Lifelong Learning for the Next Generation

Millennials and Gen Z want flexible and nontraditional education options.

Business schools must realign their education models to meet the lifelong learning needs of millennials and members of Generation Z, according to a study commissioned by AACSB International, the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), and the International Consortium for Executive Education (UNICON). The organizations surveyed 1,665 individuals between the ages of 21 and 40 who were living in one of ten countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.

Key findings of the survey affirmed the value of degree-based management education. Sixty percent of all respondents noted that they are very likely or extremely likely to pursue an MBA or MA/MS in management, and 50 percent are likely to pursue a specialized master’s degree. Even among those who already hold graduate degrees, more than half indicate that an additional graduate degree in business is a possibility.

But alternative educational models are gaining ground. Nearly 80 percent of respondents who are likely to pursue graduate management degrees noted that a more self-directed approach or just-in-time courses would be more attractive than attending a traditional program. More than a quarter of the respondents felt that nontraditional education options, such as certificates or digital badges, were gaining credibility, and 90 percent felt these options had some value as substitutes for or complements to traditional education. In addition, 41.5 percent of respondents indicated that nondegree business programs could be important options for lifelong learning.

The survey uncovered wide variations in the reasons why people seek advanced business degrees, as well as what delivery methods they prefer. The survey showed that employees want more input in how they pursue professional development.

“Individuals who will benefit most from advanced business education over the next decade are thinking broadly about delivery models, flexible opportunities, and the potential pathways through different learning experiences,” notes Juliane Iannarelli, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer of AACSB International. “Fortunately, today’s business schools are already seeking ways in which they can pivot to better provide both comprehensive programs and more targeted learning modules—independently and with employer partners.”

Read “Understanding the Implications of the Digital Generation on Business Education.”