Then and Now

Data from a variety of sources show how business schools have grown, globalized—and in some areas, remained generally unchanged—in the past ten years.


During the first decade of the 21st century, business schools reacted to the rapid and seismic shifts in business by introducing new courses, new programs, and new delivery systems. Yet despite these sometimes sweeping physical and curricular changes, today’s business schools still have much in common with their counterparts of ten years ago. Data from AACSB International’s Knowledge Services department present a portrait of member schools then and now, and in many areas, the portraits are very similar.

But even in the ivory tower, where implementing change can be agonizingly slow, there’s been movement in key areas: An increased number of women are enrolling in PhD programs and teaching at business schools. More schools are placing a stronger emphasis on research. More schools are effectively creating more memorable brands.

One of the strongest general trends in management education over the past ten years has been the push toward globalization. Schools have developed international partnerships, recruited heavily from overseas, and built their own campuses in foreign countries. And schools from around the world have stepped forward to become major players.

For instance, ten years ago, only 22 percent of AACSB’s educational members were located outside the U.S. By 2011, that number had risen to 47 percent. The greatest change has been in Asia, where there’s been an 882 percent jump. Membership has also surged in Europe and Oceanic countries. 

There has been similar growth in numbers of non-U.S. schools that have achieved AACSB accreditation. In 2001, not quite 6 percent of the accredited schools were from outside the U.S. In 2011, that number rose to almost 24 percent. Again, the greatest concentration of new accreditations occurred in Asia and Europe.

More schools in the U.S. also are globalizing in terms of the students they enroll and the faculty they hire. According to AACSB data that relied on a sample of approximately 100 schools, only 4 percent of the MBA students enrolled in U.S. schools had non-U.S. citizenship in 2001. That number is 13 percent in 2011. In 2001, 3 percent of full-time faculty at AACSB member schools in the U.S. were non-U.S. citizens without permanent visas. In 2011, that number had risen to 8 percent. In 2001, only 43 percent of U.S. schools responding to AACSB surveys had at least one full-time faculty member from outside the country, compared to 58 percent in 2011.

Globalization is occurring even faster elsewhere. In 2011, member schools outside the U.S. reported that 30 percent of their full-time faculty members claimed countries of origin other than the country where the schools were based; 84 percent reported at least one faculty member with an origin outside the host country.


The Globalization Of Business Education

By other measures as well, international business schools have shown tremendous growth in quantity, visibility, and reputation. For instance, in 2001, only four of the top 20 schools in the Financial Times’ Global MBA Rankings were located outside the U.S. In 2011, half of the top 20 schools—including three that weren’t even on the top 100 list in 2001—are located outside the U.S. Others absent ten years ago, but now on the list, include schools in Argentina, Costa Rica, India, South Africa, South Korea, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates. Those newcomers are crowding out the old: Nine schools in the top 20 in 2001 were no longer there in 2011.

What’s also interesting is the number of today’s high-profile business schools that now have multiple international campuses, a situation that was much less common in 2001. For instance, INSEAD has locations in France, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates; CEIBS has locations in China and Ghana. In addition, the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University has launched efforts to develop a “global campus net-work” with locations in several countries, including the U.K., the UAE, India, Russia, and China.

Yet another measure under-scores how much management education has globalized in the past decade. A comparison chart compiled by the Graduate Management Admission Council tracks the citizenship of individuals who have taken the GMAT test in the last ten years. During 2000–2001, about 20,000 more Americans than non-Americans took the test; but by 2009–2010, non-U.S. test takers outnumbered those from the U.S.

Program and Enrollment Trends

Globalization isn’t the only story when it comes to the changing face of business education. AACSB’s annual Business School Questionnaire yields insights into the types of programs that are gaining and losing popularity. (All the following numbers are drawn from a controlled set of 376 schools that participated in AACSB’s BSQ both in 2001–2002 and 2010–2011. This set represents only U.S. schools, since schools out-side of the U.S. did not participate in the BSQ in 2001–2002.)

Across all program levels, the major trend is the rise of general business degrees and concentrations. It seems likely that business schools have been consolidating programs and majors so they can offer the greater student population access to general business programs, while beefing up concentrations in specific areas that play to their strengths. 

While there were increases in certain program specializations, they occurred in only a few disciplines, tended to be small, and were unevenly represented across levels. Niche specializations showed the strongest gain at the master’s level, where total enrollment in specialist programs rose from 21 percent in 2001 to 27 percent in 2011. A handful of undergraduate pro-grams also saw gains.

On the other hand, many fields such as CIS/MIS and production/operations management, saw drops at all program levels.

It is important to keep in mind that, during this period of time, categories have evolved, and shifts in program offerings may be the result of changing boundaries between disciplines. For example, production/operations management most likely has been affected by growth in programs devoted to supply chain management. The fluctuations in CIS/MIS programs undoubtedly were influenced by the dot-com boom, which led to inflated numbers of programs, and subsequent bust.

Another interesting trend revolves around changes in full-time and part-time enrollments. While the number of students pursuing specialized full-time degrees has soared in comparison with the relatively steady enrollment rates in other degree categories, enrollments in part-time programs have dropped 20 percent. One possible explanation is that more member schools are offering more full-time programs. But another likely explanation is that more unemployed individuals are enrolling in full-time programs—and choosing specialized disciplines where they expect to find better job prospects after graduation.

Now and Later

Business schools are not only responding to changing enrollment patterns and the demands of globalization, they’re also adapting to other trends, such as the pressure to offer more courses online and the changing demo-graphics of student bodies. And ten years from now, they’ll be reacting to new pressures and unexpected shifts in market demand. A survey of AACSB members in 2021 may contain numbers that are very similar to the ones collected here—but it’s a sure bet that some of the new percentages will surprise us all.