What If Business Schools Improved Their Own Business?

In an over-saturated market such as Higher Education, it has become extremely challenging for business schools to differentiate themselves, and the added pressure of online education is not helping.

Many chose to enter the private accreditation race
I know this path well as I supervised several audits and I think it is the only instance in my career when I did not enjoy my job. The idea is simple: if a school holds one or more international accreditation, then candidates will flock as they will see it as a sign of recognition and quality. A few select chosen ones may even reach the Holy Grail with a 'Triple Crown' series of accreditations. This can be both an enormous waste of resources and an illusion.

• Only state accreditations provide true recognition of degrees, and one may very well end up with a 'very well accredited degree' that is not recognized by employers, universities or government institutions. The intentional confusion between accreditation and recognition can be quite frustrating for students.

• All international accreditors use the same recipe- an ISO-inspired quality control process. This is a rather good idea, but then also forces schools to focus on research, hire mostly PhD-holding faculty, full-time professors, and deliver a non-flexible formatted curriculum. That is a horrible idea. Schools must then cut off their relationships with some of their best lecturers, the practitioners, (those who actually practiced the job they are teaching). Instead, replace them with researchers, who may be fascinating and intelligent individuals, but can only provide a theoretical approach to their teachings. This is a very valid method in a research-based university program. It is a disaster if candidates are looking for a job in management or want to become entrepreneurs. As a result, the vast majority of corporations do not trust business schools to prepare efficient employees. And it is a vicious circle; the less efficient business schools are, the more they try to prove their worth with more accreditations.

A recent study shows that 70 percent of students are unhappy with the online options provided by their school

• Most state recognitions (the ones a candidate actually needs), focus on employability: an institution's ability to produce graduates who get the right job, quickly, with an appropriate level of income and career bumps. This is, in my opinion, the only valid recognition of a business school and a student need.

Many chose to provide their candidates with a series of online options to try and adapt to a mutating market. But between the lazy option of posting a few PowerPoint presentations, simply integrating open-source material from an online courses provider into an existing program, filming an actual class and posting it, or wasting money on a MOOC because everyone else is doing it, I have yet to see a proper offer designed by a brick and mortar institution. A recent study shows that 70 percent of students are unhappy with the online options provided by their school.

Sure online options are great and necessary. But you wouldn't expect a baker to be able to make a great internet site on his own, would you? In very much the same way, online education requires specific know-how and processes. Rather than building poor imitations on their own, schools would be best advised to form partnerships with those who do it well, so as to provide actual benefits to students.

Everyone is looking for international students and almost everyone is using the wrong approach. Yes, obviously, higher education growth is in developing countries. But the three methods I see most often are insufficient:

• A few, the rich institutions, open their own campuses in China, India or Africa and basically end up sending their own western students there since few locals can actually afford their tuition fees.

• Many are convinced that candidates will fly across the world to study in Paris, London or New York. Some do, of course, but it's at best a drop of water in the ocean as the vast majority cannot benefit from study abroad options due to costs or visa restrictions.

• Almost everyone has a pile of `international partnerships' on their desks and their brochures: most often symbolic agreements for student mobility and faculty exchange, providing in reality a minimal number of free mover options.

Why don't they look at the McDonald's way of conquering the planet? Yes, franchising. Don't move the school or the students, move the program. Duplicate exactly a program and a degree through a franchise agreement with a renowned local institution, set up an efficient quality control process, build a proper information system, and actually offer a western degree in developing countries at an affordable price by producing it at local costs.

The Degree is the Alpha & the Omega
Wrong! Hundreds of thousands of students graduate each year with a good degree. So how does one make a difference?

A few select schools offer enough brand recognition, but what happens if one does not graduate from Harvard or LSE and simply holds a Master's Degree equivalent to most others?

The answer is in front of us. If the mission of a business school is to provide excellence in employability, then turn to the employers. Dozens of professional certifications exist and can be integrated with Bachelor or Master Programs to make a difference both on the CV of a candidate and in this candidate's professional abilities. Providing students with the option to take for example, a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification as part of their program would fundamentally improve things.

Guillaume Finck, VP
Guillaume Finck is currently managing the Washington, DC campus of College de Paris and the International Business School of Washington. He has a significant experience in a variety of industries ranging from education, home building, automotive and steel work, at an international level. He entered the education world 10 years ago as a professor and has held the Dean position of PSB Paris School of business, expanding the school programs portfolio and managing all academic, opertional and financial aspects of the school. Prior to his education carrer, he has been sales VP of Microcar (Beneteau Group) and Americas Sales Director for VMC. He holds a Masters of Business Administration degree in Finance and Marketing.