Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Relevant is Your Degree?

When you are ready to commit a significant portion of your time and money to getting an MBA, you want to make sure you’re getting an education that’s going to transform your talent and ambition into a solid set of skills that deem you irresistible to the best employers. Business schools are competing to make their MBAs the most relevant to your success.

This month the MBA Roundtable released the results of its 2009 MBA Curricular Innovation Study indicating that 69% of MBA programs have significantly revised the curriculum in the past four years to improve the relevancy of the degree in response to criticism that they are not preparing graduates for today’s business challenges.

What Is Relevance?
Among the 69% of MBA programs making significant revisions to their curriculum, the most common change was the addition of ‘applied content’, or project-based courses. In addition to giving students more opportunities to take their learning out of the comfortable lecture hall and into the demanding real-world business simulations, respondents also reported that integration across topics and disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary content were popular changes.

MBA Programs That Get Into Details
MBA programs have traditionally focused on equipping students with big picture concepts, eschewing fine details of specific industries for personal leadership and decision making skills. Apparently that’s changing. The MBA Roundtable data reveals that 25% of MBA degree programs have added an industry specialization in the past three years. Common emphasis areas are healthcare, biotech, medicine, and entrepreneurship. Another change: about half the programs reported that they had added a focus on leadership development (as in, developing others) and global perspectives to their offerings.

Change is Good
And the changes just keep coming. 89% of all MBA programs surveyed are planning additional curricular changes.

“I think this is very promising news,” said Rodney Alsup, president of the MBA Roundtable. “It shows that there has been a concentrated effort among MBA programs to innovate and make changes that increase their relevance to both students and employers. Furthermore, this has been done in an educational environment that can be resistant to change, or, at the very least, has approval processes that make it difficult to make changes in a timely manner. Some schools need approval from their state boards of education prior to revising their curricula, for example.”

The motivation for these changes comes from both internal and external sources, according to the study. The most common motivator by far was internal quality improvement initiatives, with 64% of participants selecting it as one of their motivators. Among external motivators, “competitor schools” was the most commonly chosen answer, with 34% of respondents choosing it as one of their motivators.


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