2016 Predictions for Business Education

2016 Predictions for Business Education

At the dawn of a new year we looked into various aspects of business education to highlight for you some of the steady trends which have started to reshape the landscape.

For a bright start let me quote the British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, Arthur C. Clarke:

Trying to predict the future is a discouraging and hazardous occupation. The only thing that we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic.


The influence of technology has been exercising a dramatic effect on all aspects of our lives, including how we do business and how we study. BBC’s article “Tech trends 2016: Cybersecurity in the Connected World” highlights the following trends:

  • Real-time data analytics, not intuition, are driving business decisions
  • New data protection laws are forcing firms to rethink compliance strategies
  • Artificial intelligence and robotics are replacing repetitive tasks
  • Smartphones are becoming the primary tool for almost everything
  • Established businesses are facing increased competition from start-ups

A recent article in Fortune – "Will Smart Machines Disrupt MBA Education?"  – looks into predictions on how people, businesses and MBA programmes may be affected by the coming ‘Smart Machine Age’ and how they can prepare.

The article considers upcoming technological advances in the areas of smart robots and artificial intelligence (“smart machines”), the “Internet of Things,” big data and 3D additive manufacturing and how they can accelerate the transformation of the business environment and education.

Leading researchers at MIT, the University of Oxford and IBM concur that:

In the near future, humans will only be needed to do jobs that require higher order critical, creative and innovative thinking, the making of moral judgments or high emotional engagement with other humans. If the researchers are correct, then business of the future will require people who are very good critical and innovative thinkers and who have high emotional and social intelligence.

Those of you who are already acquainted with the requirements of business schools for MBA admission – that highly value ‘higher order critical, creative and innovative thinking’ - will certainly see a place under the sun in the new landscape. These are skills that are also developed by the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) – one of the milestones of admission to MBA and some specialised Master’s degree programmes in management, business, finance and related fields.

‘Big Data’ programmes grow bigger

The number of specialised MBA and Master’s degree programmes with a concentration on ‘Big Data’ is rapidly growing.

The official GMAT website reports:

Many business schools offer a wide variety of programs focused on data, ranging from MBA specializations or majors for managers who will use data, to specialized Master’s programs for data analysts, to PhDs for data scientists. These programs focus on data analysis or information technology.

Businesses increasingly need managers who can quickly analyse and understand the implications of huge amounts of information. A deep knowledge of business analytics brings added value to professionals’ skill-sets because it enables them to understand how to collect, sort and understand the implications of data, and then to understand how to leverage data to meet strategic goals. Careers in business analytics can range from analyst-level positions to business intelligence managers, but the ‘Big Data’ concepts can be applied broadly, especially in marketing, supply chain and operations functions.

Growing diversity of business knowledge providers

The boom of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) is taking place in terms of numbers and topics, as well as providers. MOOCs provide a free or low-cost and user-friendly access to high-quality knowledge including from top universities. There are no admission tests, nor a heavy application process. MOOCS seem like a perfect tool to gain specific knowledge in a short period of time in a convenient way.

A recent EFMD report "Emerging Trends in MOOC Delivery of Business Education" highlights the following aspects of MOOC development.

  • A growing number of business-related MOOCs are being offered by institutions for whom academics are a less central focus, although the majority of MOOCs are still run by universities or other tertiary-level educational institutions.
  • More and more of the business-related MOOCs are being taught by faculty from outside the business school, or by professionals such as accountants or economists, either in tandem with business school faculty or on their own.
  • There is an increasing appearance of MOOC series that can be pursued for relatively low-cost credentialing options.
  • Newer platforms have begun to expand various free or low-cost MOOC offerings available in the management education space, such as Silicon Valley’s NovoEd, India-based EduKart, France Université Numérique (FUN), and Chinese-language platforms ewant and xuetangX.
  • Some business schools are experimenting with independent MOOC offerings as well.

Business schools on the watch-out

The growing popularity of MOOCs is being seen as a challenge to traditional formal education and one of the factors that is contributing to the democratisation of the field. Richard Taylor’s “Survival of the Fittest: the New World Order in Education” highlights that MOOCs from some of the world’s leading education providers (Harvard, MIT, Caltech) can now be found online (edX, Coursera and FutureLearn) and these point to an exciting new channel of learning.

However, MOOCs are just the first wave of digital learning. What does it mean for business schools? Richard Taylor suggests:

It means that innovation has to be at the heart of the organisation: traditional schools need to act more like fast and nimble tech start-ups and less like lethargic bureaucracies.

Strictly B-school admissions

Now let’s take a look at some trends which are strictly related to MBA and business Master’s admission. They will certainly be of interest to those who plan to apply or start their post-graduate studies in 2016 and 2017.

  • GRE vs GMAT

The GRE will continue to attract attention as an alternative to GMAT for business school applications. In the 2014/2015 testing year the number of GRE test takers indicating business studies nearly doubled compared to the previous three years.  GRE test takers from India increased by 12%, which is above the average 10% growth of aspiring  business school applicants using GRE scores, according to ETS reports.

While the GRE is still a long way from catching up to the GMAT as the most commonly submitted test score by MBA applicants, it is gaining ground. Veritas Prep’s recent article "4 Predictions for 2016: Trends to Look for in the Coming Year" argues that:

At least one major business school rankings publication will start to collect GRE scores from MBA programmes.

The article reports that 29 of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s top 30 US business schools now let applicants submit a score from either exam.

  • More technology into admissions interviews

Veritas Prep also predict that the number of business schools using video responses in their applications will triple.

We think that closer to 10 schools will use video as part of the application process by this time next year.

  • Earlier application deadlines for top US schools

The Round One application deadlines of top US business schools have been gradually moving earlier and earlier. The race has been led by Harvard Business School which moved the application deadline close to the first days of September.

The majority of US b-schools still have their Round One deadlines around mid-October. Anyway, this means that MBA-bound applicants should start their GMAT preparation and application planning in good time.

  • Online GMAT preparation

Similar to the growth of MOOCs, online GMAT preparation options are becoming more popular. They enable prospective GMAT test takers to access highly professional preparation from their own location. Scott Shrum from Veritas Prep shares:

Online test preparation keeps growing significantly. A couple of years ago we reached the point where we trained more GMAT students online than in in-person classes, and we expect this trend will only continue.

Some of the challenges can still be time zones and budget, but the benefits usually pay off all disadvantages and investment. A high GMAT score can not only win you a place in the best MBA classroom, but also a scholarship to leverage your investment and speed up the ROI.

  • Meet some of the 2016 top MBA graduates

Are you curious to learn what kind of people will re-enter the ever-changing world of business? Check out Poets and Quants’ presentations of the MBA classes in three countries to meet the 2016 graduates of Oxford Saïd Business School (UK), IE Business School (Spain) and Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario (Canada).


If you are curious to look beyond 2016, check out Times Higher Education’s predictions for the next 15 years in "Future perfect: what will universities look like in 2030? "

Finally, if you would like to add more colour to your 2016 experiences, follow the advice for Spring 2016  where colours transcend cultural and gender norms. Vivid brights give way to excitement and optimism.



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