More MBA Curriculum Changes in the Pipeline

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on August 11, 2009

By Rachel Z. Arndt

As I wrote last week, a post-crisis curriculum—spurred by the financial crisis—is rapidly taking root at business schools across the country. It turns out the trend is broader and deeper than I thought, with the vast majority of schools making, or planning to make, curriculum changes, according to a new study. The changes are mostly small—a new class here, a leadership program there—but they point to a significant change in the way b-schools teach business.

The MBA Roundtable, an organization focused on curricular design and innovation, surveyed (with Percept Research) 232 MBA programs in January and February and found that 69% “have made a significant revision to their MBA curriculum within the past four years.” Eighty-nine percent of the programs surveyed said they have curricular changes in the works.

Among these changes are the addition of courses related to the financial crisis, courses based on projects, and interdisciplinary studies. Some programs are introducing leadership programs and emphasizing ethics, and others are creating entirely new MBA programs.

The immediate reaction might be to attribute these changes to the financial crisis alone. But the changes are also part of what Rodney Alsup, president of the MBA Roundtable, calls “a cycle of continuous improvement.” In a news release, Alsup said:

"I think this is very promising news. It shows that there has been a concentrated effort among MBA programs to innovate and make changes that increase their relevance to both students and employers…. The best news to come out of this study is that 89 percent of MBA programs are already planning additional curricular changes. That indicates that these programs are on a cycle of continuous improvement."

The desire to keep programs as innovative and up-to-date as possible isn’t just for the benefit of students and employers, though—it’s also for the success of schools, which are constantly competing with one another for top rankings and other accolades. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents cited “internal quality improvement initiatives” as motivation to change, and one third said “competitor schools” were the impetus for improvement.

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