Executive education adapts to the new normal
One impact of the pandemic is the way that flexible working has become the norm, with employers realising that people can be just as productive, if not more so, working from home in hours that suit their
This demand for flexibility has also changed what people are looking for from executive education. As a result, universities, colleges and other providers are rethinking how, where and when they offer courses
The University of Strathclyde is a major player in the world of executive education, with its qualifications recognised across the world as a sign of quality.
Dr Phil Considine, director of Strathclyde Executive Education and Development, says: “We are seeing a shift both in terms of content and consumption. Regarding delivery, people are now asking for flexibility and the ability to personalise their learning.”
Such tailoring to suit individuals can be achieved in a number of ways, according to Dr Considine. Strathclyde uses ‘micro-credentials’ as a tool to build bespoke programmes. He explains: “These are co-created to meet the needs of specific organisations and sectors – so we find ourselves working much more closely with senior leaders and their top teams within the organisations to craft programmes that are specific to them.”
In terms of content, Dr Considine says all sectors want to understand the implications of digital transformation and the tools and techniques available to senior managers and leaders. “Pre-pandemic this was a trend that we knew was important, but that was sector specific. Post-pandemic it impacts everyone and every sector, from the ability to work remotely to service delivery, order fulfilment and customer interactions,” he says.
Its MSc Digital Transformation programme is one of the flagship offerings developed during the pandemic that will start next year. Dr Considine says it typifies the flexible and hybrid nature of the post-pandemic world, offering a range of pathways and delivery channels.
Shona Struthers, chief executive officer of Colleges Scotland, which represents the college sector, says: “The pandemic has been a time of reflection for a lot of workers in Scotland and there is a huge appetite for continuous professional development at the moment. Businesses are also probably more aware than ever of the need to invest and nurture their staff and put a high value on leadership qualities and skills which are essential.”
Struthers adds that colleges offer world-class education in management, leadership and executive skills. She echoes Dr Considine’s comments, saying that courses are increasingly taking the form of
micro-credentials that can be accommodated within people’s other work and life commitments.
Professor Kevin Grant, Dean of Stirling Management School at the University of Stirling, says that the classical MBA model had taken a bit of a hit even before the pandemic.
He says: “There is some tension. The historic model of doing a degree that leads you to a profession and
gets you up the corporate ladder is being challenged. It’s being unbundled. That unbundling of the curricula seems to be leading to more short, snappy and engaging training with a clear and demonstrated return on investment, rather than aclassical MBA.”
According to Professor Grant, digitisation is one of the drivers behind such changes, along with a
realisation of the benefits of wellbeing. He cites the rise of the likes of TikTok, shorter attention spans and corporations being less willing to support full MBAs as factors contributing to this trend.
It seems that executive education is as important as ever, but it is changing to suit new requirements, such as a focus on quality of life, that have been accelerated by the pandemic.