IMD International

Reinventing the MBA in a commoditizing market

Ralf Boscheck on the future of business education

September 29, 2014

Recent data published by GMAC, the organizer of the GMAT MBA admissions test, paint a disturbing picture: globally, full-time MBA applications numbers are flattening; interest in specialized master programs is growing and competition among FT Top 40 MBA programs for top GMAT +600 applicants is heating up. In addition, reputable MBA providers are offering low-cost, MOOCs-based programs irrespective of recognized problems in monetizing their efforts and guaranteeing "best educational experience" and "access to valuable networks" – two key selection criteria for MBA applicants. The market is commoditizing fast – and the ability of top-ranked programs to address changing key success factors is by no means guaranteed.  
Big brand schools with large MBA classes – promoters of blue ocean strategies – seem unable to heal themselves and stop the hemorrhage. The old recipe of attracting large student bodies into scalable academic centers that offer some functional specialization and geographic diversification does not bring relief.
In a truly globalized market, participants look for close tutoring on actionable general management skills. And they want selective, valuable networks with true cultural and geographic diversity.
As always, segment choice drives operational imperatives and necessary investments – the combination of all of this underpins the success and sustainability of strategy – or its demise. In the current market, the standard MBA mantra is fading and niche strategies will prosper. Generic ranking instruments, partly responsible for lots of misguided business school strategizing, can only delay but not stop the necessary market adjustments. Unable to change, they themselves will fail.
In the introduction to master classes, taking place in Paris on 4 October and London on 11 October, MBA Program Director at IMD, Ralf Boscheck, will discuss some trends in business education going forward and their implications for reinventing the MBA in a commoditizing market.

Ralf Boscheck is Director of the MBA program at IMD and Lundin Family Professor of Economics and Business Policy. He teaches in the Orchestrating Winning Performance program. Orchestrating Winning Performance will run in Singapore from November 17-22.

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