The rapidly evolving business landscape, shaped by globalisation and the digital age, has triggered MBA and EMBA providers to rethink the focus of their curriculum in a bid to meet the needs of the modern executive. 'Core business knowledge such as accounting, corporate finance and marketing remains a given, but the content also focuses on some less tangible elements. For example, things like thriving on change, dealing with ambiguity and paradox, managing across countries and networking, collaboration and presentation,' said Lyn Hoffman, associate dean of executive MBA and global partners at the London Business School. Top of many business schools' agendas are subjects such as corporate social responsibility and corporate governance; issues that business professors say have become particularly pertinent following the deepening financial crisis. People development has also taken off, with schools deploying a portfolio of tools to help MBA and EMBA students assess their career goals and develop on a personal and professional level. At the London Business School, students undergo a 360-degree assessment to better understand their strengths in teamwork and interpersonal skills before taking specific courses to build up on areas that need improvement. 'The focus on personal development and leadership approaches the manager almost as a project himself and tracks how that individual progresses as a person through the MBA qualification,' said Neil Logan, director of international business at Henley Business School. He noted that endeavours included the constant updating of the person's career plan, and examining the person's circumstances to ensure he or she was getting the most out of both life and career. The emphasis on these areas reflected a shift towards a more personal and caring social view of business, Mr Logan pointed out, one where businesses were no longer focused only on generating profit, but is also concerned about how it affects the world and the environment in which it operates. 'The business culture has also changed. Before, managers made decisions and gave instructions, but it has become much more important now to have leadership and teamwork skills and to be able to bring people along with you.' Innovation and entrepreneurship are also hot topics given the competitive nature of business. Through the EMBA course on innovation strategy and management, jointly offered by Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, students learn about innovation as a holistic strategic management imperative that is no longer restricted to the traditional confines of research and development and new product development. Asia's economic growth has not gone unnoticed. A growing number of students are gravitating towards practical courses that can guide them in doing business with the world's burgeoning economies. Last year, the University of Hong Kong's (HKU) faculty of business and economics significantly revamped its MBA curriculum to include new courses that specifically address some of these issues. These include doing business in China, China business environment and business strategy in China and India, many of which include company visits to different regions in China to give students a firsthand look at how businesses are run there. 'A decade ago, a lot of business schools in Asia could claim their focus was on Asia or China just by virtue of their location, but students have become increasingly concerned about the practical side of business and doing business in Asia,' said Chris Chan, assistant dean at HKU's MBA programme. 'They still want to learn about the theoretical aspects of business, but they are also keen to develop themselves practically. That is why we added these practical elective courses on China.' Other schools have recognised the importance of the world's emerging economies in a different way. London Business School, which offers its MBA and EMBA students the opportunity to take up an international assignment; a scope-defined project in which the student spends time consulting with an external company before making recommendations to its board on a specific area, has significantly increased the number of countries in which the assignment can be conducted. Students can now opt for assignments in China, India, South Africa, Eastern and Western Europe and Latin America. With changes in the world underpinning so much of how business works, course content no longer provides the only draw for applicants. In addition, the quality and experience of classmates was equally important as so much of the learning occurred between peers, said Marcus Schuetz, assistant dean of the soon-to-launch EMBA-Global Asia, a joint EMBA programme between the HKU, Columbia Business School and London Business School. 'The MBA and EMBA market is already quite crowded here. Everyone is partnering with someone so it is not easy to distinguish the differences in programme offerings, and to see transparency,' he said.