The MBA - Increasingly International

Today’s MBA, with its focus on strategic thinking, analysis, and global markets, answers the call of business for relevance in management education. Increasingly, graduates throughout Europe with technical and liberal arts degrees or traditional professional qualifications are making the transition into general management. The MBA, with its focus on decision-making and analysis, is a natural stepping-stone for those who want to make this move and build on a first degree.


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The global nature of modern business has sharpened the need for professionalism in management, and business schools offer MBA programmes that reflect this reality. Organizations and their staff are also aware that narrow professional qualifications or functional skills are not enough for success in a business environment. An MBA is helpful when there is a need to take an integrated - and increasingly global - view of how decisions in one discipline may affect others.

For most people, MBAs are about upward mobility. Some MBA graduates remain with their present employer, but others see the qualification as a passport to move between companies, business functions and industries.

There is now a strong demand from business for relevance, and emphasis is being placed on practice rather than theory, with more integration between separate business disciplines, together with a heavy accent on ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork and leadership. There is greater emphasis on group work, replicating what really happens in the commercial world, and on in-company projects and internships. Many schools are now offering courses on presentation and communication skills, teaching the ethical aspects of management.

A 1997 salary survey from the Association of MBAs1 shows that MBAs are represented in a wide range of industry sectors. However, they are particularly concentrated in the consultancy sector and, to a lesser extent, in finance. Together, these two sectors account for more than 25% of respondents in the survey sample. Within industry, MBAs are concentrated in specific functions, the biggest (38%) being in general management, suggesting that the system of MBA education continues to be successful in equipping its graduates for an effective role in business management. A further 15% are employed in both corporate strategy and planning.

Business schools increasingly recognise that today’s global companies require managers with a broader outlook. They have therefore made great efforts to internationalise their MBA programmes - by attracting overseas students, employing faculty members with overseas experience, and forming effective links with business schools throughout Europe. Many schools, particularly on the Continent, offer bilingual MBAs.

There are a number of ways in which to take an MBA, including full-time, part-time, modular and distance learning. Full-time programmes are usually a year in duration, while part-time programmes last on average two to three years, with distance learning anywhere in between!

Distance learning is the fastest-growing mode of MBA study, with more than 10,000 students registered in the UK alone. As with part-time study, distance learning offers students the chance to integrate studies with employment. Is it all worth it from a career point of view? The sounds of the backlash from an older and less go-ahead generation of managers are dying down, as they are gradually being replaced by a growing generation of MBAs. The most telling verdict comes from the large numbers of bright managers in both the private and public sectors, because if the future of business is as organizations promoting learning and knowledge - and it is impossible to envisage any other - then the MBA qualification must be the keystone of that structure.

The reputation of the institution from which the MBA is gained is crucial. Employers do not simply ask whether an applicant has an MBA - they also want to know where it was studied. A prospective student needs to consider a range of factors, including the size and culture of the School, programme content, quality of faculty and student body, facilities and location. This is where the Association of MBAs comes in.

The Association of MBAs’ initiative has two main objectives: firstly, a belief in the need for some kind of pressure group to promote the idea of management education. The second is purely social: to extend to the members continuing social contact, informal networking and exchanges of information through periodic workshops and member’s meetings. Membership of the Association has now exceeded 10,500, and includes senior executives and directors from some of the world’s leading industries. The Association has now been joined by a third objective: that of quality control of MBA-awarding bodies through a system of accreditation. One of the Association’s roles is to act as a clearing house for intending MBAs. The most valuable service of the Association is its Business School Loan Scheme. Between 1986 and 1990 the Association endorsed loans for MBA students totalling £6.25 million. Since 1990 they have endorsed loans in excess of £150 million.

Author: Robert Owen, Manager, Accreditation Services Association of MBAs

Full written details of the Scheme, can be obtained from The Association of MBAs website: www.mbaworld.com/

The Association of MBAs Salary and Careers Survey 1997.

Copies of this publication can be ordered from The Association of MBAs on +44 207 837 3375 or online: www.mbaworld.com/

 

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