MBA Trends for 2018

Luc Craen, vice president and managing director at EU Business School shares his thoughts on the MBA trends for 2018

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Demand for the MBA continues to rise, and with it, the supply of jobs for MBA graduates. 2017 saw a 13% increase in global MBA hiring according to the QS Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2018, triple the number of positions available to MBA graduates when compared to before the 2008 financial crisis.

This job growth trajectory looks set to continue throughout 2018, albeit perhaps with less of a gallop. We asked Luc Craen, vice president and managing director at EU Business School to predict what MBA trends lie ahead, for both the program and its students in 2018.  

1. MBAs to be key protagonists in the fourth industrial revolution

Luc Craen shares his thoughts on what lies ahead for the MBA in 2018

The MBA is a generalist management program, and vital to any quality MBA is its continued revision. The MBA curriculum must be as dynamic as business itself.

"Don't forget that we prepare people today for jobs that might not even exist yet. Our mission is to keep students informed of the latest developments and to start thinking forward in this aspect," says Craen.

Digitization, artificial intelligence and robotization are key elements of what constitute the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Think blockchain, cryptocurrency, nano-technology, self-driving cars and neuro-technological brain enhancements. One main role of the MBA will be to have a firm finger on the thriving pulse of industrial change.

"We'll not create blockchain specialists, because that's what corporate education will be able to provide, but what we will do is develop a general grasp of the new trends the digital economy will offer," explains Craen. Future MBAs will therefore be molded into 4IR protagonists, to lead and manage at the forefront of change.

As it stands, the demand for graduates who have the appropriate digital skills is high. A recent survey by Deloitte reported that only 20% of senior executives believe there are enough graduates entering the job market with the relevant experience and digital know-how.

"EU Business School aims to readdress this imbalance, says Craen. "With blockchain, for example, we teach students how to mine their own money. We bring in specialized classes, seminars and courses that complement the core MBA program." 

2. Going digital with the application process

Applications for prospective MBAs are going digital too. "We have changed our requirements," says Craen. "Now students have the choice between a written essay or a video essay, and one certainly isn't easier than the other."

 'Instagramming' is a more recent development. Candidates at NYU Stern, for example, can submit six images (infographics, pictures or charts), along with six captions to promote their candidacy to the admissions team.

3. Moving forward with diversity

"We had a ranking a few years ago where we were in the top 10 European business schools for the most female population. It's certain that you have more women looking at taking MBA programs," says Craen.

EU Business School has seen its numbers go from three women in a class of 30 a decade ago to having an equal gender split today.

Craen reports that classes are more ethnically diverse too; a much needed change.

In fact, a 2015 McKinsey study found that companies' financial performance seemed to improve with more women leading alongside men - 15% better than the industry median. The most ethnically diverse companies did even better, outperforming the industry median by around 35%. Craen asserts that, preserving and improving diversity in the MBA classroom is therefore crucial for 2018 and beyond. 

4. Flip the classroom

"The entire vision of delivering an MBA program has totally changed," says Craen. Educational technology has been a big part of the transformation. Much, if not all of an MBA course can be uploaded online now. This includes the course materials, but also seminars, projects and tasks. Lectures can be watched and replayed - there's no longer a need to copy a classmate's notes. Gamification is also playing a more prominent part in education. Students can engage with business simulations, where each student plays a role in running a company for example, making learning increasingly interactive, but also more effective.

All this means that textbooks in the classroom are becoming a thing of the past. In class, professors and coaches dedicate quality time to their students, allowing students to become actors rather than passive learners.

"The entire theory of 'flip the classroom'...if you look at the pyramid. The two foundations are acquiring knowledge and acquiring theory. The foundation of the pyramid will be done outside of the classroom, through webinars, through side courses, through readings, and the MBA student needs to be prepared to come into the classroom. Then you have the top of the pyramid where the faculty member facilitates the discussion. This is the way education will be done in the future," explains Craen.

5. Soft skills still a focus in 2018

"People are behind their tablets more, behind their technologies, talking on WhatsApp rather than talking face to face," says Craen. Training in soft skills, such as negotiation, leadership, teamwork and problem solving therefore remains a top priority for business schools.

Back in 2015 researchers even tried to assign a monetary value to soft skills. They concluded that they were worth £88 billion (c. US$134 billion) to the UK economy each year.

"Students are really tech savvy, and this is important, but they still definitely need those soft skills, because any business until now has involved a human being. There is always a human, or a board, that takes the decision."   

6. Less of Wall Street

"When students wanted to do an MBA in the past, their goal was to work in Wall Street, or in the City. This trend is slightly changed," explains Craen.

Motivated in part by wanting a better work-life balance, an increasing number of millennials are migrating from positions in the financial sector, including investment banking, fund management and insurance, to technology firms such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

“People today are more ‘intrapreneurial’ as well”, says Craen. "MBA hires want to think outside the box and launch their own in-company projects. Companies where everybody did exactly what the boss said are old hat."

This article is sponsored by EU Business School

Karen Turtle
Written by Karen Turtle

A content writer with a background in higher education, Karen holds an MA in modern languages from the University of St Andrews. Her interests include languages and literature, current affairs and film. ​

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