By Dan LeClair
Several years ago I bumped into a prominent management educator at the opening reception for one of our marquee conferences. The next morning he would address a full banquet hall, so I asked what he planned to say. After summarizing the main points, which were already quite familiar to me, he said, “and, oh…I’m going to say that today business schools are only about the business.”
My reaction was something like, “yeah, deans need to think about more than the teaching and research, they need to operate increasingly like business.” “No,” he said, “it’s ONLY about the business. Listen to the conversations here at this meeting. The talk is about fundraising, branding, enrollment management, joint ventures, and the like. What about the curriculum?”
Sure, he may have been exaggerating. Much of the emphasis on financials was probably transitory, a consequence of a failing economy. In fact, AACSB has responded with a special forum on financial strategies for schools to sustain quality in challenging economic environments. On the other hand, certainly the main conversation at faculty meetings concerns curriculum development, right?
Regardless, the conversation meant a lot to me. It gave me a new perspective on AACSB’s mission to advance quality management education worldwide through accreditation, thought leadership, and value added services. It has been a constant reminder that the business of business schools is management education. That’s why I am so proud that AACSB has begun to reassert a leadership role in curriculum development.
It began last March when AACSB delivered “Redesigning the MBA: A Curriculum Development Symposium,” featuring a cast of path-breaking management thinkers/educators assembled by Srikant Datar and David Garvin of Harvard Business School and their former co-author, now on staff at AACSB, Patrick Cullen. The videos are required viewing for anyone interested in thinking differently about the MBA curriculum.
An Asia-centered version of the symposium will be led by professor Datar and will include curriculum innovators from Seoul National University, Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta, CEIBS, Tsinghua University, Singapore Management University, and more. The original symposium has also given birth to a new series of in-depth seminars that will help business schools to address many of the major challenges of curriculum development at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Topics include: critical thinking; design thinking, creativity, and innovation; experiential learning; and managing in a global context. Additionally, another version of the original symposium is being planned for March 2012.
AACSB’s award-winning magazine, BizEd, just released its curriculum issue, which includes several thought-provoking pieces and provides numerous takeaways. Articles discuss approaches to increasing flexibility in program design, incorporating international and interdisciplinary perspectives, staying competitive through incremental content changes, and overhauling a program. There is also a short piece on trends in MBA curricula by contributors to this blog.
Moving forward, if there is one thing constant in the world of management education it will be the need for change and innovation. The management education community will continue to see AACSB assert greater leadership in curriculum development, with the aim of supporting schools’ efforts to advance the quality of education being delivered.