Will MBA schools fade?

Updated: 2014-10-31 14:03

By Zhang Yue in Beijing(China Daily USA)

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While online courses have overwhelmingly impacted people's learning habits, heads of several of the most renowned business schools believe that it will not bring bricks-and-mortar business schools to an end, especially those with a worldwide reputation.

The viewpoint was raised during the advisory board meeting of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (SEM) on Oct 23. The meeting was attended by deans of three top business schools in the US and Qian Yingyi, dean of Tsinghua SEM.

Online education's potential impact - or threat - to the traditional form of business schools was one issue that raised a heated discussion during the forum. One student asked if, with the robust development of online education, the traditional form of business schools would completely disappear in the next few decades.

"I don't think online education will lead to a dead end for our existing business schools, as we will also make an effort to blend into the trend," said Geoffrey Garrett, dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "For us, a more crucial thing is how to keep the content of our online education equally good as what we provide in traditional classrooms."

"The other thing we also need to consider is whether we have enough resources for online education to keep a good teaching content," he said.

Wharton has already made a move to meet the challenge of online education. The school set up a China Center in Beijing recently. Located in downtown Beijing, the center plans to provide remote education to a class of business executives.

Jeffrey Bernstein, managing director of Penn Wharton business center, said that the center will open in March 2015.

"I am not that sure about online education's impact on business schools," said Qian Yingyi. "At the moment it is definitely not bringing an end to the traditional form of business school. But the students we have now are mostly in their 30s, 40s or even 50s. I am not sure about the learning habits of those born after 2000, or even 2010. How they prefer to study is the real factor to as to whether business schools disappear or face other challenges."

Garth Saloner, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business, and David Schmittlein, dean of MIT Sloan School of Management, also attended the forum.

It's an obvious fact that business schools have gone through big changes over the past decades, said Saloner, adding that Stanford had been making changes in its curriculum year by year.

"If you look at the curriculum of optional courses at our school this year, 28 percent of the courses did not even exist in last year's curriculum," he said.

"What we have been teaching in the past 10 to 15 years has become very standard now, and students need more additional value from the traditional courses like finance and marketing. They need to apply such value into real practice," he said. "That's why I think future adjustment is inevitable."