Thursday, January 09, 2014

About Setting Up E-Schools

The MBA is passé and law school enrolments are plateauing out: The popular professional schools of the future may come in the shape of E-Schools. 

E-School as in Enterprise School, on which I wrote earlier (see the posts, The E-School Approach, Global E-School, anyone? and Global E-School: What That Means). The E-School is essentially built around creativity, enterprise and technology, training a new generation of professionals and entrepreneurs ready for opportunities of the future. This is about avoiding the pitfalls of the B-Schools, which has been built around industrial era big businesses and promoted a mechanistic view of life and work; the E-School, by definition, is less about models and more about invention, creating new possibilities rather than just seeking to exploit arbitrage. 

The E-School model, which I started working on in my earlier abortive attempt in the business school in London, is one that fuses together close cooperation with employers and a critical approach based on the centrality of innovation, and can indeed be built around fairly traditional curriculum. It is more about approach and the values, rather than subject matters and delivery methods, though an E-School is expected to be far more focused on technologies of all kinds than a traditional Business School. And, indeed, E-School will be a place to create new possibilities, either new businesses or new possibilities within existing businesses, and even to indulge in creative exploration of possibilities such as writing, performing and connecting with others.

I am often told that entrepreneurs don't go to school (implying that E-School is a non-starter) but this is about seeing the project wrong way around: It is about making those who go to school entrepreneurs for life. And, I shall argue this is what our societies need. It is not about Steve Jobs, whose genius made school superfluous; it is about all comers deeply embed the values of enterprise, appreciate the possibilities of technology and unleash their creative instincts.

The education business is currently full of me-too ideas. The public sector is facing off For-Profits, but this is battle of entitlements rather than battle of ideas. For-Profits, so cozy in their business model based on a combination of State-funded adult career students (in America) and International students bedazzled by prospect of studying abroad (everywhere else), that they don't want to do anything other than peddling MBA as long as it lasts. It is about shifting focus from country to country, once the education offerings in one country is sufficiently glutted, and gutted. In short, For-Profit education is about feasting on unmet demand and taking advantage of the confusion of the public sector, rather than innovating and trying to do something new. 

In such a setting, E-School remains a tough sell but a great opportunity, because education market has become such that any true innovation will be rewarded: Everyone thinks you can't innovate in Higher Education, but evidence shows otherwise (look at what Open University has done in Britain, or the transformational effect of Phoenix, good or bad, on American education landscape). This is what we are seeking to put at the heart of U-Aspire, as and when we set up our campus in the UK, and also in the campuses we are gradually building with partners elsewhere. 

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