Business School Evolution: Media Insights and the Future Outlook

Michelle Lee

Professor Michelle Lee is Associate Professor of Marketing (Education) and Academic Director (Accreditation) at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University. Her main research focus is on consumer behaviour, but her work also extends to management education development.

Howard Thomas

Professor Howard Thomas is Emeritus Dean and LKCSB Distinguished Professor of Strategic Management, Lee Kong Chian School of Business,
Singapore Management University. He is also He is also Visiting Professor of Global Leadership at the Questrom School of Business , Boston University,
and also a Visiting Professor of Strategy at GIBS, South Africa, and Coventry University, UK.

Gillian Goh

Gillian Goh is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Management at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University. She is a senior student with double majors in Finance and Marketing.

Gillian Goh, Michelle Lee and Howard Thomas examine the way the media has reported thebusiness school ‘industry’ over the past 20 years and what the future might hold.

Over the last two decades business schools and management education have received much attention in the media – witnessed by the boom in media rankings and the myriad topics discussed. Global events, such as the global financial crisis, have often been the precipitator of intense scrutiny of management education and calls for its reform.

Trends in the global environment, such as globalisation and the rise of Asia, have similarly framed discussions about the need for business schools to adapt and stay relevant. In this overview, we identify the themes that have emerged out of our review of media articles published between 1990 and 2012. (To see the full list of these articles, please visit the webpage, Media Articles on Business School and Management Education Issues, 1990-2012 at www.

We begin, however, by examining the evolution of the MBA, a programme that is often a de facto barometer of business schools’ popularity, and the criticisms that have been levelled at them.

Business school popularity: the evolutionof the MBA

The growing popularity of business schools in the late 1980s led to the birth of business school rankings by the media, beginning with US News & World Report in 1987, and followed by Business Week in 1988, and the Financial Times in 1999.

Since then, these rankings have stimulated both intense interest as well as ire, with many a debate about the appropriateness of ranking criteria, the failure of such rankings in capturing “distinctive school culture”, and the fallout of a proliferation of rankings. An undeniable consequence of such rankings has been the “commercial” influence it has had on students, turning students into consumers and putting the pressure on business schools to become more business-minded.

The early 1990s saw the reputation of European business schools growing and with that new comparisons being drawn between top European and American business schools. Observers also noted that students were turning to European schools, where MBA programmes are generally shorter and cheaper than at American schools, and where there is greater opportunity to benefit from a broader international experience. (More recently, though, there have been indications that European business schools are losing their appeal due to the weak euro-economy, the pan-European debt crisis and increased competition from business schools in emerging markets in Latin America and Asia.)

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