By Elliot Davis
In a April 2011 blog entry entitled "Exec Ed on the Rise", my colleague Juliane Iannarelli cited data from The International University Consortium for Executive Education (UNICON) that suggested that greater emphasis on non-degree granting executive education programs was underway. Two years later, UNICON has released findings from their most recent annual membership survey. The data collected both by UNICON, and through AACSB's own annual Business School Questionnaire (BSQ), provides an answer to the question Juliane proposed in her 2011 blog entry, "Are we seeing the beginning of a larger trend toward greater emphasis on non-degree, executive education?"
The Consortium, consisting of nearly 100 business schools worldwide, again provided several indicators for sustained growth. Of the survey respondents, 82 percent experienced growth in 2011-12, with 49 percent of schools reporting revenue growth of more than 10 percent. Additionally, 94 percent of executive education providers expect their revenue to grow in 2012-13.
The survey’s results suggest that the growth of executive education was stymied for a time due to the global economic downturn, but it is beginning to rebound with significant continued growth expected for the coming year. Driving this forecast is a resurgence of interest among employers in investing in talent development, and an acknowledgment that such investments are ultimately good for their companies’ bottom lines.
UNICON chair Melanie Weaver Barnett, the chief executive education officer at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, explains that “companies are beginning to invest in their people again, and our survey suggests that this investment might accelerate in the year ahead.”
AACSB's own data also confirms this assertion. Using a controlled set of 409 AACSB-accredited member schools completing the BSQ in all years from 2005 to 2013, the 2005-06 year saw 38.9 percent of AACSB-accredited schools supporting non-degree granting executive education center, institutes, or facilities. This percentage has grown to 44.1 percent for the 2012-13 year. While growth has not been constant from year to year, we are still observing a positive trend line.
Figure 1. Percent of AACSB-accredited schools supporting non-degree executive education center, institute, or facility, controlled for schools reporting in all years.
Source: AACSB International, Business School Questionnaire
With the 2013 Accreditation Standards now in place, AACSB's commitment to the quality of executive education has never been more pronounced. Standard 14 refers exclusively to executive education, defined therein as educational activities that do not lead to a degree but have educational objectives at a level consistent with higher education in management. With this standard, all AACSB-accredited schools must ensure that their executive education programs have the appropriate processes in place to ensure high quality in meeting client expectations and continuous improvement in executive education programs.
The growth and accompanying changes within the realm of executive education should prompt those interested in pursuing it to review all pertinent factors. Emerging considerations such as level of customization, mode of delivery, and need for international perspective are all worthy of deliberation.
Moving forward I expect business schools to continue innovating in executive education, creating novel partnerships with business, incorporating fresh insights from research, and leveraging technological advances to enhance learning and assessment. The economic downturn may have slowed the growth of these programs temporarily, but the recent gains indicate that accelerating growth is on the way.