By Dr Hennie Scheepers - Dean of Student Affairs at Milpark Business School.
Business schools are faced with the challenge of remaining relevant within their various environments. At this time, some commentators are of the opinion that the international MBA market is characterized by an interesting dichotomy: while there is an increase in the number of MBA providers, the number of applications is not following this trend.
One source indicates that the 220 MBA programs found in Europe in 1999 had grown to more than 400 in 2004.
Other sources indicate that the biggest growth in student numbers is seen in China and India, and provide evidence that there is a move away from classic Anglo-Saxon offerings. Classic MBA programs will not disappear, but there is a definite shift in emphasis towards executive MBAs, part-time, as well as specialized programs.
The reasons cited for this shift are more innovative teaching methods, shorter and less-expensive programs, as well as more culturally open and vibrant programs.
Within the above context, students are now faced with the challenge of identifying an MBA program suitable to their needs, which will assist in gaining the competitive advantage in the job market.
In solving this riddle, it will be wise to acknowledge that the business world is characterized by a new-era psychological contract. Within this new paradigm, an emphasis is placed on interaction, implying an orientation towards relations, achieving greater meaning, wholeness, satisfaction, and a sense of community in people?s lives.
By adopting this approach, the development of a big picture perspective becomes possible, where things are done for the benefit of communities and bigger society. When selecting a programme, students are therefore required to determine whether the envisaged programme will assist them in attaining the above. Prospective students need to determine whether the business school they have in their scope is able to consider effectively the big picture, which implies the ability to demonstrate holistic thinking as opposed to traditional reductionist thinking where less was more. Apart from talking to alumni from institutions, students should also investigate whether the curriculum is in line with the above requirement.
Prospective students also need to recognize the fact that the programme of their choice should equip them with the skills required to cope with the challenges characteristic of 21st century society. To this end, MBA programs should assist students in mastering six critical tasks for personal and organisational development.
These are: finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts; weaving the lives of employees into a meaningful whole; allowing for a connection between family and work; valuing pluralism and inclusivity; managing personal transitions and organisational change; and exploring spirituality and life purpose.
Thus, the selection of an MBA programme could be done in terms of more practical considerations, such as cost, accessibility, entrance requirements, and physical structures; this in itself, is insufficient and students need to also gauge the ability of the institution to equip them with the skills set required for continuing personal and career development in the changing world order.