The MBA boom peaked in the Nineties as management consulting came of age. However, since then practically every aspect of business worldwide has been digitised, leaving MBA postgraduates from the time with degrees that need repolishing. Even the most elite B-schools hardly imagined the challenges of today’s dynamic, fast-evolving corporate business world. As a result, business schools now face the pressure to not only revise curricula but also cater to the increased demand in executive MBA and mid-career business courses for senior executives.
François Ortalo-Magné, Dean of London Business School (LBS), addressed the impact of disruptive innovation on how business is conducted and taught at the LBS Dubai campus last month. As LBS Dubai completes its tenth year in December, he touched on the shift away from finance as a primary preference for MBA applicants. Now a large number of programme applicants are start-up digital platform entrepreneurs.
One of the early movers in this space is Hult International Business School. The top-ranked global business school launched a flexible Executive MBA for senior-level professionals and managers six years ago. The four-day-a-month programme spans 18 months and is designed to meet the demands of the global workplace. With a programme customised to their schedules, working professionals are able to spend more quality time on the course. The programme attracts global managers with a decade’s work experience on average, and is available in Dubai on both a weekly and monthly basis.
Thandiwe Young, Head of Recruiting at CPA Global, spent a year at Hult Dubai in 2010. This gave her the opportunity to not only meet students who had worked in the city for years but also be mentored by a local entrepreneur, and intern at a leading energy company. “It helped me be a change agent in the world,” she says on the Hult blog. “I later worked with Bloomberg BNA in New York, and was offered an internship at the White House.”
More recently, 70 new part-time MBA students joined the latest cohort of recruits at the University of Manchester Middle East Centre in Dubai. More than 20 nationalities are represented in the class of mid-career students, of whom over 10 per cent already have a Masters degree, and 27 per cent are in C-suite roles.
“In a challenging global and regional economy, all our students will benefit from outstanding professional and personal development experience, critical networking opportunities and careers services,” says Randa Bessiso, Middle East Director at The University of Manchester.
Overseas, at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management in Bengaluru, the Executive General Management Programme is designed as a one-year part-time course for mid-career aspirants to general management roles. It focuses on business skills and competencies aimed at equipping students to handle issues across various functional areas.
Sujay Sen, who is now Head of Global Consulting at L&T Infotech, took the course in 2011 when he was poised to shift his role from technology delivery to consulting, 16 years into his career. At that time he was head of business solutions at the same company.
“We had two immersive weeks on campus every quarter and full-day sessions over video conference every Saturday. I chose this course because it offered electives in technology, with CIOs [giving] guest lectures. That made it very relevant to my future career compared to other similar programmes.”
Sen says the opportunity to learn from and network with very senior peers was invaluable. “Most of the batch were those with about two decades of experience. However, I would advise others looking at taking similar programmes to take a break for a year to maximise the benefit or at least speak to their companies about a less intensive role for the period. L&T was very supportive and even sponsored my programme, but I could have had greater benefit from the course had I negotiated a smaller workload.”
Besides flexible solutions, providers are also offering fully online solutions. HEC Paris and Coursera joined hands recently to launch just such an international degree, a Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OMIE) that is entirely administered over the internet. The course is designed for present and future business leaders who wish to drive innovation within their organisations or launch new ventures.
HEC Paris Dean Peter Todd says the need for courses designed for entrepreneurial, innovative leaders is greater than ever. “In 2013, HEC Paris was the first business school in France to launch a massive open online course on the Coursera platform,” he says. “Building on long-standing experience in the production of such courses, the new degree answers the needs of the ever-changing and rapidly-evolving world of business.”
The two companies say their ability to build open courses will now be leveraged to develop a fully online degree that will benefit a global audience of current and aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders, drawing from Coursera’s 25 million learners globally.
Mid-career breaks to enhance career skills and growth opportunities are now becoming more the rule than the exception.
Breaking from the earlier trend of taking up business courses right after graduation, many now opt to enrol into these when they feel the need, given the dynamic nature of today’s business environment. Senior management aspirants and entrepreneurs increasingly recognise the value of taking intermittent pauses in their busy careers as they seek to recalibrate to the brave new world.