By Manju Gupta
The burgeoning world-wide attraction for MBA course shows that it is still the topmost in conventional business education. Not only is there a growing demand for more business schools, due to the fast increase in student numbers, there is need for more qualified Ph.Ds too to teach them.
In a study conducted in the UK, it has come to light that not only qualified MBAs are required but more necessary is their ability in taking into account the human factor as also their felicity to apply everyday experiences in various fields to their workplaces.
What is being witnessed is that the narrow and single-discipline doctorate-holders find themselves at odds with the recent trends in business?managers have to be multi-disciplined, practical and global.
The qualified faculty may be well versed in tackling ?hard? analytical and financial subjects, but they often find themselves at a disadvantage in teaching ?softer? management skills, like leadership qualities, communication abilities and adeptness in managing interpersonal relationships. Says Penny de Valk, Managing Director of Ceridian Consulting, ?Your challenge here is in getting the line managers to understand that their job is not just about delivering to the client. Good line managers will realise that managing their people is an important part of their role, and the better they can do this, the more effective their learning will be for the client.?
New interest is stirring on learning good management theory. According to Professor Sumantra Ghoshal of the London Business School, there are two wrongs being committed in management?the first is taking a partial view of human nature on which today'smanagement is built, i.e. the junior executives are treated as ?exclusive rational maximisers of their own (economic) self-interest. This allows no role for positive attributes such as loyalty, altruism and generosity?management has focused predominantly on preventing bad behaviour rather than on encouraging the good.? The second, the vagaries of human choice and intention are not taken into account. Good management theory has to be both more realistic and more positive, taking into account human management.
The old school of learning is giving place to a new one with stress on mental workouts. Effective training means developing a deeper culture of learning within a business or organisation. These include a whole range of activities like coaching skills, CDs, self-managed learning, short courses and talks as well as more formal training?all put together to make up the experience. Andrew Mallet, who runs a communications and presentations consultancy, called Present Action, advises, ?Try out new experiences and bring what you have learned back into the workplace. Go and see a film, listen to music, expose yourself to something different. The people who stand out in my classes are the ones who have had a wide range of experiences.?
A growing trend in Britain is that companies are increasingly pressing for less time-consuming education in conjunction with intensive work experience. This has led to growth of business schools offering non-degree education programmes which are tailored to meet the needs of individual companies. So, corporate universities have sprung up which demand more teaching and researching faculty to teach and train their junior executives. As a result, many business schools have begun to offer non-degree education programmes to suit the needs of individual companies. Of late, the financial resource crunch has slowed down the trend in companies for setting up their own business training institutes, though it is estimated that their number will double by 2010.
A recent offshoot has been the growth of distance education, with the Open University Business School (OUBS) producing more degree-holders in MBA than any other business school. The MBA at OUBS are drawing a large number of applicants towards them. In 1999, 2,938 students of UK are said to have applied and by 2001 it reached 3,250, as surveyed by the Association of MBAs.
What is more surprising is that distance education is attracting both home and overseas students. This is because, firstly, full-time courses draw mostly overseas students especially in the more prestigious institutes, while home students find part-time courses, especially at non-accredited business schools, more attractive.
The OUBS in Britain have allowed its students to complete the MBA degree course in two-and-a-half years instead of three. According to the Guardian Weekly (March 4), Professor Ian Turner, Director of Graduate Business Studies at Henley says that though the completion of the course depends upon the time the students devote to their studies, distance learning works only if ?business schools can provide support and are proactive in doing so, with good systems and personal tutors to identify difficulties and address queries.?
Not only Britain, even in Germany, which provides a quarter of the students in distance education, ?gaining a European MBA studied in English is becoming a ?must have? qualification for advancing a business career,? says Dr Fenton-O?Creevy. Strangely however, a US-focused MBA is found to have little relevance to the experience of Europe-based managers. A welcome trend is that such courses are starting in many other prestigious schools, which run part-time or full-time MBA courses, possibly encouraged by the successes of the OUBS. Though it is accepted that distance education or e-learning will never replace face-to-face interaction in business schools, it is however proving a valuable supplement to what is already available.
Experience is the key