20th anniversary edition







Full text


Making the right choice

of executive education

George Bickerstaffe


The Economist Intelligence Unit

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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 11 10 09 08 07




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Acknowledgements xi



Part 1: Choosing a programme

Chapter 1

The MBA: riding out a storm


The MBA job market


Chapter 2

What you’ll learn—core and elective subjects








Employers and core and elective subjects





Chapter 3

What you’ll learn—soft skills


Approaches to soft skills teaching





Using practising executives


Chapter 4

Different ways of taking the MBA














Chapter 5

What you need to be an MBA







The GMAT and other admissions tests


The admissions process


Application forms, references, essays and interviews


Paying for your programme


Chapter 6

Other options


Masters in Management


Specialised masters’ programmes




Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Contents

Chapter 7

Top 10 considerations in choosing a business school























Part 2: Rankings and directory

Chapter 8

Full-time rankings





How is the Economist Intelligence Unit ranking different?


How did we choose which schools to rank?







Methodology: full-time MBA ranking



Using the directory


List of schools


Appendix: Comparative tables

Comparative data, full-time programmes


Comparative data, part-time programmes


Comparative data, distance-learning programmes


Comparative data, executive MBA programmes







List of figures


Average GMAT scores (top ten schools), 1998–2008


List of tables


Average starting salaries of recent MBA graduates



Average starting salaries of recent graduates from selected schools



Industry sectors recruiting graduates from the most recent

graduating full-time MBA class



Why did you decide to study for an MBA degree? (full-time students)



Accommodation costs around the world, 2008



Why did you decide to study for an MBA degree? (part-time students)



Part-time students sponsored by their company



Length of time part-time sponsored students agreed to stay with their company



Part-time tuition fees at selected schools



How did you choose the school where you are taking or took your MBA?

(part-time students)



Why did you decide to study for an MBA degree? (executive MBA students)



Executive MBA students sponsored by their company



Length of time executive MBA sponsored students agreed to stay

with their company



Why did you decide to study for an MBA degree? (distance-learning students)



How did you choose the school where you are taking or took your MBA?

(distance-learning students)



Average number of years’ work experience of full-time MBA students by region



Average GMAT scores of students by region



Average GMAT scores of students by region, selected schools



How difficult was it to get into your school?



How students finance their MBA programmes



How did you choose the school where you are taking or took your MBA?



Student and graduate ratings of programme content



Student and graduate ratings of faculty



Student and graduate ratings of back-up and facilities



Student and graduate ratings of careers service



Schools by percentage of foreign students



Foreign students by region



Student and graduate ratings of internationalism




Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Contents


Foreign faculty by region



Student and graduate ratings of quality of student body



Why schools could not be ranked



Global ranking, 2008



Top ten schools by category



North American schools by rank



European schools by rank



Asian and Australasian schools by rank



Proportion of responses required from students and recent graduates



All this space and nowhere to hide.

The Ashridge MBA.

It’s personal.

To book your place or for more information

call: +44 (0) 1442 841483 | visit: www.ashridge.org.uk/mba-which | email: mba@ashridge.org.uk Set in over 150 acres of English parkland – just a half hour journey from London –

Ashridge has all the space you’ll need to prepare for future leadership.

Yet, for a world-class business school, we offer a surprisingly intimate learning experience. In a class of just 30 experienced professionals, you can expect high levels of personal participation and individual attention from your tutors.

There’s nowhere to hide.

The Ashridge One-year Full Time MBA starts in January. The Ashridge Two-year Executive MBA starts in September. Experience the programme for yourself at our ‘MBA in a Day’, which takes place at Ashridge six times a year.












PIONEERS IN GLOBAL MARKETS We teach state-of-the-art theory, immerse stu-dents in international experiences, and connect them to best practice in business and policy. INTERNATIONAL TO THE CORE Our students come from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and international experi-ences are built into our programs in partner-ship with major foreign schools and companies. EMPLOYMENT We have a strong record of placing our students in leading corporations and public sector institutions across the globe.


executives visit the School each semester through our CEO, Entrepreneurs, Corporate Responsibility and Real Estate forums. BOSTON: A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE AND STUDY Brandeis is in Boston, home to eight major research universities and to 250,000 students.




