SBS Announces New Executive MBA

2004 will see the launch of the Oxford Executive MBA. This new degree course - which aims to take its first students in eighteen months time - will consist of some 14 one week modules offered over a 21 month period. It is envisaged that the Executive MBA will have between 50 and 60 students, who will be taught in the new SBS building whilst living in a selection of historic Oxford colleges.

Driving forward the programme launch is its director Paul Willman, 'SBS has set out to be a world-class business school and to offer a portfolio of programmes befitting such a school' he commented. 'That must include an Executive MBA.'

European business schools have been in the forefront of developing Executive MBAs. As with the introduction of its full-time programme, Oxford hopes to enter an established and competitive market, with a product that will perform exceptionally well from the start. Delivering the programme in a modular format will, Willman believes create a catchment area, that at the least will encompass all of western Europe: Willman commented, 'A key component of the success of the full-time MBA has been its highly international student body. By attracting students from around the world who are working in Western Europe, we aim to have an EMBA constituency that emulates its full-time counterpart.

The Executive MBA will target professionals in their first major managerial role, aged about 35, who have been marked out for significant achievement in the near future by their organisations. 'These will be people who will reach the peaks of their careers very quickly - within five years or, at most, ten.' said Willman.

High calibre students will be a key element in the new programme. The EMBA will apply the same rigorous entrance requirements as for the full-time programme. One of the characteristics of executive students says Willman, (who has taught executive MBAs for fifteen years) is their motivation and maturity: It is difficult to balance work, personal life and study. However, we hope that the week-long modules, combined with the Oxford location will allow students to forget about work and immerse themselves in learning. It should also facilitate class bonding, the friendships for life that are created on the full-time programme.

The Oxford Executive MBA will consist of between 12 and 14 modules, the first of which - the foundation module - will be two weeks long, with the remainder lasting one week each. To offer individual choice, the course will provide a wide range of elective courses in addition to its core courses. Also, to enhance the practical personal challenge, it will include two individual projects carried out in executives' own workplaces, one of which will be a mainstream management project and the other geared towards developing individual entrepreneurial abilities and skills. Both these projects will be defined in association with participants' organisations and will be designed to be of direct managerial and strategic value to them. 'The course will aim to align personal and business benefits to mutual advantage.'

At the same time he is very clear that the individual executive will be the main focus of the new Oxford degree: 'It will be an executive and not a consortium MBA.' He is certain that employers will appreciate and welcome this difference. 'Companies like a balance between bespoke programmes and their managers going out and getting independent exposure and qualifications. Through the Oxford Executive MBA their employees will get access to a very broad network, greater international experience and - very significantly - raised expectations. It will then be down to the companies to direct and manage those expectations.'

The final key ingredient in the new Executive MBA will be Oxford itself. The course will be taught by the same faculty as Oxford's full-time MBA, and, says Willman, 'part of the family of Oxford management programmes and able to draw on the same broad stock of Oxford intellectual capital.' In addition, living in a series of colleges throughout the course will create 'the Oxford Effect': 'Students will get the flavour of life in several colleges and see Oxford from several different perspectives.'

The modular aspect of the programme combined with the Oxford lifestyle, will, hopes Willman, allow the programme to offer some benefits to the partners of many executives, who may otherwise feel isolated from this experience. 'We hope to arrange a number of activities throughout the 21 months, for example, formal dinners at college, or a day's punting on the river, which partners can join.

SBS's experience in launching its successful full-time MBA and also the track record in executive education of Templeton College, Oxford's specialist graduate college in business studies provide a strong framework from which to launch the EMBA. Executive MBA students will get the chance to draw on Templeton's distinctive strengths. 'Templeton is a key resource in terms of its experience and capabilities', says Willman.

So how does Paul Willman feel personally about the demands of directing this ambitious new programme? 'I have run a big programme before. But running a large, established programme and setting up something like the Oxford Executive MBA are two entirely different things. It will bring serious benefits to business studies at Oxford - and you have to get excited about it.'

Author: LESLEY Aylward, Said Business School, Oxford University


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