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Dean's Corner: Taking a Deeper Look at Issues Facing Management Education

By Robert S. Sullivan

As deans we all are asked, from time to time, to speak or write on the state of management education, or to contemplate how our institutions should respond to emerging issues and challenges. The majority of our time, however; is spent actually trying to lead that response. Though at times it may feel that we do so in isolation, the AACSB membership unites hundreds of schools globally that are facing similar challenges, exploring responses, and seeking to align multiple constituents toward a common goal. The association's Committee on Issues in Management Education (CIME) is an important vehicle through which the AACSB Board of Directors explores industry challenges through the perspective of its diverse membership and provides thought leadership for management education.

I am honored, as the AACSB vice chair-chair elect, to chair this aptly named committee. This group of visionary leaders and thinkers from across our membership is charged with identifying emerging issues and challenges in management education on a global basis, and with making recommendations to the AACSB Board of Directors concerning how the association should respond. Recent initiatives have focused on the impact of business school research, globalization, and the role of business schools in supporting innovation. Yet the CIME agenda continues to evolve, and I'd like to share a few of the themes that we are currently exploring.

One topic high on the agenda relates to resource scarcity. While we are not talking about scarcity of fossil fuels, water, or other natural resources, we are focusing on production of a resource that similarly provides energy and sustenance to our institutions. We are talking about doctoral education. And like the discussions around the world today about developing alternative sources of power and expanding access to crucial resources, we are interested in exploring alternative models of doctoral education that best support different needs, experiences, and goals around the globe. As within so many other sectors, for this resource to meet the evolving demands of our profession and society there is a need for innovation—there is a real need for exploring new options.

A Doctoral Education Task Force, chaired by Robert Sumichrast (dean of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia), is aiming to help AACSB and business schools with this evolution. There is keen interest among the task force, CIME, and individuals interviewed in fostering innovation in both the delivery and financing of doctoral education. We see growing acknowledgement of, and interest in, the role of doctoral education in preparing individuals for non-academic careers. Themes such as interdisciplinary research, internationalization, career progression, industry-academe connections, the gap between research and teaching, and skill sets related to evolving faculty models are all relevant in our study of the state of business doctoral education.

This is a big charge, especially related to an activity like doctoral education with such entrenched traditions. Yet the task force is encouraged by examples of innovation by individual programs, by an increasingly diverse array of doctoral education models globally, and by corresponding attention to doctoral education among higher education think tanks, graduate school councils, and policy-setting organizations in various world regions. We are optimistic that this effort will reveal opportunities to enhance the quality of doctoral education, and also provide insights into how organizations, such as AACSB, can assess quality across programs with different intended outcomes and delivery models.

A second area of current attention by CIME also relates to resources, but in this case to allocation and management of financial resources. As deans, we do not need data or another report on our desks to tell us that money is tight. However, the consensus of the deans represented on CIME is that the changing economic environment of higher education has significantly raised the importance of financial acumen for business school leaders, and we do need to be better armed with knowledge and tools that will enable us to proactively advocate for, negotiate, and apply appropriate financial strategies at our schools.

Thus, CIME recently directed AACSB to develop a new event in its Management Education Forum series that is aimed specifically at helping deans ensure the future financial strength of their schools. "Financial Strategies for the New Funding Paradigm" will be offered in February 2013 and will focus on evolving financial models at universities and how best to position the business school in light of these changes. We are extremely grateful to draw from the expertise and extensive research of two longtime AACSB leaders—Andrew J. Policano and Gary C. Fethke—to deliver this interactive and informative workshop.

CIME is also exploring opportunities to collect additional data and information that would convey the financial health of business schools on an ongoing basis. AACSB's annual Business School Questionnaire (BSQ) reveals some trends related to the sources of funds, and shifts in schools' operating budgets. Yet, more information is required for a deeper quantitative analysis of the changing financial relationships between business schools and their universities.

A third recent CIME agenda item relates to undergraduate business education. Business is among the most popular majors for undergraduate students, and 92% of AACSB-accredited schools offer programs for this set of learners. AACSB's constituents have an extraordinary influence on the development of the next generation of professionals, and business and community leaders. In fact, AACSB asserts that graduates of AACSB-accredited business schools are among the most job-ready, upwardly mobile and best prepared to make a contribution to business and the world. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

We are excited by many undergraduate curricular enhancements being explored by our member schools. Interviews with deans and program directors have revealed intriguing approaches to experiential learning and problem-based learning, personal and professional development, incorporation of global perspectives, and cultivation of a variety of modes of thinking, among other recurring themes. Given the media's and public's often disproportionate attention to MBA education, however, many of these innovations too often fly under the radar, minimizing the inspiration they can provide to other schools and programs. We look forward to introducing new resources that will expose AACSB members to exemplary undergraduate curricular models and modules.

As with other "think tanks," the thirst among CIME members to add to the list of topics being explored is unquenchable. Business schools today face many issues and challenges that will ultimately shape the future of management education, and we aim to monitor many of them, even if our agenda cannot accommodate all of them simultaneously as major areas of focus. One theme of emerging interest for future attention, for example, relates to new developments in open educational resources and technology-enabled learning, and their potential implications for business education, students, and AACSB.

On behalf of CIME, I invite comments and suggestions related to the themes mentioned above, especially if your school has an interesting activity or approach to share. Our agenda is shaped by feedback from across our membership, and we always welcome suggestions for new questions to explore.


Robert S. Sullivan
Dean, Stanley and Pauline Foster Endowed Chair
Rady School of Management
University of California,
San Diego

Vice Chair-Chair Elect
AACSB Board of Directors