During his recent visit to Moscow for attending the annual Gaidar Forum housed by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Timothy S. Mescon, Executive Vice President and Chief Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, met with Invest Foresight, the forum’s strategic media partner, to share his views of the modern trends in higher education.
“The Gaidar Forum is a fantastic mix of participants providing unique perspectives on business education. The sessions are always very crowded, they ensure good interchange with the audience and provide a lot of interesting information,” Mr Mescon pointed out. “I have a pleasure of frequently coming to Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and Yekaterinburg and there I visit wonderful and impressive faculties in business schools across this great country. There is a growing interest in Russia. We have good membership across the country and in the last six months we accredited the very first Russian business school, IBS at RANEPA. I am also especially proud that the dean of IBS and Vice Rector of RANEPA, Sergey Myasoedov, is on the AACSB Board of Directors as well. So the country is well represented and we see a really growing interest in accreditation, in our work with schools across the country.”
As Timothy Mescon noted, among numerous challenges for high quality education, “There is a very important issue of access. The question is not just Russian, it’s a global issue of access to higher education. It becomes a very critical concern for young people today. First of all, across Europe, generally speaking, higher education is both affordable and accessible for great numbers of the population. As importantly, many providers of higher education in general and business education in particular, are not only offering face-to-face traditional classroom instruction, but are also offering digital online options as well.”
The situation may differ in various regions. Yet Mr Mescon gave an example. “This week I was in Nigeria with population of 200 million people,” he said. “Surprisingly, 87% of the population of that country have access to mobile technology. So one of the real challenges for educators today is to focus not just on delivering courses, or programs, or modules to a distant or a tablet, but, more importantly now for accessibility, to a smartphone. And this whole area of mircolearning when education is delivered to smart devices, is really the future of mobile delivery, because that’s the platform which is universally available in many places. On the other hand, I visit faculties in developing countries, and I go to an auditorium and sit in a lecture with four thousand students. These are countries that do the best they can, but that can not be effective. If you are a young person sitting in the back of that auditorium, that’s impossible. So we’ve got to experiment with all the modes of delivery to provide access. The question is not just whether you can afford it, can you pay for it, but is it in a manner where you can actually learn appropriately?”
“Education technologies is a hot topic,” he believes. “Yet we are talking about everything from the microlearning, from delivery to a smartphone, to artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and maybe everything in between and lots of variations of them. The reality is, interestingly, in much of Europe, there is not a lot of delivery outside of the traditional face-to-face instruction. Europe is being very cautious with leveraging digital technologies. That’s why you do have schools like the Open University in the UK with over 200,000 students, all virtual, but in many traditional institutions they say no, you must come to the university, you must sit in the classroom, and we’ll lecture. The reality is, the marketplace is changing, and higher education also must change.”
“Few years ago, the dean at Harvard business school said, we will never ever deliver educational programs digitally as education is about face to face. Yet today, what’s called HBS Online, is one of the fastest-growing educational enterprises in the world – and it’s all about digital delivery. So the reality is, universities, business schools, faculties will embrace technology at different pace and in different times – in times that they think are right for them – and sometimes, it’s because they have to. I visited a school recently in Cyprus, in Nicosia. It’s a small country in a remote region of Europe, so how should they grow? They felt the only way to grow is digital, so they developed a Masters program in fintech around cryptocurrency, and now they have thousands of students around the world studying at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus which they may never visit, may never see the campus, but they’ll earn Master’s degrees or professional credentials because they focused on this one area. So it’s different for different schools and it will come at a different pace, but you can not ignore technology,” Timothy Mescon stressed. “It’s here and it’s coming faster and faster, it’s becoming more and more sophisticated – and we need to embrace it.”