The current pandemic has been dramatically reshaping all ideas, concepts and outlooks in every area of human activity. When it is over, the mankind will find itself in a new reality and will have to review its past and reassess its future. Education in general and business education in particular are no doubt facing a major challenge at the moment as well. In an interview, Timothy S. Mescon, Executive Vice President and Chief Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa at AACSB international, shared his vision of the situation with Invest Foresight.
As Dr Mescon pointed out, “Business schools worldwide have gone in a motion towards digital delivery tutorial so of course some have much more experience than others but many, particularly across Europe, have been reluctant for many years to use digital platforms and online learning as part of their academic offerings. As a result of the pandemic, business schools had to do it and jumped directly into the digital world. Some have already done it obviously, some are still struggling – and the struggles are both at the professor level and the student level and this is, generally speaking, a work in process. No doubt, in the post-pandemic world, digital delivery will be a component of academic programming which will probably be utilized much more frequently than it was few months ago. So it is an evident change in the business educational environment.”
Speaking of the AACSB practices, he noted, “We have maintained for years the current accreditation standards that were actually in place since 2013. Even before that, we had a certain requirement regarding digital online programs, it was that students must have access to the same quality of content and professors in online digital programs as they would have in face-to-face. So the existing standards have already merchandized the value of online digital delivery, and it is simply stated that the quality of the delivered content should be the same as it is in face-to-face programs.”
With the share of online activities in education growing, “It is a big global question today at all institutions, whether the cost of business education should go down,” Timothy Mescon said. “Students are protesting equal pricing between digital and face-to-face programs. Students are suggesting in many cases that a digital experience is not as rich as face-to-face and thus the pricing should be less. So this is a part of a global debate that will continue to take place over the next year or two regarding the price-value relationship, and what business schools can agree to as acceptable and what clients, or students, or learners are going to pay.”
Will digital education eventually become fully globalized? According to Dr Mescon, “Business schools are trying to address this problem and deliver international global outreach without students being able to travel. I think there will be much more directed efforts at connecting networks of schools to global digital internships, research projects, at connecting student to the companies in other regions of the world and other countries so that they can have projects with these companies and get international experience from their tablet or desk top, so I think that is exactly the evolution we are seeing and until travel normalizes (which may take some time) business schools will provide this international and global experience of virtual teaching. It is going to take some focused effort to make that successful.”
What is the impact of the pandemic on education? Will the schools be able to cope with it? “If you look back to the period of 2008-2009, of the last global economic crisis, many universities worldwide were forced to shut down a number of unsuccessful academic programs,” Timothy Mescon said. “I predict it is going to happen again. It will involve some business programs and some professors. In fact, we might see mergers and consolidations and some weaker schools will certainly close down. As a result of this pandemic, there is going to be a global restructuring of business education. We will inevitably see the stronger institutions will grow stronger while the weaker ones will vanish. So I think there is going to be a global restructuring within the next two or three years as a result of the pandemic, and as a result of the technology, and as a result of other economic factors that will lead to the restructuring of higher education in a global environment. This is a natural evolution. Things happen and whether they are horrible pandemics or economic crisis, whether they are social or political – things do happen. It’s not good or bad yet it may be to the benefit of institutions, universities and business faculties that are more agile, more flexible, more forward-looking and able to change more quickly since if they can’t they will be either out of business or left behind.”
‘”In case of consolidation of institutions, the number of educational programs may become smaller, but it will still be abundant and large in numbers. We have to remember that globally there is somewhat in the vicinity of 16,000 business programs and so even if there is a sort of restructuring, there will still be very many global payers, may be fewer, but still – on a global scale – there will be lots of flexible players.”
The scale of restructuring may vary in different countries though. As Dr Mescon believes, “On a national scale, in countries with developed business education including Russia there are well established international business schools which will certainly be the survivors. Some others, whether they are in the US, or Western Europe, or elsewhere, have been less flexible and less technologically agile and focused. So they will go away and we will see that in both developed and developing nations. And in nations where there is an opportunity, we will see schools moving their new programs into those countries where they perceive emerging opportunities to take advantage of a challenge. There will always be a movement by institutions because that’s the nature of business schools which are in many cases entrepreneurial and looking for new opportunities.”