Executive Education Industry Seeing Upsurge in Enrollment

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The university-based executive education industry is viewed by some as a leading indicator of economic downturns and a lagging indicator of economic recovery. By this measure, enrollments are increasing and a global economic resurgence is occurring.

Melanie Barnett

We definitely are seeing companies investing again in our university-based executive education programs.

A recent international state-of-the-industry survey conducted by The International University Consortium for Executive Education (UNICON) found that many prestigious universities with executive education programs around the world are experiencing notably higher enrollment during 2011.

UNICON (http://www.uniconexed.org) is a consortium of 97 worldwide member business schools -- including Columbia, University of Michigan, University of South Carolina, Notre Dame, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, London School of Business and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business -- with a commitment to management, executive education and development. University-based executive education has the unique advantage of offering a serious level of engagement between esteemed senior business faculty members and executives grappling with specific business, economic and management issues.

Sixty-five percent of UNICON survey participants predicted increased participation in their open enrollment programs this year. Additionally, an impressive 78 percent of schools projected an increase in customized executive education programs during 2011.

“We definitely are seeing companies investing again in our university-based executive education programs,” said Melanie Barnett, executive director of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business Executive Education Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “Clients tell us that they appreciate the deep knowledge and perspective about pressing business issues provided by our business faculty members, many of whom are leading researchers and thinkers in their fields.”

In addition, nearly half of the schools surveyed indicated an increase in their number of programming days, now offering up to 39 weeks in open enrollment programs and an average of 49 weeks in custom programs. Slightly more than half also reported increasing the number of days that educational programs for executives are offered.

“As the survey trends indicate, the executive education industry is in positive transition as industries rebound and their leaders return for the educational and development opportunities provided by university-based executive education,” said the co-chair of the UNICON benchmarking committee responsible for the survey Mike Malefakis, Associate Dean for Executive Education at Columbia University.

“UNICON member schools are responding with new curriculum designs and more relevant offerings that address the ongoing challenges facing companies and their leaders,” he added.

Not surprisingly, universities with executive education programs are hiring staff more quickly than in the recent past. UNICON Executive Director Bill Scheurer notes, “UNICON members are adding staff professionals in the areas of curriculum design, account management, program management and business development to meet growing demand.”

Other UNICON members report that business leaders are returning to their university-based executive education programs for the unique networking and personal growth opportunities they offer.
“Beyond dealing with business challenges, corporations are refocusing attention on providing upward mobility for their top leadership talent through university-based executive education programs,” said Pat Cataldo, UNICON Board Chairman and Managing Director for Executive Education at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The UNICON State of Executive Education Survey represents a snapshot into the collective experience of UNICON member schools. Geographic distribution of the responding schools was as follows: U.S. and Canada (59%), Europe (21%), Latin America (10%), Asia (8%) and Africa/Middle East (2%).

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Cindy Bielke
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