Alumni learning a serious business

Global survey shows how alma maters can connect with MBA crowd. David Matthews reports

October 18, 2012

Offering free online education is the best way for universities to keep in touch with former students and improve the "alumni experience", according to an international survey of business school leavers.

Alumni Matters 2012, a report by university market research firm CarringtonCrisp, says that more than 20 per cent of alumni want better access to research, with "academic learning" described as the most valuable source of contact with their alma maters post-graduation.

Andrew Crisp, one of the report's authors, said that business school alumni were particularly keen to keep up with the latest developments in the field.

"For example... business law... is always changing," he said. "One of the problems is that the case studies MBA students are taught are five to 10 years old."

In return for online learning, alumni would be "more likely to support the business school ... (or) at least to engage".

The findings come as universities across the world are increasingly offering their course materials and assessments online for free.

Although the report focuses on business schools, Mr Crisp said that the alumni of all subjects could be tempted to stay in contact with their universities if they were offered the chance to continue their learning.

One way to attract them would be to offer them access to online materials that were unavailable to the public, he said.

The online survey, which was collated in May and June this year, received 1,767 responses from alumni hailing from more than 90 countries. Its authors also asked eight business schools for their views on alumni relations: five from the UK and one each from France, the Republic of Ireland and South Africa.

The report says that while many business schools regard alumni relations as a way to secure donations, fewer than one in eight alumni sees the relationship in the same light.

There was a false expectation "that (alumni) will want to support business schools in some way" simply because that is the norm in the US, Mr Crisp said.

The survey also found that dedicated pages for alumni on university websites are "poorly used".

In some cases the alumni sites sent out the wrong signals, Mr Crisp said, recounting one that offered discounts on tickets to Chessington World of Adventures for business graduates.

Instead, alumni used social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to stay in touch.

"If I had the budget, that's where the majority (of investment) would go," he said.

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