Education has always played a crucial role in creating the business leaders of the future. But as companies across the world face ever-changing challenges and tough economic conditions, it is vital that education continues to develop to ensure that businesses are best prepared to meet those challenges.

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the best recognised and longest standing business qualifications dating back to the turn of the 20th century. And while the business landscape has evolved hugely since, the best schools in the world have ensured their teaching remains up to date and relevant.

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, USA, is credited as offering the first MBA back in 1900 and now proudly makes the prestigious list of Ivy League business schools in the USA. The other five are Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell and Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Harvard is often regarded as the world leader in business schooling and it celebrated the centenary of its own MBA in 2008, although in the FT’s Global MBA Rankings 2012, Stanford Graduate School of Business topped the chart ahead of Harvard, with an average alumni salary of $192,179.

Other notable schools outside of the USA offering highly ranked MBA programmes include INSEAD, with campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, London Business School, IE Business School and the University of Navarra’s IESE, both based in Spain, and the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.

MBAs, with notoriously tough application processes, are recognised as giving the most complete grounding in all aspects of running a business. They take in the financials and accounting side, as well as human resources, operations and management techniques, marketing and more. But far from being a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ approach, the MBA also gives students the chance to specialise in particular elements.

But MBA course providers have faced their own challenges during the recent economic crises that have gripped the world’s financial powerhouses. As the general public turned on bankers and highly paid businessmen for their perceived mismanagement of the global economy, negative attention was also focused on those schools which educated the business elite.

But beyond simply attempting to turn around public perceptions, high powered business schools have embraced the new challenge of educating people to help reverse the financial difficulties of recent years. While many MBA graduates can still expect to command six-figure salaries, the schools have attempted to address that assumption and emphasise that the value of the MBA is in understanding and learning about business, not simply arming its students with an impressive CV to help them earn large wages.

Curriculums have changed to include more focus on financial models and managing risk, while new modules and programmes have been introduced, including a non-degree executive programme at Harvard for example, to specifically address the newer issues businesses face in the wake of the economic downturn.

In a time of spiralling tuition fees and slashed budgets for staff training and education, it is understandable that people may begin to question the value of traditional qualifications like the MBA, but choose the right course at the right school and the benefits can still be priceless.