As we look ahead to the next 12 months, five key trends are shaping the future of business education and how, as business schools, we work with our students, clients, and partners.
The integration of online and face-to-face learning
Business education is still working out the best model for combining online and face-to-face learning. The former can be very effective for building technical knowledge. However, nothing can replace face-to-face learning in its capacity to build social capital and a network. How these two are balanced effectively is a question we still need to answer fully to serve the needs of students. At Exeter, our focus is on using the latest technology but holding onto the belief that the best education and learning are rooted in human interaction.
The importance of the international experience
Both the Covid pandemic and technological advances have led to changes in student movements. At the undergraduate level in the UK, there is a trend for students to study closer to home. At a global level, the flow of students from other parts of the world to Europe and North America remains. However, various factors could disrupt these trends, including the economic outlook, tighter visa rules, sustainability considerations, and the growth of business schools in different countries.
Fundamentally, one of the key benefits of business education is working and learning with people from different countries, industries, and backgrounds. We would all be poorer without this diversity. This is balanced against the importance of our institution’s carbon footprint. As business schools, we need to innovate and consider different modes of operating globally, but in a sustainable way.
The potential of AI
To read some headlines, AI developments such as ChatGPT are the portents of doom in how we live and work. I take a far more positive view. This technology has amazing potential. Yes, it will change some of the work that we do, but for the better. It has the potential to transform many of the mundane and repetitive tasks, giving us that most valuable of commodities – time. We can use this time to experiment, create and address the critical issues facing us.
In business education, there are two key considerations regarding AI. The first is how students learn and produce work. How should assignments and modules be designed to make the best use of AI and the best use of the creative human brain? The second is the importance of AI as a key topic within our teaching and research.
Over the next five years, we are likely to see some amazing developments and, as business schools, we need contribute to the understanding of how these advances are going to affect the world of work.
The need to work in an interdisciplinary way
At Exeter, we have been working in with colleagues from areas such as medicine and engineering for a long time. It is an approach that I believe will increase in business education. The world is faced with some interesting but very complex challenges. Interdisciplinary working and collaboration with other partners is the best route for solutions to these.
For example, there is now a pressing need to work out alternative sources of energy and fuel. The silver lining will be that environmentally friendly solutions will speed up, which can be only good news.
The importance of sustainability
This brings me to the most important of all issues – the continuing fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. Compared to where we were even five years ago, sustainability is now very much part of the mainstream conversation. Making a difference is at the very top of what our students at Exeter are looking to do, so there are reasons to be very positive.
However, there is still much work to do. As business schools, sustainability has to flow through everything we do from our research to teaching, and how we operate as institutions. It is the central issue of our time, and we need to use our unique position to work with partners from government and business to find solutions to these critical problems.
As we look ahead to 2023, it’s clear that business education requires collaboration and cooperation across various fields, sectors, and disciplines. At Exeter, we understand that working together is the key to addressing the complex challenges of the future and creating a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future for all.