We would like to thank all the business schools that filled in our lengthy questionnaire and

encouraged their students and graduates to complete the separate questionnaire designed

for them. Thanks, too, to those schools that made available for interviews their faculty,

administrators and students during our editorial visits or took the time to visit the Economist

Intelligence Unit offices in London. Lastly, we are grateful to all the students and graduates

who contributed valuable comments on schools and programmes.


Invest in an MBA at Cass, and you’ll be putting your money where the

world’s business elite put theirs.

From our home in the City of London, we give our MBA students the best overview of the current thinking and practice of the world’s leading global businesses that make the City their home. It’s the most thrilling, total immersion ‘field trip’ designed to equip you for the real world. Whether you choose a 12 month full-time MBA or two year part-time Executive MBA, you will gain both the theory and practical skills to do business at the very highest level.

Find out more at a Cass MBA information session in London or meet us at a city near you. Call us on +44 (0)20 7040 8608, visit www.cassmba.com or e-mail cass-mba@city.ac.uk


Do your MBA where the

world does business


Welcome to the 2008 edition of

Which MBA?

which marks 20 years of the Economist

Intelli-gence Unit’s guide to the best business schools around the world.

The first edition was published in 1990 as one of a series of The Economist Publications

“Spe-cial Reports”, and

Which MBA?

has appeared, in various forms, every year since then. In that

time it has tracked and reported on the many ups and downs in the fortunes of the MBA degree

and business schools generally.

At the time it first appeared the MBA market was very different from what it is today. The MBA

was not widely known as a qualification and business schools, even those we now think of as

world leaders, were often little more than adjuncts to universities or rather exotic

“stand-alone” institutions.

The guide was designed to fill a gap. Information about business degrees and business schools

was hard to come by in that pre-Internet age and there were certainly no “rankings”. (The

Economist Intelligence Unit first ranked the top 100 schools in the world in 2002 in the 14th

edition, although it had for some years collected and published key data without going as far

as ranking programmes.) Today there is a proliferation of information but

Which MBA?


leads the way as the most comprehensive and authoritative guide to MBA programmes.

As in previous editions, this guide contains the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking of the

100 best full-time MBA programmes offered around the world as well as descriptions of over

100 business schools, details of part-time, executive and distance-learning MBA programmes,

data on faculty size, student intake, facilities, admission requirements and deadlines, tuition

fees and likely accommodation costs, and an outline of each school’s history, present

philoso-phy and future plans. For an interactive version of the rankings, visit www.which-mba.com.

The introductory chapters include a general overview of the MBA, including a look at the

cur-rent state of the degree, what employers are looking for in graduates, the state of the job

market and how business schools are responding to change. They also describe the different

ways of taking an MBA—full-time, part-time, executive, distance learning—with a discussion of

what each involves and their pros and cons. What to look for in choosing a particular MBA

pro-gramme or business school and the onerous admissions process are also explained.

We hope you find these pages informative and, above all, useful. We wish you success in

deter-mining which MBA is right for you.

George Bickerstaffe

August 2008



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Part 1

Part 1

Choosing a



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Part 1

Chapter 1

The MBA: riding out a storm

In the 20 years since

Which MBA?

was launched the MBA degree has seen many ups and downs,

many booms followed by inevitable busts. Through it all the MBA has proved itself remarkably

resilient, capable of adaptation and reinvention, matching its structure and the skills it

teach-es to the demands of the time.

At the moment it is going through yet another turbulent period as the global credit crunch and

rising oil prices have forced recruiters to scale back hiring plans. However, yet again this does

not—as yet at any rate—seem to have dented enthusiasm for the MBA, among either potential

students or recruiters of MBA graduates.

The number of GMAT tests being taken (always a good proxy of interest in taking an MBA since

almost all business schools require it) in the first five months of 2008 rose by 11% compared

with the same period in 2007.

The MBA job market

The job market for current MBA graduates also looks bright. In the Economist Intelligence

Unit’s 2008 survey of business schools for

Which MBA?

, careers offices helped place, on

aver-age, 90% of their students in jobs within three months of graduation; and over half of the

stu-dents we surveyed had received more than one firm job offer.

Despite rising tuition fees, the MBA still offers a more-than-reasonable return on investment.

