Will Business Education Evolve?

Umesh Mukhi

Business Education Evolution: United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME)

While the markets continue to deal with controversies, business schools on the other side have come under a great deal of criticism to rethink its role in market and society. Amidst such scenario the United Nations PRME initiative offers food for thought to rethink business education.

Towards Unsustainable Leadership in Business Education?

Since the inception of business education in 20th century the fundamentals and curriculum have remained more or less the same. After all the debacles, we stand at turning point of our century to question current business practices. Business schools cannot be solely blamed for it; they catered to what market demanded. As industry demanded more specific field skills, major specific subjects gradually got more importance than subjects like Business Ethics, Social Responsibility and Role of Business in Society.

More MBAs or More Thought Leaders?

With rising unemployment levels in different parts of the world we are not far from the MBA bubble. According to AACSB the estimated number of worldwide education institutions offering business education is around 13,725 which is a sufficient number to produce responsible leaders. It is the primary responsibility of these institutions to guide national and international economies.

The market may require same old commoditized MBA, but our economies require more thought leaders, social entrepreneurs, responsible businessmen and graduates who are well aware of social and environmental issues. Business schools have sufficient resources and they have testified their capacity to produce cutting edge research with world class faculty. They need to take stance and play a leading role in shaping the mindset of our society, graduates and markets. By collaborating with state and national governments, business schools can take active role in responsible policy making which keeps in mind the holistic approach towards its impact on our ecosystem.

Idealism to Reality

The United Nations launched Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) was launched with a specific mission of advancing corporate social responsibility through curriculum and research in business institutions. Thus PRME is a platform for business schools to learn and interact from each other. Through collaborator framework PRME signatories can discuss debate, learn and advocate the importance of responsible business education among them. More than 400 business schools are using 6 principles PRME frame work to initiate change in curriculum, teaching and research since its inception. The UN PRME is an example of one such platform for students, professors and deans to execute ideas in collaboration with other signatories across the world.

Rather than idealizing ideal corporates, it is high time that business education should borrow practices and inspiration from all sections of society be it successful leaders, social entrepreneurs, activist or environmentalists. Today, where markets appear and disappear like a mirage, the UN’s efforts are reminder for us that time has come for each of whether one is dean, professor, graduate or executive pursuing masters or MBA’s to rediscover the true purpose behind business schools. Business was powered by big ideas geared to provide solutions for world problems.

It’s clear that Business Schools must evolve and take a more holistic approach to what “success” and “profits” actually mean in 2012. One way to increase accountability would be to tally up all the crooks on Wall Street (the convicted ones) and see where they graduated from. If researchers gathered enough data over the last 20 years on those who conducted financial fraud and produced a correlation (not causation) report, it could keep Business schools very accountable. No educational institution wants “20% of graduates from XYX University commit fraud on Wall Street”.

These schools would need to include a greater scope of courses based on ethics. One could see how business schools could compete against one another in terms of who provides the most ethical academia based MBA program. Shaming business schools may seem vindictive but the ultimate goal is provided incentives for Business Schools to Evolve. The United Nations PRME initiative can be a great catalyst for real action which demands evolution from Business Schools.