“We are looking for people who are motivated and driven to improve themselves and their organizations.” Explains Mr Philip O’Neill from McGill University, Japan, when I ask him about what kind of people prove most successful as candidates on an MBA course of study.
“Our program is a weekend program for working people, so we look for drive, commitment, and follow through. We look for a well rounded individual with about five or more years of responsible work experience. We are also interested in people who will be able to contribute to the learning of the class based on their unique background.”
It is a fact that the candidates who get the most out of MBA education are those with the correct character and determination to achieve their goals. In this respect, it could be said that the biggest commitment students have to make to their studies is governed by their attitude and enthusiasm.
However, that would be to underplay the sizeable financial cost and time that must be dedicated to the best programs. MBAs are earned not won. And the best MBA qualifications, from the top tutors and from the most prestigious institutions, are the ones that take the most work and most resources.
Dr Ted Sun, the Leader of the School of Business and Swiss Management Centre University, explains more about the typical investment, in terms of resources, time and finance, required from an individual who enrols onto his MBA course.
“The resource investment has three basic elements. The first is the technology aspect. Each learner has to have a reliable internet connection with solid technology such as a laptop. As one of the major benefits with SMC University, all of the textbooks are offered online. The learner does not have to purchase textbooks outside the tuition fee. All of the materials such as textbook and research articles are provided through the online classroom.
“The second part is the time aspect.” Dr Sun continues, “This varies from learner to learner. The typical MBA course has eight units of study. Each unit has chapter readings from the textbook, research articles and discussion questions. Additional assignments such as project papers are also spread out throughout the units. Many of our learners split each unit into one week’s worth of work. This may involve approximately 8-20 hours of reading and another 2-4 hours of dialog with the faculty through discussion questions. Assignments will require more time. So on average, student may spend 10-24 hours each week on a unit’s study materials.
“The third and final part is one of the most crucial – family support. The energy investment in getting a higher education while working as professionals is significant. This requires strong support from family and friends, since time has to be devoted to learning. At the same time, this can also be a great time for families to grow together, as our coursework places an emphasis on real world application. Learners gain further support from their family as they share their knowledge with family members. This allows the learning to have a real world connection through application and discussion of new material.”
There is unquestionably a ‘you get out what you put in’ factor to an MBA. Dr Nimier from the American University in London feels that there is a strong link between the amount of effort a student puts into their study and the amount they learn. Students are encouraged to integrate their experiences into the curriculum, which is why Universities and Colleges look to attract a diverse, experienced group of students to their classroom. However, learning is then dependent on those candidates bringing their wisdom and thoughts to the discussion table. The more people share the more people learn. And the more they can apply when they have graduated and are back in the business world.
As well as a more vibrant, dynamic and different classroom, Business Colleges have to stand out from their peers to make it to the top of the rankings, which in turn attracts an even stronger calibre of student.
McGill University, Japan, do this by differentiating their delivery. Learning takes place on weekends and they take pride in being the only full, two year MBA taught in English in Tokyo – an extraordinary and amazing place to study business. “We offer the program on two weekends per month, which makes it ideal for people based in Japan or North Asia,” explains Mr O’Neill. “We are also the only program in Tokyo offering both International Management and Finance concentrations in our second year. I think that this, combined with the fact that we fly our professors in from our home campus: The Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal, is very attractive.”
At Deakin Business School, part of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, they rely on face-to-face teaching to impart the message of what it takes to be a strong business leader. Their postgraduate studies involve a wide variety of disciplines taught to the highest standards by virtue of their reputation and ability to attract many of the top professors and tutors in the region.
SMC University meanwhile adds value to their program by a change of approach. Dr Sun told me how it “is drastically different from many others. From a foundation basis, it is not compartmentalized into subjects like most programs. Since the real world requires synthesis of materials and also a systemic understanding of the intricacies of business, the program has a conscious design that weaves the fields together. For example, when studying a leadership course, students don’t simply engage in learning leadership theories; they also look at leadership with respect to strategy creation and implementation. They assess leadership within marketing campaigns from both internal and external perspectives.
“The program also has a unique element where student interests are applied. Rather than dictating every single assignment, many courses synthesize the learner’s personal interest with the topic of study. This allows each course to be meaningful to the learner, applying many principles in educational psychology. These curriculum design principles enable SMC University to delivery a deeply meaningful and practical program to its learners.
“On the content level, each course has a vast base of research articles, along with an affluent international faculty base. The many one-on-one interactions allow our learners to access the top experts in their fields, without having to fight for airtime like most classrooms.”
Having established the benefits of an MBA program of study but also the huge investment they require, it is easy to see how some students could be seduced by the promise of getting ahead faster through the new so-called ‘Pocket MBAs’.
Delivered over just two days, the brief introduction to MBA study give a taste of what it is like to join a fuller, more traditional program. Although still in their infancy they are proving quite popular, which is a concern for the experts I spoke to. The general consensus was that they fall short of sustainable learning and gaining the skills and experience that is picked up by living and breathing business education over a number of years.
The human brain is, after all, not designed to take in vast amounts of data and opinions in a short period of time and still retaining recall. The 2-day course certainly covers a lot of curricula but does it stay. The best students are those who work hard for their qualification because they appreciate its true worth there a month or more later? Without emotional or reasoned attachment to it, the information has no reason to remain within easy access. As time goes on, the value of these courses will likely be shown to offer the student less than the longer qualifications, even if the required commitment is significantly lower.
Looking at an MBA from a Return On Investment (ROI) perspective personally, the investment of resources no matter the type is only ‘worth it’ if you can see the value at the end of the hard work and sacrifice. In this way it is actually counter-productive for Universities to give away too much to students and why, even though many business schools are giving away free tutorials to attract the best student body, more often than not the very best Universities do not slash their rates, instead focussing on quality. They know that the best students are those who work hard for their qualification because they appreciate its true worth.
Ultimately, graduating with an MBA bring the individual benefits that will have a revolutionary effect on their lives. Their self-esteem and self-efficiency will have undergone a seismic positive shift and they have instantly made themselves both significantly more employable and shifted themselves up the pay scales. Many students find that despite the considerable financial cost of an MBA that they have paid for themselves within just a year or two. And with benefits far beyond the merely monetary, MBAs are one cost of success that it pays to bear.
With kind thanks for their time and expertise to the representatives of: SMC University (www.swissmc.ch); McGill MBA Japan (www.mcgillmbajapan.com); Deakin University (www.deakin.edu.au); and American University, London (www.americanuniversity.org.uk).