Graduates on full-time programmes can expect a basic salary increase of 83% compared with

their pre-programme jobs. The average basic salary of a full-time graduate at the schools we

surveyed was US$93,972—a rise of almost 10% compared with last year. In Europe, where

stu-dents tend to have more work experience, the average salary broke the US$100,000 mark. Even

in North America, which has seen a swathe of job cuts in the financial services sector—a key

recruiter of MBAs—salaries were holding up well, with many schools reporting steady increases

on last year.

Table 1.1

Average starting salaries of recent MBA graduates

Salary, US$ % increase on pre-MBA salary

World 93,972 83

Asia & Australasia 74,864 94

Europe 106,733 85



Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Chapter 1

The MBA: riding out a storm

Part 1

Table 1.2

Average starting salaries of recent graduates from selected schools

School Salary, US$ % increase on pre-MBA salary

Asia & Australasia

Macquarie 121,719 39

Otago 112,464 64

Melbourne 98,424 139

Monash 95,833 40

Curtin 95,167 28

Hong Kong UST 78,307 139

Queensland 71,983 79

Indian Institute (Ahmedabad) 59,879 n/a

Japan 59,443 179 Hong Kong SB 57,727 102 North America Harvard 115,000 111 Pennsylvania (Wharton) 110,550 62 MIT (Sloan) 107,990 58 Dartmouth (Tuck) 107,406 78 Columbia 107,265 55 Northwestern (Kellogg) 104,100 55 Chicago 103,219 49

California at Berkeley (Haas) 101,859 57

Virginia (Darden) 100,575 55

New York (Stern) 100,376 65

Europe Ashridge 209,000 246 Henley 156,000 21 Warwick 134,200 109 HEC Paris 132,940 105 IMD 130,000 64 Oxford (Saïd) 130,000 58 Audencia (Nantes) 127,500 41 City (Cass) 127,290 76 UC Dublin 123,288 48 Strathclyde 120,000 33

Note: Guaranteed base salaries of graduates. Increase compared with pre-MBA salary. Local currencies converted using average exchange rates for 2008: US$1 = A$1.2, €0.73, HK$7.80, £0.5, NZ$1.36, Rs41.35, S$1.51, ¥117.76.


Chapter 1

The MBA: riding out a storm

Part 1

Where the jobs are and where graduates want to go

Not that salary is the be-all and end-all for MBA graduates. They are typically more likely to

consider things such as career or personal development than merely remuneration. They

are also becoming more inclined to put a greater emphasis on issues such work–life balance

or a company’s ethical background. One way that this can be seen to manifest itself is in the

number of schools that are placing students in not-for-profit organisations—80% in our most

recent survey. Impressive though this is, as Table 1.3 shows it is still well below the more

trad-itional recruiters, such as consulting or finance.

Table 1.3

Industry sectors recruiting graduates from the most recent graduating full-time MBA class

Sector %

Consulting, professional services 98.3

Banking, finance 96.6

Technology, media, telecommunications 94.1

Industry, engineering, manufacturing 93.3

Consumer, retail 91.6

Pharmaceuticals, healthcare 87.4

Non-profit, public sector 79.8

Entertainment, publishing 63.0

Are recruiters happy hirers?

The relatively benign jobs outlook for MBA and other business graduates reflects widespread

employer satisfaction with MBA recruits. Employers are said to especially value business school

graduates for their management knowledge and communications skills as well as the technical

and quantitative skills typical of MBA graduates.

Recruiters point to experience with earlier MBA hires to back up their sense that the MBA is a

valuable credential worth paying for. A survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council

found that the majority, 83%, said they were very or extremely satisfied with employees who

have MBAs. Nearly all the employers said they strive to provide challenging and interesting

assignments in an effort to retain the people they hire.



Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Chapter 1

The MBA: riding out a storm

Part 1

MBA: A brief history

Though often thought of as a “modern” phenomenon and frequently associated with the heady days of the 1980s boom and the dotcom crash of the late 1990s, the MBA is an old qualification. It first appeared in the US over 100 years ago, developing from the accounting and book-keeping courses introduced as the country lost its frontier image and began to industrialise. It was modelled on the standard American two-year postgraduate academic programme and most students enrolled straight after taking a first degree. This model won rapid acceptance and spread quickly.

However, half a century later, MBA programmes were being attacked for a lack of academic rigour and poor relevance to business issues. Two damning reports appeared in 1959, condemning American graduate management education as little more than vocational colleges filled with second-rate students taught by second-rate professors who did not understand their fields, did little research and were out of touch with business.

