The Wall Street Journal this week featured two side-by-side stories (yes, I still read the print edition) about major business schools in flux.

“Business education” stories are often soft filler around ads for executive MBA programs and leadership tomes, so these entries were refreshingly meaty. Impending curricula overhauls at both Wharton (“As world turns, Wharton adapts”) and Harvard Business School (“Harvard changes course”) are answers to the changing dynamics of corporate leadership.

A relentlessly poor job market and the legacy of corporate reputation issues from the downturn have no doubt informed these reviews as well.

Wharton has based its overhaul on a survey of 4,000 executives, alumni, students and faculty, and has broadly concluded that it needs a more global perspective. “Twenty-five percent of our MBAs are now taking international positions,” said Thomas Robertson, dean of the business school. He added that non-US students are increasingly seeking to return to their home markets – esepcially those from India and China – rather than remain in the US.

Harvard Business School is, according to the story, seeking to change its “money-hungry culture” by focusing on teamwork and ethics. Nirin Nohria, who was appointed dean of the school in 2010, told the paper, “The public lost trust in business, and some of our graduates seem to be responsible for that.” That’s a pretty remarkable statement for such a venerated, and well-funded, institution to make about its alumni.

Wharton’s dean alludes to a need to focus more on the “soft skills” such as presentations and writing skills, but neither give any quarter – in these stories, at least – to strategic communications as a necessary discipline. At the Page Society, we are keen to help MBA programs see the light in this area, especially as major business schools are at this moment engaging in some serious self-analysis.

As an educational trend, this seems to be a good one – the lessons of the past few years must be visited in all quarters of the corporate landscape, including its most esteemed training grounds.

Julia Hood
Arthur W. Page Society