Are MBA programs an endangered species?

With everything online, will students opt to pursue brand-name university programs over more local resources?

At least close to half of master's in business administration (MBA) programs could be wiped out within the next decade.  

Harvard University Dec 2013-photo by Joe McKendrick.JPG
Photo: Joe McKendrick

That dire prediction was recently made by Richard Lyons, dean of University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, quoted in Businessweek. 

The decline of MBA programs will occur because as more college programs go online, students will increasingly opt to join top-tier university programs (such as Harvard or, of course, UC-Berkeley), versus local programs. "When the big players start offering online degrees, they’ll draw far-flung students who might otherwise have opted for the convenience of a part-time program close to home," the Businessweek report states.

While the shift hasn't happened in a dramatic way yet, higher education providers need to change their business models to compete in an emerging space with an ever-growing array of choices for consumers.

One consultant advises that educational providers need to get their offerings online as soon as possible. “Once you get out of the top tier of schools, you’re either already online, on your way there, or dead in the water,” he says.

The top-tier institutions have brand recognition in their favor, but providers also have a range of strategies that can be pursued, such as working with the MOOC (massive open online course) providers or even with universities that already have such packages. For example, Open edX , a joint venture between Google and some leading universities, is building out and operating, a site for universities, institutions, businesses, governments and teachers to build and host their courses for a global audience. 

Of course, MOOCs are incredibly disruptive to the cost-bloated higher educational system, since they offer courses for free or at nominal cost. This is only good news for consumers, but requires a major rethink on the part of education providers. Also, there are many voices saying that people are better off investing their time and money pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, versus educational programs. But that's how the world advances.

(Thumbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)

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