Technology, Psychology and Teamwork: New survey reveals the evolution of university-based executive education

Technology, Psychology and Teamwork: New survey reveals the evolution of university-based executive education

Technology, Psychology and Teamwork:  New survey reveals the evolution of university-based executive education

12-06-2019 – The International Consortium for Executive Education (UNICON) released findings from its annual membership benchmarking survey, which includes responses from nearly 100 universities around the world with significant executive education programs.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • The university-based executive education industry continues to grow.
  • Providers are increasingly blending traditional learning techniques with technology-enabled approaches.
  • The use of Psychometric Assessments is on the rise.

95 of UNICON’s 111 member schools completed the survey.  Together they reported year-to-year industry growth of about 5%.  This growth was concentrated among the largest providers – a group that features schools like Harvard, IESE and Stanford.  Revenue within this group grew by 7% in the last 12 months and by more than 15% in the last five years.

The survey found that despite the exponential increase in the use of technology in recent years, face-to-face learning is still a dominant mode.  For the first time, more than 90% of the schools surveyed offer networked/online learning, and 88% offer webinars to augment/replace the in-person experience.  However, while these approaches are clearly on the rise, face-to-face methods including Group Participation, Team Exercises, Peer Learning and the Case Method predominate within executive learning programs and are still considered more effective in achieving learning objectives.

“We are at a fascinating moment in our industry’s evolution,” said Markus Frank, Co-chair of UNICON’s Benchmarking Committee, and Director of Executive Education at Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen.  “We are seeing a continued increase in the use of technology to make executive education more accessible, effective and timely.  At the same time, there is a recognition within our client base that getting people together to learn side-by-side in an intellectually stimulating environment is the cornerstone of our work.  Nearly 90% of our members, responding to a new question on this year’s survey, stated that they always use Group Participation in delivering executive education.  In a world in which people seem more and more isolated, this is a noteworthy observation.”

As for services offered by UNICON’s member schools, by far the biggest surge came in Psychometric Assessments.  76% of the schools surveyed now offer this service, compared to just 53% last year.  This is consistent with the growth in these types of evaluations as a hiring tool.  The Society for Human Resource Management recently estimated that the use of Psychometric Assessments across all organizations is growing at a rate of 10-15% per year.  “Our clients continue to face an unprecedented rate of change in the business and social environment,” said Frank.  “The increased use of assessments reflects the importance of highly-customized development for individual leaders; it’s rapid adoption in the university-based executive education industry is an indication of how committed we are to staying in lock-step with the organizations we are proud to support.”

Other survey findings include:

  • There is significant variation between geographic regions with respect to digital and blended offerings. Nearly 25% of custom programs from European schools are Blended (digital and face-to-face), and Latin American schools report that 5% of their custom programs are 100% digital.
  • There has been a modest year-over-year increase in the number of female students participating in university-based executive education programs.
  • The percentage of providers offering Coaching and 3600 Feedback Processes hit an all-time high, with 96% and 89% respectively

Frank added: “The continued health of this industry is a testament to the hard work, careful listening and active relationship-building that characterizes UNICON’s member organizations.  UNICON is committed to helping each member school grow by presenting new approaches to executive learning through our conferences and research activities.”

About the survey

The questionnaire was developed by UNICON in collaboration with Percept Research to provide consortium members with a credible and comparative assessment of the non-degree executive education industry. It was conducted in September 2019 and included responses from 86 percent of UNICON’s membership.


Founded in 1972 as an association of executive education program directors, UNICON has evolved from an informal common-interest group into an incorporated non-profit consortium committed to advancing the field of university-based executive education. Membership is composed 111 educational institutions from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.

UNICON is committed to the principle that university-based executive education provides a combination of thought-leadership at the highest levels of rigor, masterful learning environments and practical application that cannot be replicated by non-academic providers.

UNICON sponsors and conducts research studies that bring to the forefront this unique value of university-based executive education. It also provides industry/operational knowledge and networking opportunities for members through conferences, webinars, workshops, research, benchmarking, website, newsletters, job postings, discussion boards and forums and other activities.


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