In October 2008, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Harvard Business School, the Global Business Summit was held, where entrepreneurs, managers and academics discussed a number of topics in discussion sessions.

One of the topics discussed had to do with the future of Business Education, and in particular the Masters of Business Administration.

David A. Garvin and Srikant M. Datar moderated the meeting.

The analyses and conclusions generated by the research and the debate seemed very interesting and provocative to me.

Here is a summary:

Traditional MBAs (which in the US, unlike in Europe, generally take place over two academic years) are in decline.
It should be noted that the data analyzed were prior to the economic crisis, which, at least in Italy, seems to have given a boost to the MBA market. The general considerations, however, looking beyond the contingencies of recent months, seem to me to be valid:

There is a pressure from the market to reduce the time needed: the duration of MBAs is moving towards the formula of an academic year, in which, however, 80% of the number of classroom hours that had previously been spread over two years is reduced.

Only the top international business schools offer two-year full time MBAs.

full time MBAs are seen more as career switchers than career accelerators. The opposite applies to part-time MBAs.

More and more, MBA programs are offered not with generalist programs, but with clearly defined specializations (MBA in supply chain management, finance, etc.).

Part of the decline in MBAs is due to the fact that they are no longer perceived as relevant factors for career advancement.

This perception should be an opportunity to reinvent the MBA experience.

The reasons for this decline are.

Homogenization of programs: very similar programs and texts are adopted in most business schools
Training perceived as overly academic and with little impact on daily practice.

In particular, recruiters and pupils feel that more emphasis should be placed on practical topics and skills such as.


Although of particular importance, leadership is not sufficiently addressed because teaching it is not easy and requires highly personalised programmes. The flattening of hierarchies requires re-focusing on this topic.


It is mainly focused on the ability to do business with people of different cultures.

Ability to communicate / present ideas.

Ability to perform problem-setting in an ambiguous environment, in situations where there is a lack of information or information overload.

Self-awareness: Future leaders also need to know how to be reflective and introspective, and MBAs do not develop these skills.