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Getting Connected with Business through Non-Degree and Executive Education Programs

June, 2013

By Sari Wakefield, Manager, Digital Communications, AACSB International

There is a growing trend for business schools to offer more non-degree and executive educational programs, and invest more resources in these programs. According to AACSB data, in 2006–2007, 54.4 percent of reporting AACSB members offered non-degree executive education programs (n=604). In the same year, 37.4 percent of AACSB member respondents used their business school budget to control the executive education center (n=473). Comparing this data to 2011–2012, 58.3 percent of reporting AACSB member schools offered non-degree or executive education programs (n=708), and 45.4 percent used their business school budget to control the executive education center (n=621). To explore the growing popularity of these types of programs and how they offer opportunities to connect with business, AACSB's president and CEO, John Fernandes, and the dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver explored non-degree and executive education in the May broadcast of eNEWSLINE Live. Dean Christine Riordan offered a great deal of advice for schools with non-degree and executive education objectives.

Think about your strategic portfolio.

If your school is serious about pursuing executive education, it should think of executive education as a piece of its strategic portfolio. In doing so, schools should consider if adding non-degree and executive education is aligned with their mission, if they can provided quality programming that aligns with accreditation standards, and if these types of programs will fit with their overall revenue stream.

"Schools have to think about their strategic portfolio, and executive education is one piece of that strategic portfolio of programs and services that they are providing." — Christine Riordan

Look for opportunities to partner with business.

"When you think about where business education is headed, when you look out 10 to 20 years, it really has to be a partnership between corporations and business schools," Riordan explained. Business education cannot be offered in isolation from what companies are seeking, and companies cannot not partner with business schools. This is particularly true when building a non-degree or executive education program.

Leverage partnerships beyond graduate recruitment.

At the Daniels College of Business, administrators look for the best ways to partner with businesses. For example, businesses are not solely interested in graduate recruitment these days. They want to know more about the research business schools are conducting, how to connect with student consulting teams, and methods for solving complex problems. Additionally, companies want to "give back" to business schools. For instance, often times executives are passionate about mentoring students and teaching in the classroom. Businesses also often view donating funds and time to business schools as part of their social responsibility. By opening this more dynamic relationship door, business schools are able to connect faculty with corporations with valuable data for additional research, as well as establish relationships for the development of centers and research labs for students. All of which add great value to non-degree and executive education programs, as well as establish additional opportunities.

Establish and manage the relationship with your business advisory board.

It is important to not only partner with corporations, but look for more broad methods to engage the business community with your programs. One way to do this is by establishing an advisory board of business leaders to provide feedback. Here are a few tips from Dean Riordan to consider with regard to your business advisory boards:

• Communication should be clear that the business advisory council is located at the strategy level and not seen as a governance board. The goal is to have feedback and business input with the business school's faculty as the implementation agents.

• Members of the council should be customized for the needs of the school. For instance, your school may need creative professionals, individuals with good connections, or diversity. Either way, recruiting council members with qualities that match your strategic needs will be helpful in moving objectives forward.

• Establish objectives for your advisory council with task forces that surround specific initiatives, whether it is globalization, branding, or operations management.

• Meet one-on-one with council members to gain feedback. Often times, council members feel under utilized. The goal is to make council members feel really engaged.

• Create success measures for your advisory council that align with your strategic objectives.

Develop new offerings by "unbundling" and "rebundling."

The practice of "unbundling" degree programs and "rebundling" curriculum into non-degree offerings is becoming increasingly popular. For example, certificate programs focused on specific skill sets, which were originally parts of larger degree program offerings. At the Daniels College of Business, a completely online certificate in digital media is offered, which is a concentration their face-to-face MBA program.

Consider Using Non-Degree Programs as Opportunities to Test the Market

Often times, offering a creative, non-degree program is a good way to test the market prior to launching a full-degree track. For instance, creative curricula related to energy entrepreneurship, family business, and applied technologies can be tested with non-degree offerings.

Overall, developing or expanding into the non-degree, executive education market can be a great move for business schools. The key factors to success include careful strategic planning, alignment with mission and accreditation standards, and the close involvement of the business community. All of which, will not only provide your school with additional revenue opportunities, but also will open the door to more meaningful business relationships.


View the entire discussion between Christine Riordan and John Fernandes.

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View the full discussion with Dean Riordan and John Fernandes via eNEWSLINE Live.