Thriving through disruption: Business education institutions’ reality and future amidst digital transformation

Roundtable 3 AUC Forum 2021

In the third roundtable of this year’s virtual edition of the AUC Business forum, which took place February 8-9, specialists from leading academic institutions in business and management education from different regions came together to share their experiences and perspectives on how the current disruption affected the role and impact of business schools. This entailed a discussion on the implications of the changing variables on organizational structure, quality assurance, programs offered, outreach activities, collaborative partnerships, thematic research, and the business ecosystem and society. The roundtable was moderated by Ahmed Abdel Meguid, associate professor of accounting and associate dean for undergraduate studies and administration.

The Impact of disruption on the business education landscape

Education is often affected by digital transformation; however, the current disruption makes business educators reflect more on issues such as the relevance and impact of their service. The panelists shared their perspectives on the challenges that faced business education institutions and reflected on the lessons learned last year.

Sherif Kamel, dean of the AUC School of Business, reflects: “We learned that nothing could replace collaboration, flexibility, and responsiveness. Adaptability is the way of moving forward.” He also emphasized that with the challenges presented by digital transformation, many opportunities are offered.

On that note, President of Africa Academy of Management, David Zoogah, added: “Education for us as an organization was very challenging. You don’t get the same learning virtually compared to face-to-face. Some students did not have the infrastructure to attend the classes.”

Despite the aforementioned challenges, many business schools strived to achieve their objectives. Jacob Chacko, dean of the College of Business, Clayton State University, said: “We pride ourselves on trying to transform students to be professionals by the time they graduate, but it has become more challenging to do that from a distance.”

Silverlining of disruption: Developing resilience during hard times

Moving forward, the panelists elaborated on the factors that help educational institutions prosper through challenging times and become more receptive to opportunities.

Tim Mescon, executive vice president and chief officer for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at AACSB International, said: “Over the last almost 12 months, the world has become more agile when it comes to online education and distance learning. Many schools have demonstrated resourcefulness, flexibility, and agility, which have been stable and resistant to change for the past years. Some others still struggle mightily and need our support and assistance.”

Mescon highlighted one of the achievements that came to life as a result of the disruption: “During these challenging times, interest among students internationally in entrepreneurship has spiked dramatically. As a result, the global business school network (GBSN) seed at the graduate business school at Stanford held a pan African competition for students early in the spring this year to take advantage of this.”

Ian Fenwick, director of the Sasin School of Management, pointed out a different definition of resilience that would benefit institutions during hardship by explaining that “people often think resilience is about bouncing back. Resilience is more than that; it’s about bouncing out. It is coming out better than you were before, better suited for the new environment. Three things lie behind that; one is an entrepreneurial mindset, the ability to look at situations and see opportunities that others don’t see, and the ability to try new things quickly.”

Besides, Fenwick reinforced the importance of diversity of staff, faculty, and programs in having better chances of success.

Business schools moving forward.

Lastly, the panelists shared their thoughts on what the future holds for business education and how curriculums should reflect what’s happening in the business world.

“I think we will have an optimistic future as long as the learning is relevant to the skills that people need to progress in the workplace,” said Amanda Line, Partner at PwC Academy Middle East.

Debra Leighton, senior advisor at the Business School Impact System (BSIS), European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), predicted that “business schools are likely to change their business models. There will also be increased competition between business schools.”

Dean Kamel concluded this insightful discussion by emphasizing the importance of collaboration and diversity in adapting to the business world's ever-changing nature. He stated: “We're entering a new phase in business schools that has digital applications at the core. The most adaptive business school is the one that is going to deliver to its students what they need. The leaders of tomorrow that will help develop and create have to be accustomed to additional skills, including visionary, progressive, and entrepreneurial.”

To watch the full session of the “Impact of Disruption on Business Schools and Business and Management Education” roundtable, click here.