Who Are the Main Education Stakeholders?

Written on May 23, 2016 by Santiago Iñiguez in Education

santiagoBy Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, Dean of IE Business School and President of IE University.

A main cause behind the globalization of higher education, and business schools in particular, is the internationalization of stakeholders. Marshall McLuhan’s global village has its global school house. As people move more freely and frequently between countries, they require education that is both portable and flexible. Imagine, for example, that you are half way through a three-year part-time Masters program and your company decides to transfer you to a different country. You would not be very happy if you had to start your degree all over again. You would expect your educational provider to find a way to allow you to complete your studies. Similarly, if you were on a full-time MBA program but had to go back to work, you would hope that you could switch tracks to a part-time program. These are just some of the issues that business schools have had to address in recent years. The overall effect is a much more flexible approach to degree programs and learning methods.

The upshot is an internationalization of “stakeholders”, that is to say an internationalization of the different special interest groups active within higher education, from the teaching staff and students, to the management and sponsors of universities. For example, a growing number of companies now recruit graduates or finance chairs at universities, while the existence of exchange programs for students and teaching staff, such as Erasmus, have made universities more diverse places.

Given the global shift in education, countries that adopt protectionist measures in education, preventing the entry of foreign universities or other higher education institutions, or refusing to sign up to supranational initiatives, will end up on the periphery of the educational world, and lose their best and brightest talents. Opting out of the international mainstream means stagnation and decline.

By the same token, globalization will mean university programs are increasingly concentrated, as the big institutions join forces or major centers of learning are set up to focus on particular disciplines, setting a global benchmark in the process.

Another characteristic of the higher education environment and of business schools in particular, is transcontinental competition, that is to say, a multi-polar development of supply and demand. The United States may still have more business schools than anywhere else; making it the world’s biggest market for business education, but in recent decades there has been widespread growth around the world of business schools. What’s more, as is being seen in other global sectors, demand is increasingly originating in Asia, where the biggest growth in the market, in pupils and in new institutions is taking place. It is estimated that the Asian nations, led by China and India, will represent 70 percent of global demand for university studies by 2025. [1]. At the same time, more and more US and European students are applying to programs in Asia, prompted in large part by a perceived need to improve their international profile. It is worth looking in detail at the drivers behind the irreversible phenomenon of the internationalization of business schools, as well as the internationalization of their stakeholders.

Historically, educational activity has been limited to the relationship between teachers and students and to a lesser extent the parents of the latter. Nevertheless, the concept of stakeholders in education has been taken from management studies to include others who are involved in, or whose interests are significantly affected by, education. An analysis and evaluation of stakeholders in the educational sector is fundamental for academic managers when it comes to designing strategies for their institutions, for designing teaching programs, or planning how best to use their resources and funding. Business school deans know this, and in recent years have seen the time they are able to spend on their faculty and students reduced, as they must dedicate a larger slice of their agenda to dealing with external stakeholders. The figure above shows the most relevant stakeholders in business education

The last two decades has seen a level of cross-border movement of teachers and students, unseen for seven centuries, when the first universities were set up. Since 1980, the number of Americans studying abroad has quadrupled. [2]

In fact, Business Studies is the biggest growth area of higher education in recent years. It is hard to measure worldwide demand for Business Studies, particularly bearing in mind that the most-frequently used tools to measure it—such as the GMAT test—tend to be found in a specific market segment: applicants to US MBA programs or schools with international admission systems. Undergraduate programs in business would not be included, despite having increased significantly around the world. Furthermore, Executive MBA Programs increasingly tend to rely more on alternative criteria for admissions–including personal interviews- other than the GMAT. [3]

At the same time, there has been a proliferation of masters programs in management, along with programs aimed at graduates with no professional experience. What’s more, executive MBA programs, along with non-regulated executive education offerings, are among the main growth areas, reflecting executives’ need for learning over the course of their career. Greater international mobility on the part of business students is also explained by the fact that the cost of study is more easily recovered through access to better-paid jobs than other degree or masters programs are able provide, along with a general willingness to study abroad. AACSB estimates that there are approximately 12,000 institutions worldwide that grant business degrees at the undergraduate level or above.

The United States receives more overseas students than any other country, followed by the United Kingdom and Canada. In recent years, several European countries, among them France and Spain, have earned a place among the 10 most important destinations for foreign students. Furthermore, China and India’s economic development is favoring the entry of a growing number of students from other countries, while Hong Kong and Singapore remain important educational hubs. Australia, with its intelligent policy of inviting highly skilled students and workers, is also among the most popular destinations for international applicants. According to a study by EFMD in 2005, of the decisive factors that make one country a more popular destination for international students, 37.5 percent said language, preferably English, 21.7 percent said cultural attraction, 21.7 percent cited the country’s reputation, while other aspects like a benign climate or closeness to friends and family were much less important, with just 6 percent citing such factors. [4]

At the same time, the same study indicated that the key criteria for applicants choosing a specific business school were, in order of importance: the institution’s reputation, post-graduate work opportunities, readily-available information on the school, its location, and financing. With this in mind, as well as taking into account the most popular destinations for students, we can deduce that the language of the school’s program is a key factor in deciding where to study, along with the ease of gaining a work permit after graduation, as well as the educational experience itself. These factors underscore the prevalence of English as the lingua franca of global education, and require business schools that want to compete in the international arena to offer programs in English. Equally, they also show that mobility and the possibility of working in the country of study are also important factors in attracting foreign students.


This arctic le has been adapted from my book “The Learning Curve: How Business Schools Are Reinventing Education” (London: Palsgrave Macmillan, 2011)

[1] A. Böhm, Global Student Mobility 2025: Analysis of Global Competition and Market Share, IDP Education, 2003

Pty Ltd., November. URL: http://www.idp.com/aiec/pastpapers/2003Melb/wednesday/research/bohmweds11_p.pdf. Last

accessed 15 May 2007.

[2] Institute of International Education, ‘Atlas of Student Mobility’, http://www.atlas.iienetwork.org/?p=54855

[3] D. Bradshaw, ‘The Stern School drops GMAT requirement for EMBAs’,Financial Times, 3/03/2011

[4] R. Loades (ed), The Future of Management Education in the Context of the Bologna Accord, EFMD-GMAC, 24/06/2006



No comments yet.

Leave a Comment


We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept