EHL Group’s Executive Leadership Team. I joined EHL in 2013, initially as a Professor of Strategic Management then later leading the creation of several new graduate programmes between 2017 and 2022. I hold a PhD from the University of Geneva and obtained my Habilitation at the University of Paris-Dauphine in France. My research focuses on organisation theory and strategic management, particularly in organisational decline, corporate turnarounds, and strategic renewal.

Prior to my arrival at EHL, I gained academic experience in various international business schools, including the University of Geneva (Switzerland), Collège des Ingenieurs (CDI) in Paris (France), China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai (China), Columbia Business School in New York (USA), Universidad de los Andes in Bogota (Colombia) and Audencia Business School in Nantes (France). Before entering academia, I was a turnaround consultant across German-speaking Europe, participating in the turnaround of 15 companies. I am an academic board member at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and currently hold two board memberships in the private sector.

What do you enjoy most about your role at EHL Hospitality Business School?

Being in academia and, in particular, having the honour of managing a university is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the life of learners. I am privileged to work with passionate and talented individuals who are dedicated to strive and evolve in their respective fields and environments. I strongly believe that education and learning are great ways to make this world a better place.

The position provides the chance to craft, shape, innovate and create new programmes and initiatives that address the ever-changing needs of various industries. It also offers the opportunity to collaborate with industry leaders and gain valuable insights into the latest trends and developments. Being a dean at a hospitality business school is fulfilling and rewarding as I can make a significant impact for various stakeholders, as well as collaborate with passionate and like-minded colleagues.

Why do you think an MBA is relevant in today’s business landscape?

We could spend a lot of time discussing career growth and advancement (for example, research shows that MBA graduates earn approximately 50% more than bachelor graduates). However, with today’s changing business paradigm one thing is particularly important, and this is strong, capable leadership. This is currently the most valuable resource on Earth. Because of its unparalleled emphasis on leadership development, an MBA degree is, therefore more important than ever in today’s business environment.

MBA programmes are essential for developing strong, effective leaders who can navigate challenging business situations because no other graduate programme offers students the breadth of leadership abilities that they provide.

An integral part of the MBA programme is leadership education, which equips students for managerial positions involving not only team management but also strategic decision-making, problem-solving, and adeptness in navigating intricate corporate settings. These abilities are critical to an organisation’s overall performance and adaptability, as well as the growth of an individual’s career.

Furthermore, having outstanding customer service abilities is essential in today’s customer-focused company environment. These abilities are refined in MBA programmes, making graduates extremely valuable in any field where interacting with clients is essential. MBA schools place a strong emphasis on effective communication, giving graduates the tools they need to manage expectations from customers, express ideas clearly, and settle conflicts quickly.

What are your hopes for EHL MBA graduates?

EHL MBA graduates are strong, inspiring leaders, capable of managing a variety of teams, making strategic decisions, and resolving challenging issues. Their capacity to lead should be the driving force behind not only their own success but also the growth and flexibility of their businesses.

Graduates from EHL should be able to lead with empathy, understanding, and a strong sense of ethics because of the school’s emphasis on human-centred leadership. It is our aim that they place a high priority on the health of their teams, cultivate welcoming and encouraging work environments, and set an example for positive corporate cultures.

We expect our EHL MBA graduates to significantly contribute to the financial health and strategic success of their organisations, since they have a solid foundation in critical hard skills like financial management and strategic planning. Their competence in these domains will be essential to guarantee long-term organisational success.

Finally, we wish for EHL MBA graduates to value ongoing personal and professional development as well as lifetime learning. Their MBA is just the start of a long path of growth, and we hope they will keep looking for ways to increase their impact, expertise, and knowledge.

How do you think the MBA might evolve in future?

The MBA programme is likely to evolve by incorporating more technology-driven and interdisciplinary approaches, emphasising skills to align with the rapidly changing business landscape. MBA programmes will increasingly need to offer flexibility both in content and format, hybrid learning models that combine online and in-person experiences, catering to a diverse, more demanding student body. Industry integration, to provide real-time problem-solving experiences and a flexible curricula development in the ever-evolving business environment will be decisive to ensure that MBAs remain relevant and valuable.

For additional insights, trends and perspectives about MBA programmes, visit the conversation here.

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