BOOK REVIEW: “The Future of Business Schools: Scenarios and Strategies for 2020” by Thomas Durand & Stéphanie Dameron (2008)

CoverWritten and coordinated by two French professors, The Future of Business Schools for 2020, sets out some of the challenges and external pressures on business schools today and the impact that may have for the coming years. Many of the European countries are dealt with individually; there is also an essay on the U.S.A, a more general one on business education in Latin America, and another one on management education in Asia.

Key words

Education, management, strategy, research, innovation, business schools, higher education, management education, academia



Stéphanie Dameron

Despite the fact that it was Europe that first set up business schools, the US has come to be seen as the mecca for management education over the last one hundred years. Even though, in fact, in America there is more than one single model of management and management education. Indeed, the authors praise the variance in the US managerial styles and the lively community in which views and practices are debated and discussed.

However, this US domination of management education may be being challenged at the moment. According to the authors, there are some 200,000 management faculties in the world who teach more than between 4 and 5 million students every year. Various weak signals suggest that schools across the world are beginning to catch up to their European counterparts. For instance, the Shanghai Jiao Tong world ranking system of universities has shown a relative decline of US universities over the past ten years and a relative increase of European and particularly Asian universities.

financial crisis 2008

Despite the book was published in 2008, it raised some critical questions.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one, which is a foresight view, outlines some of the main issues that business schools are facing today and what needs to be done for the future.

Part two is a collection of essays from various well known authors, such as Howard Thomas, Christian Koenig, Pierre Tapie, and Thomas Durand that each try to give a perspective on management education in different countries in the world. Interestingly, the book was written in 2008, just as the financial crisis just began to get into full swing. Given that it was already questioning the dominance of the US model at that time, it is perhaps not surprising that some of their arguments seem a little bit out of date since things have moved very rapidly since then.

word of mouth

Word of mouth is a common way how to improve an organization’s reputation in any industry.

The chapters on the different countries and their relative management education systems are very enlightening. Certain problems in business schools are common across all countries. Most schools are fighting to develop their brand names through word-of-mouth, aggressive communication campaigns, publicities. They’re struggling to keep up in the rankings and trying to get by in from their alumni. At the same time, certain problems are specific to each country. For example, in Spain, there is very little motivation for any professor to do serious research. Financially, they are far better off working on full paying MBA courses. Given that the ranking system is mainly based on research output, this obviously has a negative effect on their rankings of the best business schools in the country.

The book also gives some interesting ideas that could be developed. One of them is that diplomas should be delivered with vanishing ink, reflecting the fact that what is learnt when you are an undergraduate might not be relevant ten or fifteen years later. Similarly, the book advocates a bologna for professors to encourage harmonization of procedures and teaching across Europe. This, of course, sounds great in theory, but in practice it’s quite a headache. Anybody who has coordinated their professors knows that it’s difficult enough getting two professors to teach the same things in joining classrooms, let alone in two different countries.

 The UK has a different set of problems. To some extent, it has been the leading research higher education sector in Europe and is trying to keep pace with the US. However, in the 1990s, expenditure per student fell by one-third, and student-teacher ratios doubled from 9:1 to 18:1. Academic salaries have not kept pace with the private sector, and this is putting pressure on universities. In Germany, the main challenge comes from the dominance of the state universities and the fact that professors are guaranteed total academic freedom. This makes it difficult for any style of revolutionary change to be brought into the country.

John Fernandes talks about the future of business schools


Interesting quotes from the book:

business degrees

Today the MBA programs represent 25% of total US Masters degrees.

20 years ago Miles reminded us that business degrees make up the largest single element of many universities’ output, and now the MBA programs have expanded to make up 25% of total US Masters degrees.

A profession is often defined as a community of practitioners trained into an established body of knowledge whose access to that community is policed through credentialing entry processes generally overseen and sometimes directly controlled by an institutionalized professional body—such as the American Bar Association or the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The first business school was created in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1759, followed by the ESCP (Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris) in Paris, France, in 1819. Business Studies accounts for 22 percent of all postgraduate students in the U.K, 16 percent of all higher education students in France, 10 percent of the graduate students in Sweden.

spanish research

In Spain is very little motivation for any professor to do serious research.

In Spain, the “best full professors in terms of research output would multiple their salary by only 2.2 over a lifetime career and, by the end of their career, the research bonus would represent only 14 percent of total remuneration.

Many factors affect brand names: word of mouth, aggressive communication campaigns, visibility of publications, rankings, influence of alumni, etc. All these contribute to build, maintain and reinforce brand names over the years.

 Maybe we should deliver diploma with vanishing ink!

 The number of students in Chinese universities will have doubled from 2000 to 2015, up to 40 million. For reasons having to do with family planning regulations in China, this increase will take place between 2004 and 2008, with growth rates of 30 percent annually.

In the 1990’s, expenditure per student fell by a third and the student-teacher ratio doubled from 9:1 to 18:1. Academic salaries have become increasingly less competitive with a fall in real terms over the last two decades. The Economist reports that, in 2005, Oxford is running an operational deficit of £20m per year, and an accumulated deficit on teach and research activities of £95.

 While 8 to 9 hours teaching per week during the semester is the common teaching load for university professors, 16 to 18 hours is a typical teaching load for a professor at a university of applied science.

State universities were and still are the dominant players in the German-speaking world. They account for more than 80 percent of the institutions and for more than 90 percent of all business graduates.

The French business schools are members of the “Conference des Grandes Ecoles” (CGE) which brings together 226 members, 181 of which are both engineering and management “Grandes Ecoles”, nine are foreign universities, and 36 are institutions of higher education.

Future of Business SchoolsA business student at a university in France costs in an average of €8,800 per year (this figure takes into account the cost of students in hard sciences where education costs are higher than for management), slightly less than the €10,500 cost at a German Business School, and considerably less than the approximately €20,000 for an American business student.

French professors and deans are not used to selling their own institution, an example of this being of the Sorbonne brand which, while being internationally well known, is not actively exploited.

Corporations will have a significant need for management in the coming years. The effect of demography alone started being felt from 2004, requiring the replacement of 89,000 managers each year from 2007, more than double the replacement rate of 2001, which saw only 47,000 managers retire (Basso et al, 2004).

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Managing your talent in a company
Discussion on some of the key issues in strategic management. The book requires some background knowledge of the subject. If you only ever read one personal development book in your life, read this. Why are some companies having problems keeping good staff? How do you manage to keep them?


Great book. Advocates the creation of a learning organization as a way of achieving sustainable competitive advantage over your competitors.

One of the most important business  books of the 1990s and has been in the best seller list ever since. Fantastic read for anyone thinking about their leadership style. Wonderful essay that lays out the benefits of international trade.


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Filed under Book Review, Business Schools, Economics, Education, France, Higher Education, Management, MBA, Research, Strategy, USA

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