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On Friday, September 25th, the Guanghua School of Management brought together the Deans and executive leadership of eight top business schools spanning Asia, Europe, North America, and South America for an online Forum entitled “A Path Forward: Leveraging Change to Transform Business Education.” The forum, moderated by Guanghua Dean Liu Qiao, addressed how business education will continue to evolve in the face of a changing global landscape. Attendees from 20 countries and regions and 10 Chinese provinces tuned in to hear panelists discuss business models, student services, and community impact.

Like many schools across the globe, Guanghua transitioned its undergraduate, MBA, Master’s in Finance, and other programs online in February 2020. Even as Guanghua brings students back to campus for in-person classes during the Fall 2020, it continues to integrate lessons learned last Spring to strengthen the student experience. Digital technology has also enabled Guanghua’s “Future Leaders” Program to continue forward despite limitations to international mobility preventing students from arriving on campus. However, all leading business schools, including Guanghua, must continue to evolve to maintain their effectiveness and relevance.

Partner universities with students in Guanghua’s “Future Leaders” International Undergraduate Degree Program came together at Friday’s forum to share their experience and their plans to evolve and adapt moving into the future. Panelists included Vice-Rector of International Affairs at Bocconi University Stefano Caselli (Italy), Dean of ESADE Business School Josep Franch (Spain), Dean of the Global BBA at ESSEC Business School Hugues Levecq (France), Deputy Dean of FGV-EAESP Tales Andreassi (Brazil), Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at IE Business School Marc Smelik (Spain), Dean of NUS Business School Andrew K. Rose (Singapore), Dean Brenda Brouwer of Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business (Canada), and Vice Rector of International Relations at SGH Warsaw School of Economics Jacek Prokop (Poland).

While recent disruptions to education required business schools to move classes online quickly, many panelists argued that these disruptions were useful as a catalyst for change. Bocconi Vice Rector Stefano Caselli suggested that even though universities wanted to maintain the status quo as a guarantee of quality, the realities of the new landscape have encouraged universities to overcome their aversion to risk and push for innovation. In the short to medium term, he posited that universities will look at hybrid models, but in the longer term, universities will have to improve on what was done in the past. ESADE Dean Josep Franch also indicated that moving towards an online-offline hybrid model had been in ESADE’s strategic plan for the next four to five years but that necessity dictated this transition be made essentially overnight. Though the tools available to schools were not new, the pandemic provided the impetus to take advantage of these tools.

Despite the agreement that changes in the international have spurred change, there was disagreement on the extent to which the new models used in business education would persist. Some panelists argued that the post-pandemic world will look very similar to the pre-pandemic world once a vaccine is available, while others argued that there has been a fundamental shift. NUS Business School Dean Andrew Rose said that his school, for example, has already resumed in-person classes, and even though classes are simultaneously offered online, neither students nor professors consider standalone online classes an ideal option. Indeed, panelists largely agreed that some aspects of education cannot be replaced through online teaching, with the benefits of international student mobility particularly difficult to replicate.

However, panelists acknowledged that some benefits are here to stay. For example, NUS Business School was able to implemented a commitment to minimum teaching standards. Queen’s University Smith School of Business Dean Brenda Brouwer suggested that the pandemic accelerated the acceptance of online learning, providing an opportunity for business schools to move some education online through partnerships with online learning platforms and to instead focus on their niches. Online education, she argued, is also a way to create a repository of knowledge that can be repurposed for different audiences or modified as needed. IE Business School Associate Dean Marc Smelik echoed these sentiments, saying that schools must focus on “what we do well and for whom we do it well” because of the pressure that online education will put on financial models. However, schools can work to build out online content without neglecting the face-to-face component of programs that will continue to be an important aspect of how business education is provisioned.

Online technology has made it easier to transcend traditional limitations imposed by distance and space. SGH Warsaw Vice Rector Jacek Prokop discussed the improvement of digital tools such as virtual campus tours to bring the SGH campus to students instead of bringing students to the SGH Warsaw campus. They have also been able to engage international experts in important fields that may not otherwise have had time to make a trip to Poland. According to Hugues Levecq, Dean of ESSEC’s Global BBA, students in ESSEC’s Africa program have also benefitted from the ways in which technology reduces the distance between physical locations. Students were not able to spend time in Morocco as initially planned, but they were able to instead engage with entrepreneurs and industry leaders from five different African countries because of digital tools. Similarly, multiple panelists commented on the ability to participate in conferences and meetings on opposite sides of the world in the same day, which would not have been possible with the previous focus on in-person events.

Business schools help transform their students into global leaders, but they also provide social leadership in their local communities. FGV Deputy Dean Tales Andreassi highlighted how research centers based at FGV helped find transportation for food to poverty-stricken areas in São Paulo state, offered free webinars to help people cope with stress, and organized training for school teachers in the community. New social needs have arisen as a result of global economic and health challenges, giving business schools the opportunity promote practical and impactful social transformation even as they focus on ensuring the long-term sustainability of their own operations. Guanghua also sought to make contributions during the pandemic by making some of its online courses available to students across China, by facilitating mask donations for people in need, and by playing an active role in researching policies to spur economic recovery.

The road of change can be arduous, but innovations that happen along the way may also leave business education better off than where it started. With forum panelists equally committed to preserving excellence in education, the future looks bright.

Future Leaders” Program

By partnering with 15 of the world’s best business schools, the Belt & Road Institute and the Guanghua School of Management have created a program that gives students the opportunity to gain an understanding of their local markets while also immersing them in one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic economies in the world: China. International students admitted to the “Future Leaders” Program spend two years at Guanghua’s partner universities completing foundational coursework in management and economics before joining their Chinese classmates at Guanghua to form a single cohort.

While at Peking University, students will live and study together with classmates of diverse backgrounds from all over the world, including domestic students from China, creating a unique platform to form and exchange new ideas.

Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management

The Guanghua School of Management is widely recognized as one of the premier business schools with multiple programs that routinely rank among the best in Asia. We attract approximately 400 international students every year to participate in our broad range of programs. Guanghua's preeminent faculty and students have played key roles in China's economic development, putting Guanghua in a unique position to bring the world to China and China to the world.

**A special thanks to the Partnership in International Management (PIM) and EFMD Global for their assistance raising awareness of this event among their membership.**

© 2019 Guanghua School of Management Peking University