Expert opinions

Tom Robinson: Eight important trends for the future of business education

Today’s business world is dynamic and complex. Demographics and technology are rapidly changing, creating new companies and industries while eliminating others. Business education will play a distinct role in this shifting environment, but schools must pay careful attention to eight key trends and prepare accordingly. Each will embrace these opportunities in their own way, but none should be ignored.

Lifelong learning

Increased longevity is expanding career timelines. The education obtained as a young adult, prior to entering the workforce, can no longer sustain an entire career. As a result, lifelong learning is essential, for both the employee and employer. As Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business found through a joint study with Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group, lifelong learning increases employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention, but it also enables organizations to better respond to rapidly changing environments.

To support career and industry evolutions, business schools must consider their students and alumni as lifelong learners, continually providing opportunities to enhance their skills. Business school faculty must also be lifelong learners themselves, keeping up with emerging technologies and new competencies that will engage their students. Finally, business schools should cultivate a growth mindset among their students and prepare them to be lifelong learners.


Business educators and researchers are the foremost experts in research methodology and pedagogy, while the business community best understands the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to excel in today’s environment. One should never consider these two groups as mutually exclusive. Partnerships between business education and the business community can solve industry and society’s most challenging issues.

The most effective partnerships will implement consistent communication methods to ensure business schools are enhancing curriculum and programs to meet the needs of today’s learners, employers, and society. Business school faculty should be active participants in these partnerships, pairing their expertise to address challenging issues, and students will benefit as they explore solutions to real-world problems.

Active learning

Today, knowledge is a commodity — Google can answer even complex questions. The most successful employees have enhanced critical thinking and teamwork skills, best achieved through active problem solving using analytical and synthesis skills. Business schools must embed active learning into curriculum and programs, and faculty must embrace this learning approach to produce the strongest learning outcomes. Mastering these skills requires that students also participate with an enthusiastic curiosity.

Leveraging technology

Technological advances are creating substantial shifts in the workforce. Automation and artificial intelligence solutions are enhancing some jobs while eliminating others. Individuals must stay attuned to new technologies and not only embrace them in their careers but also evaluate the potential for career and industry disruption.

A 2018 AACSB brief discusses the potential benefits of digital reality within business education. The benefits include opportunities to inspire creative learning, enhance education access, and complement existing, traditional case study. Carefully examining and pairing the proper technology with curriculum will enhance business schools’ efforts, but faculty must also embrace these technologies — in their own use and the classroom — for continued relevance. Use of technology will resonate with learners and the exposure will encourage them to find new applications for their educational and career benefit.


At AACSB, we see cross-disciplinary efforts in both academe and industry as essential. Complex problems of business and society will not be solved in silos. The most impactful business schools, such as those identified by AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire, are embracing partnerships to produce new curriculum, research, programs, and thought leadership.

Business schools and faculty should first identify the problems they wish to address, and then seek out the best partners — across campus and across disciplines — to provide the most impactful solutions. The resulting research will have a broader impact and students will gain exposure to real-world problem solving.


Business is a profession. The professional perspective encompasses a broad mindset that understands how business serves society and raises prosperity for all. It requires education, experience, and ethics. Incoming business students are often the leaders on this perspective — they are increasingly focused on creating global change and lasting impact in society. Business schools should foster this mindset by providing the skills to lead and manage, but also the experiences to create sensitivity to moral and ethical issues.


While business continues to globalize, governments are becoming more nationalistic. This trend requires managers who are adept at managing within both contexts — by being global and local at the same time, or global. Now, more than ever, business schools must support learners and faculty — creating empathy and understanding through exposure to different cultures, backgrounds, and environments.


The final trend encompasses the reactions to those previously mentioned. How we respond to the changes within technology, business, and society will determine our success. The most efficient responses will come from those who have embraced an agile mindset. Business schools who balance their mission while responding to external needs will lead the way. A culture that embraces new opportunities will foster an agile mindset among faculty, setting positive examples for students. Employers will benefit from students who have learned to be responsive to shifting expectations and who thrive in the face of new opportunities.

As mentioned several times within this article, forward progress will not happen in a vacuum. Schools should view these trends as new opportunities to partner with their communities and constituents to create the highest impact on society. The evolution of today’s business world is exciting, and business schools, faculty, and students are well-prepared to lead the way.

By Tom Robinson, President and CEO, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business ( As the world’s largest business education alliance, AACSB connects educators, students, and business to achieve a common goal: to create the next generation of great leaders. Synonymous with the highest standards of excellence since 1916, AACSB provides quality assurance, business education intelligence, and professional development services to more than 1,700 member organizations and over 850 accredited business schools worldwide. AACSB’s mission is to foster engagement, accelerate innovation, and amplify impact in business education. The global organization has offices located in Tampa, Florida, USA; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Singapore.

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