Business schools responded rapidly, raising both their admissions and teaching standards and establishing the now well-known American emphasis on academic research. The overall effect was the creation of the classic American MBA model: a first year of required “core” courses to provide a grounding in the basics of management, and a second year of electives to allow specialisation or deeper study.

At the same time, interest in management education was growing in Europe, especially in the UK, which was looking for an antidote to its economic and industrial decline. Business schools, intended as “centres of excellence” and modelled closely on American schools, particularly Harvard, were created within the universities of London and Manchester. The result was not greeted with enthusiasm. It has long been argued that the UK was wrong to copy a system that was then fairly new and was itself a response to particularly American problems. The insistence on an academic regime meant that business schools might ignore the contribution that business itself could make. This division of opinion between academic and industry-leaning business schools continues today. Not all institutions in Europe copied the American model. IMD, INSEAD, Henley and Ashridge were all started by groups of companies to provide management training. In France, the local and regional chambers of commerce played a big part in establishing and supporting business schools. The early 1990s saw a new wave of criticism of MBA programmes, this time focused on a supposed lack of relevance to modern business. The MBA was said to be too academic, too theoretical and divorced from real-life business practice. MBA graduates were criticised for adopting an analytical and quantitative approach to business issues when companies needed managers with more diffuse skills, such as leadership. Faculty were said to lack business experience and to be more interested in research than in providing business solutions.

If anything, this criticism has intensified during the early years of the 21st century. It has led schools, particularly in North America, to make further changes to the MBA programme design and curriculum, adding courses on so-called “soft skills” such as communications, leadership and interpersonal relations.

Other factors are also driving change. Recruitment of MBA graduates by management consultants and financial services has been in decline for some years and there has been a need to develop other job markets. The globalisation of business has made many of the MBA programmes in the US (where business schools were busy satisfying a huge domestic demand) look increasingly parochial. US schools also face increased competition from their European counterparts, which, because of the international nature of European society and the closeness of most schools to industry, are already meeting some of the criticisms.


Part 1

Chapter 2

What you will learn—core and elective subjects

MBA programmes generally break down into “hard” and “soft” skill sets. Chapter 3 looks at how

soft skills (such as negotiation, communication and leadership) are taught. This chapter

exam-ines the “harder” topics such as functional subjects and analytical tools.

The core

In most programmes hard topics are split into two groups: required courses, usually known as

the core, that nearly all students must take; and elective, or optional, subjects that students

can follow because they have a particular interest or career ambitions. The core is studied early

in the programme and electives later.

However, these are changing times for the MBA, and the traditional core is under pressure.

As outlined in more detail in Chapter 3, recruiters now assume that the hard subjects are well

taught and their real interest is in students’ competence in the more hard-to-define soft skills,

and that the real differentiator between schools is their ability to design and deliver these. As

a result there are now almost as many soft skill subjects included in the core.

In contrast, hard subjects are coming to be seen almost as a “commodity”—fairly standardised

and taught equally well in most business schools. However, while the core is far from a

defini-tive list of hard subjects, there is a general consensus on what it should contain. It reflects the

original aim of the MBA degree, which was to give students an overall understanding of the

many functional areas of a business so they could become good general managers. Although

they may have different names and some may be bundled together, the subjects are generally

those described below.

Financial accounting

Financial accounting provides students with the technical skills needed to obtain economic

and financial information about a company from publicly available sources such as annual

accounts. Students learn how to process this information and act accordingly. Generally, the

subject is taught from the perspective of users of the information, not its preparation by

quali-fied accountants and auditors.

Managerial accounting

Managerial accounting covers the use of accounting data for management decision-making.

This includes areas such as budgeting, product costing, performance evaluation and transfer

pricing (the costs attributed to goods and services sold within a multinational organisation,

particularly across borders). There is also usually a special emphasis on incentives such as

executive bonuses and the tax implications of various actions.



Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Chapter 2

What you will learn—core and elective subjects

Part 1


Finance is the core of the core. The main aim is to teach the various financial tools that are

available to monitor, control and project a firm’s performance. Areas covered include

forecast-ing techniques based on financial statement and ratio analysis, debt levels, capital structures,

discounted cash flow and the cost of capital.

