MBAs develop critical thinking
As the axis of the global economy shifts and the business environment responds to the changes, executives need - and are prepared to pay for - high-powered courses that can give them insights, contacts and a competitive edge.
That explains the demand for places on programmes such as the 20-month EMBA-Global Asia offered jointly by London Business School (LBS), the University of Hong Kong's Business School and New York's Columbia Business School. The objective is to give students the knowledge and skills to run major organisations and to manage the challenges that come with new regulations and a multicultural business landscape.
'It requires a completely different way of teaching but is incredibly interesting,' says Andrew Scott, LBS deputy dean.
The aim is to stir debate and encourage interaction so that in each class everyone is student and teacher. 'The whole point is that you have businesspeople with an average 10 years' work and managerial experience,' says Diane Morgan, LBS associate dean for degree programmes and career services. 'Everybody is an expert at something and has the chance to show it, so there is constant evolution during the course, influenced by the mix of students.'
Scott adds that taking on such a programme is a big investment emotionally, intellectually and financially. It is therefore essential for the three institutions involved to get the 'product' right. With the first intake graduating last month, exit surveys show a high level of satisfaction so far among students and professors. 'I have a single ambition for my students,' Scott says. 'I want to inculcate the critical ability to think and evaluate.'
For Chan Yan-chong, MBA programme leader and associate professor at City University's (CityU) department of management sciences, teaching students to analyse problems and see different perspectives is a key element.
Many arrive with first degrees in non-business disciplines but have reached a point in their careers where general management knowledge is essential for further progress. They must also be up to speed with issues such as sustainable development, the green economy and the latest technology.
'In business, there is a lot of new knowledge that even experienced managers need to study,' Chan says. 'We concentrate on the mainland because sooner or later most of our students will either work there or be dealing with Chinese business partners.'
Through its network of contacts, CityU arranges for MBA students to gain experience as consultants on 10-day projects for state-owned and other enterprises.
'It is a good opportunity to understand how mainland companies work, their systems and business methods,' Chan says.