➤ MBAs ➤
SCHOOL IS IN SESSION — By Dr Ashish Jaiswal —
business school curriculum is a complete anathema for students preparing for entrylevel financial jobs, as it is largely incapable of producing what the business world sorely needs: innovators, entrepreneurs, creators and leaders. Ironically, even the financial curriculum of an MBA is not deemed rigorous enough to train students for positions in investment banking and other financial sectors: an undergraduate degree in economics from LSE, or even the recently established masters in financial economics (MFE) at the University of Oxford, is seen as far more comprehensive in this field than the generic MBA. Nevertheless, in spite of an obvious need for substantial reforms, there have been pitifully few reported instances of such remodelling in business schools. Even with those who claim to have overhauled their curriculum, their ‘reforms’ are, at best, little more than cosmetic changes at the fringes of the programme. To make matters worse, business schools regularly take between four and seven years to implement curricular reforms, which in the rapidly evolving digital economy might as well be a few centuries. Thus, these reformed curriculums are almost always obsolete for contemporary market requirements. But reforms can only be made effective if business schools ground their mission in tangible, reasonable outcomes. The
❱❱ There are more than 13,000 business schools worldwide, sending a staggering two million MBA students into the economy annually
ambiguity of claims made by many business schools is accentuated in their deliberately foggy mission statements. Although Harvard Business School claims to prepare students for “a lifetime of leadership”, there is little actual evidence in its curriculum to indicate how students are trained to be visionaries of individual businesses. Business school administrators may choose to deny it, but they are inescapably tethered to league-table rankings. The compulsion of placing students on an enhanced salary obliges business schools to take a certain type of student – those who can easily walk through standardised tests, have worked within the consulting or financial sectors, and who have a track record in steadily rising up the career ladder in their field. This decision – executed in the admissions process but made much earlier as a fundamental principle of the selection process – results in a disappointing homogeneity between MBA graduates. Programmes end up being tailored to rewarding invariable, systematic methods and approaches that stifle creativity. Visionaries, risk-takers, dreamers and people with an aptitude for developing groundbreaking ideas and changing the course of business history are filtered out in favour of the officialdom of ‘ticking boxes’. It should be a given that, if nothing changes, business schools will close. Although, the business of business schools is of less concern than the likely redundancy of thousands of paper MBAs wrongfully trained by them. The time has come for business schools to consider the kind of workers they want to send into the world, casting aside concern for league-table positions and tackling the question of where future business leaders will come from. It should be business schools, but that will only be the case if they change, fast. ■ Ashish Jaiswal is author of How to Reform a Business School (OxCHEPS; £24.99).
ILLUSTRATION by Jamel Akib
HE FT’S 2015 MBA rankings are out, and the data tramples on any talk of a depressed City job market. An MBA degree from any of the top 100 business schools in 2014 resulted in a 91% increase in student earnings compared with their salaries before joining the programme. The problem is these figures focus only on elite business schools, hiding the elephant in the room. Incredible as it may sound, there are more than 13,000 business schools worldwide, sending a staggering two million MBA students into the economy annually. Not all business schools are made equal, but the inequality in salaries and career advancement of students can be divided into the 1% and the 99%. For those studying at one of the business schools in the 99% outside of the elite, an MBA degree may never pay for itself. Graduates of the top 1% of business schools may earn more, but the question remains whether the skills they learn are useful, either for the economy or their careers. Despite claims to the contrary, it appears that an MBA has little benefit for students who hope to find work after graduation. A recent survey in India has revealed that more than 90% of MBA graduates are unemployable, lacking even the basic skills required for business management. The situation in the UK doesn’t appear to be much better. Recruiters have time and again said, even with the top 1% of MBA graduates, it is not the content of the degree they’re interested in, but the admission list. What students learn on the programme is considered practically meaningless. Arguably, one key reason for the global failure of business schools is their reluctance to commit to reforms. For instance, the case-study method – still the most popular in business teaching – falls short in preparing students for understanding today’s complex, everevolving, globalised markets. Most of the
Square Mile Issue - Issue 100 - The Power 100 Issue