What's on the horizon for business schools in 2022?


By Tim Landucci

As we begin another year of living and adapting to the pandemic and its inevitable uncertainties, we’re looking at what we think will be the key trends in the business school market.

Since early 2020 we have gone from rapidly adapting, to now being in a position where we’re comfortable with managing complexity and planning for an unknown future. So, as we get stuck in to 2022, what will be the key trends for business schools? I think there will be five core areas we’ll notice developing. This blog summarises each one, and we’ll go on to explore each in more detail in future blogs, with other contributors from industry.

Digitization becoming BAU

We all know there has been accelerated digital pivot induced by the pandemic in the last two years. I think over the course of the next year, we’ll see a focus on embedding appropriate digital infrastructures through enhancements and optimisation. Investment in digital platforms, systems and online infrastructure will start to become common place as the demand continues to grow.

The quality of the digital student journey will also come under the spotlight, to not only improve experiences, but also to integrate best practice, nurture, and conversion.

Online learning

Although it’s no surprise online learning is here, it continues to be a rapidly developing area that is growing significantly. The market is now more competitive than ever. The established providers are having to continually innovate and grow their portfolio to maintain market share from newer entrants.

We’ll see continued investment and prioritisation in this area, as well as a greater focus on the student experience and articulation of the online learning value proposition to help with differentiation. We’ll likely also see continued growth of Ed-Tech providers moving into the enterprise space, and more flexible online offerings emerge, enabling new learning pathways and lifelong learning.

Flexible Academic Models (FAMs)

In recent years, the idea and development of FAMs has become much more commonplace – with business schools exploring and developing FAMs to future proof their learning provisions and strategic approach. Typically, FAMs combine standard teaching practices with technology, providing more flexible, hybrid academic models which are designed to offer excellent learning opportunities regardless of location. This is a particular focus for those developing lifelong learning provision.

In the next year, I think we’ll see a focus on FAMs with a particular emphasis on multi-disciplinary products, high quality hybrid learning, and greater integration of lifelong learning into strategic portfolio development.

Spotlight on the curriculum

The pandemic has further accelerated the changing needs of students and businesses motivated by and looking for options that are relevant and reflect current trends. Curriculum and course content will adapt, and I believe this will see a focus on societal themes such as resilience, responsible leadership, diversity and inclusion, a renewed focus on soft-skills, and greater variety and flexibility in terms of format. As well as a renewed focus on co-creation with employers.

Value proposition

The final area is around the importance of value proposition. This will not only be in terms of differentiation in today’s increasingly competitive and complex world, but also around evidencing core values and impact. This might be around aligning strategy to the UN SDG’s (sustainable development goals), research strategies, well-being, or diversity and inclusion. Many business schools are already doing this, and I expect many more will be focussing on this over 2022.

With changing consumer behaviour favouring products, and brands that are making a meaningful contribution to some of societies biggest challenges, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the value proposition for business schools is high on the agenda. Whether they are seeking to attract students with this mindset, or supporting businesses needing to do so, demonstrating the power of understanding, and applying this could become one of the great new differentiators, with the opportunity to up-end the status quo.”

Aimee Kleinman, Education Marketing Consultant, SMRS

The trends that Tim has outlined in this blog certainly chime with what I’m seeing from the business schools I’ve engaged with recently, both in the UK and further afield in Europe and the U.S. And perhaps more importantly from some of the top graduate employers I interviewed recently around their needs, and how business schools can better meet these over the coming months and years. 2022 will certainly be another interesting year for these organisations and business schools are seemingly best placed to help them navigate these challenges and opportunities.”

Nathalie Mortimer, Associate Consultant, SMRS

2022 is likely to present us with more uncertainty and change in the market, which presents opportunities and challenges for business schools.

To find out more and how SMRS can support with your institution, get in touch.