Evolution of the MBA Program: A Decade of Business Education

For: Richard Burns, QS TopMBA

In order to keep pace with the constantly evolving world of business, MBA programs continually evolve and perfect their teaching and learning experiences. Most recently, the global financial crisis has had a profound impact on the business school world.

“Having seen the financial crisis first hand while working as a managing director of Blackrock, it became clear to me that we can’t understand the world from any single academic viewpoint – that our economic and financial theories have to be complemented by an understanding of psychology and sociology, for example,” explains Professor Mark Taylor, dean of Warwick Business School (WBS) in the UK.

“We need to break down the academic silos and take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the hidden forces that lie behind human behavior and that drive business and society.”

As a direct result of Professor Taylor’s experiences and the conclusions he drew from them, WBS has set up what is the first behavioral science and teaching group at a European business school.

“I firmly believe [behavioral science] will be at the forefront of business research and teaching going forward,” he says. “In fact, we are building behavioral science into all of our courses at WBS. It’s at the core of our redesigned MBA program, for example.”

Business education reflecting global surroundings

As a result of the financial crisis, methods that incorporate reflection of the world that surrounds business have also been introduced in MBA programs across the Atlantic in the US.

At Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth for instance, a specialist center to aid student recognition of their surroundings has been set up in the wake of the crisis.

“We established a group called the Center for Business and Society to emphasize the teaching of corporate social responsibility, environmental sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and community involvement – values that were sorely lacking among some business leaders during the crisis,” Dean Paul Danos tells TopMBA.com’s sister publication, the QS Top MBA Career Guide.

Further, Tuck has joined five other business schools around the world to form the Council on Business and Society, “which hosts forums that address how business and society interact throughout the world,” says Danos.

The five other member schools are: France’s ESSEC Business School, China’s Fudan School of Management, Japan’s Keio Business School, Germany’s University of Mannheim Business School, and Brazil’s Fundação Getulio Vargas.

Such a globally representative set of schools joining forces emphasizes the ever-increasing globalization of business, and how business schools have reacted to it.

Even a decade or two ago, MBAs considering the idea of gaining post-degree employment in Asia, Africa, or Latin America would have been met with a considerable number of obstacles, not least lower recognition of business education and salary levels that made a return of investment from the qualification close to unimaginable.

Fast-forward to today however, and global MBA remuneration is closer to parity than it has ever been.

Ever-greater worldwide MBA job opportunities

Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of QS Quacquarelli Symonds and author of the QS TopMBA.comJobs and Salary Trends Report explains, “As more employers compete in the global market for top MBA talent, we observe an equalization of MBA salaries across regions – a trend that has been on-going for over a decade.

“The gap between the highest international MBA salary region (North America) and the lowest (Latin America) is now only 30%, compared to 50% a decade ago. Further, the gap between Western European and Eastern European salaries is now just 20%, with MBA salaries in Russia exceeding salaries in some Western economies.”

Dean Danos at Tuck notes today’s increased geographical scope available to MBA job-seekers come graduation.

“A couple of examples of placement of our MBA graduates give evidence of the changing landscape brought on by globalization: in a recent year, eight out of 11 of our Brazilian graduates took their first positions back in their home country of Brazil. That would never have happened ten years ago. Also, five of our non-Koreans took positions in Seoul. Again, that would not have been the case ten years ago.

“Major companies throughout the world more and more need the kind of young leaders produced in the best business schools and that demand will continue to grow.”

Training MBAs for a globalized business world

This is a sentiment echoed throughout the world of business education.

Back across the Atlantic in the UK, Steve Cousins, MBA recruitment and admissions manager at Cass Business School notes the employer demand thrust upon business schools to train their students for the complexities and challenges presented when working in a heavily internationalized world.

“Globalization and how to navigate, understand and manage business across multiple countries will continue to play a major part in MBA education”.

“For many years Cass has been running international modules as part of the MBA, giving hands on experience of international business. Students and their potential employers are looking for hands on experience of working in new, different and emerging markets.”

Here, the rapid evolution of technology has made a considerable impact in the nurturing of the world’s next generation of business leaders.

“It’s vital for business schools to embrace new technologies to help students prepare for an increasingly global business world,” says Russ Morgan, professor of marketing and associate dean of The Duke MBA’s daytime program at Fuqua School of Business.

“Technology helps connect students with their professors, with one another, and with business leaders with whom they might not otherwise be able to interact.

“In addition, students must learn to become familiar with the various technologies being used by businesses worldwide.”