Executive education undergoes profound change
Markus Frank, UNICON Board Chair 2021-2022
The 2021 Membership Survey revealed an unforeseen setback in university-based non-degree executive education. Before the pandemic, the average gross annual revenue of all UNICON member schools was around $20M, two years later it was $13.5M, a drop of over 40%!
The average masks large differences among member schools, which are rooted in differences in locations and markets, in business models, and in schools’ ability to adapt. This tells us two things: on the one hand, detailed data provided by the annual benchmarking report helps us to understand the developments in our industry and to make in-formed decisions; on the other hand, it reveals an enormous potential to learn from others.
Exploit the now
Sharing experiences, changing perspectives, providing ideas and impetus, and networking with colleagues are the focus of the three annual events (Annual Workshop, Team Development Conference, and Directors Conference). We held them virtually with record participation and recorded the results with the support of IEDP. The virtual Coffee Groups have proven to be equally valuable.
Currently, about 300 members meet regularly in 30 Coffee Groups. Some comments:
“I have found these calls an incredibly valuable source of insight and community among my peers.” What are the most useful elements of the coffee breaks: “Diversity of opinion and gathering ideas or alternate practices on different topics, i.e. how do you deal with problem X at your organization?” “Learning from others’ experiences. Sharing challenges, getting support and ideas, or even just knowing others are going through the same issues.”
Conferences and coffee breaks make a significant contribution to making the most of the given current opportunities.
Explore the new
Clearly, universities and business schools have lost significant market share in non-degree executive education and development to professional service firms, EdTech and corporate academies. A huge increase in venture capital investments in EdTech and clear expressions by CLOs to increasingly engage alternative learning partners speak volumes. There is a great need to rethink and reinvent university-based executive education.
UNICON provides support in this regard, offering groundwork and inspiration:
- Research projects commissioned by UNICON deal with central questions regarding the further development of our industry. The study “What are the jobs to be done in the future of executive education?” by Tom Ryan examines how well different business models and learning approaches are able to provide viable solutions to the challenges facing target customers.
- The latest research project by Tom Ryan “Intermediation and Disintermediation in the Executive Education Market: Competing and Collaborating as a Response” examined the solutions offered by digital solution providers, which have clearly been gaining market share recently.
- A UNICON internal working group is dedicated to new technologies and their possibilities to generate added value in executive education.
- In a joint initiative of UNICON with AACSB and IEDP, a comprehensive SWOT analysis on Lifelong Learning and University-Based Business Schools has been developed, which has been discussed and reflected upon in-depth at the Annual Workshop early in July.
All of these materials, and especially the SWOT analysis, are intended to support member schools in their strategy work.
50 years of UNICON
UNICON looks back on a 50-year history, richly documented in Pat Cataldo‘s report. We took the occasion of the anniversary to ask two very deserving colleagues the audacious task of how University-Based Executive Education (or better, Lifelong Learning) might evolve over the next 50 years, and with it the future of our Consortium. Their brilliant, thoughtful, and very stimulating analysis and scenarios are summarized in the following article.
Contribute to the successful development of the member schools
On top of the pandemic, we are currently experiencing a geopolitical turning point. And this at a time that requires global solutions to prevent climate catastrophe. University-Based Business Schools, with their tradition of generating knowledge and teaching skills, are needed more than ever to help solve these crises.
“Like countless other industries, Executive Education – or better Lifelong Learning – is undergoing a fundamental transformation. UNICON is committed to be the catalyst of this change.” – Markus Frank
To better fulfill this role in the future, we have renewed our website (it now offers translations into the most common languages), continued to invest in the training of our consortium’s talent with our Leadership Academy, and created a Volute community, a platform that invests in the digital learning capabilities of our community.
Let me conclude by thanking Bill Scheurer for his great service as Executive Director over the past 16 years. In his role as Executive Director of UNICON, Bill Scheurer has since 2006 significantly strengthened our consortium through focusing on value creation and membership engagement. The last years during the pandemic, his initiatives have been key in building new, important partnerships and providing online opportunities for networking.
Bill Scheurer will retire in mid-August. We are very pleased to Melanie Weaver Barnett as his successor. She is a senior leader with twenty-five years’ experience in various facets of executive development and corporate learning and has served the past 16 years as chief executive education officer at Ross School of Business Executive Education, University of Michigan. Melanie Weaver Barnett has helped shape UNICON’s fortunes during this time as Prime Representative of her school, including serving as a member of the board of directors and one year as Chair of UNICON. UNICON will be in very good hands.
Dr. Markus Frank