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MBAs: Relevance, rankings and the world’s best

Ten days into needing to understand what matters about an MBA programme from the student and employer perspective this spread from the Australian Financial Review is passed to me.

Various questions are answered by the Deans of the Australian School of Business, Melbourne Business School, University of Western Australia and the Fculty of Business and Economics, Monash University and Macquaries Graduate School of Management.

You wouldn’t expect them to knock the MBA but at this point in the dialogue a potential student has made up their mind and needs reassurance, indeed, if readership figures were available I’d suspect the biggest percentage of readers for an article such as this would be people who have just signed up, or are on a course. It’s like buying a car, you want reassurance that you have taken the correct decission.

Given the car analogy perhaps current MBA students could describe to me what kind of car they consider their MBA course to be. I’m reminded of being interviewed in research for my then employer JWT as a recent graduate employee what kind of ship or vessel I’d come up with to describe the business.

Is the MBA obsolete? The Deans are asked:

Far from it, it should evolve to meet new demands … global demands that make it all the more relevant. It remains valid at a career point where a person is going from specialist to generalist. Opening horizons and leadership comes up again. On the other hand there are a wider range of specialisms being offered … though once again, leadership is the goal. And the relevance of it … students and employers want something that can be applied.

What should we think about MBA rankings?

Rankings are one thing to bare in mind … but not everything. That at a broad brush they may help i.e. you get a picture of top, middle and lower rankings. We humans do this kind of thing! (We make lists, we measure and weigh everything).

(I just conclude that  if someone is of MBA calibre they are going to understand how to consider these rankings, how prepared, and what other rankings have been done and matter to them).

What counts as innovative?

(I would ask how important is innovation to an MBA student? I thought it would give the three Rs of business, clearly I’m wrong.).

I do understand a course’s value in transforming a person, that coming out empowered, informed and invigorated, matters if you are then to take, or already have and wish to develop a leadership role. Names like Yale come up for offering what I’d describe as a smorgasbord of modules. It must depend and rely on the ‘maturity’ of candidate to feel this is for them, both for whom they work, and for whom they’d like to work (or start-up their own business). On the other hand, Yale distinguishes itself from other MBA courses by taking this apparently risky step.

What are the trends?

A community feel (on the one hand) … with a global dimension (on the other); social impact and responsibility; being competitive, and developing/exploiting ‘web-based and technology-facilitated education’. Older, more experienced candidates – not three years after graduation, but more like ten. Each Dean I feel offered an answer that gave them a chance to play to their course’s strengths (understandable).

It’s constantly in my mind to wonder if I should I do an MBA.

The only advice I took for a friend who had made it to the board of directors of an International Bank without one who naturally thought it irrelevant; I guess he had tested himself by building his own successful PR firm so didn’t need the letters after his name.


The Australian Financial Review

From a web 2.0 vs. old media point of view this spread in newsprint highlights some interesting points. Online we’d link to the schools, and the people, the rankings cited and any schools of faculties that interested us. We’d no doubt search for peer reviews too. Then what kind of a picture would we have?

Monday 4th April 2011

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