Human resource management

HR (as it is universally known) covers the role of human resources policy as part of the strategic

planning framework of a company. Specific topics include recruitment and selection,

promo-tion, career development, performance-based evaluation and compensation policies.

Information management

Information and communications technology (ICT) plays a key role in many business functions.

This course generally looks at the issues involved in managing ICT, particularly choosing the

right technologies for particular applications and business needs.

Macroeconomics and microeconomics

Now often called managerial economics, this course deals with the interaction of a company

and its economic environment. Topics covered include supply and demand theory, market

envir-onments and the structure of markets.


This course covers the basic principles of the marketing function. Topics usually include

mar-keting planning, situation analysis, segmentation, targeting, positioning, the marmar-keting mix

and relationship marketing.

Organisational behaviour

Organisational behaviour (one of the softer of the hard subjects) provides an understanding of

how an organisation works and the behaviour of groups and individuals within it. Topics

cov-ered include group culture, managing performance, developing a corporate vision and

design-ing effective organisations.

Operations management

This course examines how to establish the processes that create a company’s products and

services. It also looks at ways of increasing competitiveness in terms of cost, speed, quality,

innovation, flexibility and dependability.


This course looks at how to develop the analytical tools needed to create successful strategies.

These include analysing an organisation’s competitive environment and learning how firms

develop and sustain competitive advantage over time.

Elective subjects

At some business schools, particularly in Europe, core courses make up the bulk or even the

whole programme. But in the longer two-year programmes, especially in the US, elective

courses are an integral part of the programme that students must complete.


Chapter 2

What you will learn—core and elective subjects

Part 1

In the past, elective courses made up the second year of a two-year programme. But they are

now increasingly being brought forward into the first year (another pressure on the

tradi-tional core programme). This is mainly so that students who want to change their careers can

gain some knowledge of their preferred subject before beginning the all-important internship

between the first and second years, when most permanent job offers are made.

The ability to take an in-depth specialisation means that MBA programmes of this sort can be

heavily customised to a student’s own interests. However, students should be aware that

busi-ness schools can sometimes be fickle about their elective offerings. The subjects offered may

vary from year to year (elective courses are often used to try out new ideas or reflect the

inter-est of a particular faculty member). Some electives may only be offered if there is enough

stu-dent demand and popular electives may be oversubscribed. Some schools, especially in the US,

have a bidding system to allocate places on as fair a basis as possible.

You should make sure you know what a school’s policy on electives is since these courses can

have an important impact on career prospects. Whether you want to take a wide range of

electives or specialise in one area, both the extent and the number of electives offered are

important, as is a school’s willingness to add extra classes if a particular subject becomes


Employers and core and elective subjects

The design of core and electives courses offered by business schools is closely linked to the

needs of MBA recruiters. According to the 2007

Corporate Recruiters Survey

by the Graduate

Management Admissions Council, academic achievement (acquired technical or quantitative

skills, strong academic success and specialisations or concentrations of study) is one of the

three key factors in hiring recent MBA graduates. The other two are leadership potential (as

shown by an applicant’s years of work experience, taking on increased job responsibilities,

leading teams and managing people) and prior work experience.

Employers say that an “ideal” hire with a graduate business degree should have on average five

years of work experience, be ready to accept an entry-level position, and rise up in the

com-pany by deepening their understanding of the business and proving managerial competency.

In other words, the “dream job” might better serve as a long-term goal to be reached gradually

by making and implementing daily decisions (rather than throwing out big ideas); effectively

managing a small team (rather than developing company-wide principles of workforce

man-agement); and, lastly, through getting the work done and positively affecting the company’s

bottom line.

In addition, according to the survey, employers look for candidates with good

job-hunt-ing skills. “MBA degrees do not exempt applicants from proper résumé preparation, e-mail

follow-ups using perfect grammar and thorough research about the hiring companies before

their interviews.”

Teaching methods

The MBA is different from other academic qualifications in that it is part academic and part

vocational and covers a wide range of subjects. The method of working is also different, a mix

of noisy classroom debate, intense individual reading and small-group working. All this takes

place in an atmosphere of high pressure caused by heavy workloads.



Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Chapter 2

What you will learn—core and elective subjects

Part 1

Three main methods of teaching are used in addition to traditional lectures: case studies (the

method was adopted from law schools, hence the name); project work (undertaken outside

the school); and group work (usually in sets of 3–6 people). Some schools use a mixture of all

methods, some use only one or two and a few rely exclusively on the case method. But

what-ever the mix there will be a lot of group working. Other common activities include computer

simulations, business games and role-playing.

Case studies

In the case-study method, all subjects, from accountancy and statistics to marketing and

cor-porate strategy, are taught using examples drawn from actual companies’ experiences

(occa-sionally cases may be fictitious, but they are always based on real-life events). These are

usually framed as narratives. Some have a mass of supporting data, relevant and otherwise,

and others have little. Students, like managers, are expected to respond based on what

infor-mation is available.

The virtue of this method is that it reflects the messy, cross-functional nature of business life,

where problems are not clear-cut and there are no right or wrong answers. Schools that use the

case method exclusively say that subjects such as accountancy can be taught via this method;

others argue that it is best suited to broader areas such as marketing or strategy.

The case method involves calling on a single student, or sometimes a group, to present to the

class an analysis of the dilemma contained in the case and the recommended action. The

sub-ject is then thrown open to discussion in which obsub-jections are made, alternatives are offered

and so on.

Cases take a lot of time and resources to find, study and write. Few schools could write all their

own cases even if they wanted to, and most use cases prepared by other schools as well as

their own. Harvard Business School, an almost exclusively case-method school, is probably the

most prolific source. The predominance of American cases from this and other North American

schools provokes criticism elsewhere that the case method results in an inappropriate cultural


Another criticism, especially from employers, is that the case method develops a habit of

con-centrating on the overview of management problems rather than the detail of how to solve


Nevertheless, case studies remain a stalwart part of MBA programmes throughout the world, if

only because they stimulate class discussion and force students to think for themselves (and

fast) about real business problems.

Group working

You do not take an MBA by yourself—you take it as part of a group. Since real work

increasing-ly involves multidisciplinary task-forces or teams, the schools want to emulate this. They also

want to put students in situations where competing demands have to be resolved to get the job

done. Some schools observe how students behave in groups and assess them accordingly,

fre-quently awarding grades on a group basis.

Groups work together on cases, presentations and projects. They are formed in the first term

or semester and generally consist of up to six individuals, either assigned by the programme

director or (more rarely) self-selected by the students. Assigned groups are deliberately

designed to reflect diversity of background, experience, academic ability and even character.


Chapter 2

What you will learn—core and elective subjects

Part 1

Groups may be rotated at set intervals to allow individuals to work with as many of their

class-mates as possible.

Although many students see group working as a useful and relevant experience, some

com-plain vigorously about other group members, dislike the extra effort that group work involves

and question its validity. In the busy schedule of an MBA programme, simply finding a time and

place for all to meet can be difficult.


Students at US business schools usually have to achieve a required standard in each subject

studied, typically a grade B or about 70%. Often this must be achieved as an average across

all subjects. Grades can be awarded for course work, assignments, class participation, group

work (where each student’s mark depends on others in the group) and formal examinations.

Some schools use a forced grading system, which means that, typically, 10% of students must

get the lowest grade. Students with 45% of all their results in the lowest grade are in trouble.

Schools in other parts of the world use a similar system, but with slightly more emphasis on

examin ations. Forced grading is particularly unpopular, mainly because students say it

encour-ages a highly competitive, unco-operative atmosphere.

Wharton’s new-style curriculum (1991)

The third edition of Which MBA? (1991) announced the arrival of what it described as “one of the most significant developments in MBA education in 30 years” and one also hailed by Business Week as “the MBA for the 21st Century”. Here’s what we said about Wharton’s then new curriculum at the time:

In general, Wharton’s new curriculum builds on the School’s traditional strengths in functional areas, but integrates them more effectively. It introduces new areas (such as geopolitics, innovation and entrepreneurship, and quality management), expands the School’s global focus and develops stronger leadership skills. There are a number of innovations in both content and structure: team-taught, cross disciplinary cases, tightly-focused 6-week modules, new disciplines such as Technology and Risk and Crisis Management, and an intensive international study tour. To ensure that all students meet the demands of this accelerated programme, Wharton has developed a unique 4-week pre-entry programme that provides advance preparation in both technical skills and the humanities.








