8 Trends Set to Transform Business Study in 2020

How is business education going to be shaped by trends in 2020? If you’re an aspiring business student, you may have many questions to ask before you make a decision on what you’re going to study this year. Are more schools going to focus on the impact of big data and AI in business? Are more students going to choose to study abroad? Will more students be studying business online? Is the MBA going to survive?

We’ve put together some of the top trends that are set to define business education over the next few months. 

MBA Graduates with Big Data and AI Knowledge Will Experience High Demand:

Across the globe, technological advances such as IoT, big data, digitalisation and AI are continually impacting the ways in which businesses create value for their customers. And graduates who have a firm understanding of these technological trends are going to enjoy the most demand. 

The impact will likely be bigger within highly competitive environments where companies are forced to be more innovative when it comes to differentiating their value proposition. And, workforces are expected to have more soft skills, including:

  • Communications skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Creativity
  • Innovation

The good news is that MBA graduates won’t need to be qualified as data scientists, electrical engineers or computer engineers. However, they will need to have a solid understanding of the fact that a significant percentage of value creation within companies is centred around connectivity and platforms, and interpreting huge amounts of data generated by customers and products that are connected everywhere and all the time. 

Business graduates without a solid understanding of how tech solutions are able to generate value for customers will be hopelessly disadvantaged in the field where competition is really taking place in 2020 and beyond: customer intelligence. 

More Universities Will Adopt Responsible Leadership:

More and more MBA degree courses are set to announce that they are all about responsible leadership in terms of the environment, along with de-emphasising graduate salary increases. It’s a positive development; however, the sincerity and reality of it may come into question. 

MBA programs will be asked by students to address a range of social issues, such as income inequality. They are likely to be asked to provide an explanation for why there’s a lot of talk about corporate responsibility that doesn’t always seem to be delivering positive changes. 

It’s important to remember that the MBA and online MBA programs such as those from Aston University Online have always been designed to prepare students, particularly young people between the ages of 25-35, for roles in management and leadership. 

The best MBA programs are and will continue to be:

  • A serious, inspiring examination of how commerce works now
  • How commerce may work in the future in order to help every company fulfil its potential

Student Mobility is Set to Increase:

Peter Moores, Dean and Professor of Finance at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, suspects that the largest short-term change caused by trends in business for 2020 will be the continuing shift in international student mobility and movement. The preferred destinations of students are shifting quickly and dramatically both in the UK and around the world. 

It’s a wave that can quickly alter the composition of MBA programs, particularly when schools move to diversify their student bodies. The number of students choosing to study for their MBA abroad is on the rise and set to increase even further. In addition, the number of students getting an MBA online is increasing. This could be due to:

  • More flexibility; studying online allows MBA students to get their qualifications without rearranging their life, work schedule or other commitments. 
  • Freedom of choice: Online study allows MBA students to choose from a wider pool of universities and business schools without the need to consider the logistics. 
  • Less cost: There’s no denying that getting an MBA can be expensive and studying online allows students to offset some of these costs; tuition fees may be much the same as a campus-based program but students benefit financially by being able to study from home. 

The Connection Between Business and Society Will Be Highlighted:

At this moment in time, the connection between business and society is being examined in new ways. Policymakers, the media, and the general public are questioning whether businesses are serving broad societal goals in terms of addressing major challenges such as:

  • Inequality
  • Climate change
  • The impact of new technologies

However, any such movement will always create opportunities, and many business schools are driving this as a way to commit to educating leaders who are able to consider their role in society broadly, thinking both constructively and critically regarding the steps that businesses, in general, can take in the future to foster inclusive innovation and growth. 

MBA Programs Will Continue to Become More Digitized:

Frederico Frattini, the Dean of MIP Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Business, reckons that we won’t see radical changes in 2020, but we are going to see a further intensification of digitization throughout the education sector; a revolutionizing process that’s been underway for some time. 

As mentioned earlier, there’s been a growing interest in online programs, and flexible and customised programs are no different from students taking advantage of the various, flexible opportunities available to them when it comes to MBA study. And thanks to technology’s limitless potential, more and more business schools are set to change their offering to meet these needs. 

An increasing number of MBA programs are set to change by becoming blended, offering a combination of both distance and on-campus learning, or even fully digital. Indeed, many business schools around the world today offer three options; campus-based, blended, or fully online MBA programs. And the three often intertwine. Some programs, for example, offer online students the option to attend on-campus classes via streaming, offering an even more flexible learning experience. 

Greater Commitments to Lifelong Learning:

Deans believe that there’s set to be a greater focus on lifelong learning throughout 2020 and beyond, with more business schools set to do even more to help students achieve personalized study experiences that reflect their own academic and professional journey, enhanced by flexible learning approaching and digital innovation to benefit students of all levels and ages. 

Universities and business schools need to make sure that they are catering for all career stages, particularly when it comes to MBA programs, rather than delivering for only a specific period in time. After all, many students and graduates feel that they are connected to the university that they attended for life, and therefore, the academic and leadership support should be available lifelong to meet longer career journeys. 

The MBA Will Still Have Value:

There’s been a lot of bad press about the MBA recently; you might have read or heard that it’s lost its relevance as a degree, it’s no longer dynamic, or that the number of students selecting to study for an MBA is falling. 

However, 2020 is set to be the year that the MBA proves it still has value. According to Susan Hart, the Executive Dean of Durham University Business School, the MBA is a broad degree that adequately covers c-suite specialisms. There’s still a lot of value in updating the knowledge base across that range and placing a higher focus on disruption, data and the demands of the modern business industry. 

In order to incur new growth, the MBA needs to innovate and extend its life cycle, which may be in a different direction from the one it usually takes. 

According to the Dean of NEOMA Business School, Delphine Manceau, some important questions need to be asked regarding the MBA in order for it to prove that it still has value throughout 2020 and beyond. 

  • Is the distinction between the MBA and Executive MBA still relevant?
  • Is the difference mainly seen between full- and part-time programs?
  • Should generalist and specialist MBA programs be prioritised?

It’s also important to consider that the MBA’s evolution is closely related to specific factors around the world. The US, for example, remains the birthplace and core country of the MBA and the country where ‘MBA culture’ remains the strongest. On the other hand, Masters in Management programs are often given more emphasis throughout Europe, as are programs that specialise in one sector or profession. 

Students are Set to Test-Drive More Business School Programs:

Georgette Phillips, the Dean of the Business College at Lehigh University, sees even more blurring of the lines between executive education and graduate degree courses. She expects students to increasingly ‘test drive’ business schools and specific degree courses before they commit to studying for a degree. 

As a result, she believes that there needs to be a shift in how executive education is offered; it should be a pathway for prospective students to welcome them onto degree programs by offering them credit certificates towards degrees. 

Are you considering studying for a business degree or graduate business degree in 2020? Have any of the above trends had an effect on what you’ve chosen to study and how?

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