MindBullets 20 Years

The Business of Education goes bust

Death knell for universities and business schools

Once regarded as the pinnacle of innovation and new thinking, universities across the world held a position of power and awe, demanding and receiving admiration and generous donations from famous patrons and alumni alike. But in the late 20th century, something changed, something that ripped the foundation of the universities away. The Internet arrived and democratized knowledge and enabled it to be spread and shared outside of ivy-clad brick buildings, closed societies, and privileged elites.

The Business Schools saw an opportunity and moved in to capture a gap in the market – executive education. This segment flourished and expanded from the classic MBA to Executive (parttime) MBAs, while bespoke corporate education packages ensured professors enjoyed a lucrative speaker career, while also filling their bags with case studies and material for management articles. The schools chased world ranking lists while the professors chased citations and book deals. Alas, they fell prey to the same internet disruption.

But in all fairness, it wasn’t only the democratization of information and education that burst the bubble, it was also the escalating costs, the institutions’ lack of innovation, the inflated titles, the abundance of fake university degrees, and the growing gap between taught skills and actual skills needed. The universities failed to innovate, the business schools soon ran out of new ways to (re)organize companies, and their customers (the students) found new, faster, and cheaper ways to acquire the skills they needed.

The demise started in the late 2010s and accelerated with the advent of AI tools like ChatGPT in the early 2020s. Students and corporates woke up to a world where a couple of weeks on YouTube, a week of Ted Talks, and a few MOOC courses replaced an MBA taking over a year and costing north of US$ 100,000. And the best thing? You could refresh your skills every year for next to nothing.

Today, the ancient halls of universities, once filled with vibrant young minds, are occupied by self-employed and bewildered professors coaching a handful of highly intelligent and self-motivated specialized researchers.

Tired of old thinking?

Futureworld has been leading leaders’ thinking for decades. We know the value of continuous learning, unlearning, and relearning in a rapidly changing world. To explore this topic in depth or supercharge your organization’s future growth, feel free to contact the author Per Ostberg or partner Anton Musgrave.

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