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Part 1

Chapter 3

What you’ll learn—soft skills

“Soft skills”—communications, teamwork, leadership and so on—are the current buzz words of

MBA programmes (though they have been around as an issue for longer than you might think—

see box). Business schools are now insisting that students add such courses to an already

overcrowded curriculum because this is what recruiters say they want. In a recent Economist

Intelligence Unit study, it was soft skills—honesty, communication and people skills—and not

functional capabilities that topped the list of characteristics executives were looking for in

their most talented young managers.

One reason for this is that many recruiters (and business schools) believe that the main

func-tional core courses taught at business school (see Chapter 2) are now virtually a “commodity”,

with little difference in content or teaching methods (or skills) between schools. Adding soft

skills to the curriculum is becoming a way for a school to differentiate itself from its

competi-tors and attract the attention of recruiters.

Approaches to soft skills teaching

Of course, attributes such as leadership are not easy to teach. One of the first business schools

to take this kind of training seriously was the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of

Business. Its LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development) programme is a required

first-year MBA course and now takes up over 125 hours of a student’s time.

According to Chicago, the aim of LEAD is to improve students’ abilities to motivate people,

build relationships and influence outcomes. It does this through role play, team building, and

other creative activities and experiences. Interestingly, LEAD also offers a learning

opportuni-ty for some second-year students, who serve as course facilitators, presenting course material

and coaching and mentoring first-year participants.

IMD in Switzerland runs a similar course called Leadership and Personal Development, which

combines outdoor activities, personal leadership development and study of organisational

behaviour. IMD argues that outdoor exercises provide an effective method for developing

lead-ership in that they allow the exploration of the deeper determinants of individual,

interper-sonal and group behaviour and offer the chance to explore openly behavioural factors which

otherwise operate only in the shadows: “the more you step out of your comfort zone, the more

you will learn”.

Another element of the course involves students understanding their personal leadership style,

how they interact with others and in what situations their strengths are most effective. This is

done through in-depth self-analysis, with the use of personal coaching by a trained

psycholo-gist, personality tests, team-building exercises, study group feedback on individual strengths

and weaknesses and leadership style, and group exploration of what makes effective leaders.

This is then combined with the study of individuals and social systems through organisational

behaviour to refine a leadership style.



Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Chapter 3

What you’ll learn—soft skills

Part 1

Similarly, the new MBA curriculum at Stanford (see page 282) places a heavy emphasis on

teaching leadership and other soft skills, bringing executives into the classroom to relate

their experiences. Students take part in leadership simulations and other exercises, including

assuming executive roles and being assessed by senior alumni.

As this makes clear, not all soft skills can be imparted purely by business schools themselves.

There is also a role for business in helping to inculcate the values, attributes and competencies

it so loudly says that it is looking for. Business executives and recruiters need to be involved in

management education themselves. There are many ways business schools are helping them to

do this, including bringing in executives as adjunct faculty, student mentors or executives in


The second edition of Which MBA? (published in 1990 and written by Jane Rogers) surveyed MBA graduates, MBA recruiters and corporate HR specialists. Here’s what the survey revealed about “soft skills”:

There was considerable agreement about the key issues that MBA

programmes should be addressing in the future. 39 per cent of the recruiters and 43 per cent of the personnel directors [HR specialists] thought that leadership was the most critical issue while a further 26 per cent of the

recruiters and 31 per cent of the personnel directors thought that creativity and innovation were the second priority. This concern in human resources managers is not surprising—after all, their job is to develop future managers, but it contrasts with the very limited way most MBA programmes view the topic.

It is striking that many of the new programmes developed in conjunction with companies reflect this concern [while] flagship full-time programmes … are way behind. Business schools tend to concentrate on other areas which are important such as internationalisation … and management and control of information … because these subjects can be fitted into the traditional academic mould—leadership, creativity and innovation are altogether more messy.

The issue that graduates thought was the most important for MBA programmes to address in the future was leadership followed by management and control of information. The graduates were also concerned about the management of change and a variety of people issues including people management, ethics, social responsibility and broadmindedness. The implication is that graduates were happy that functional areas and analytical skills were covered effectively in their programmes but that they had become aware of other needs once they were back in the workforce.

In-company projects

However, perhaps the most important element is the in-company project. This is a compulsory

component of almost all MBA programmes, though the emphasis placed on it can vary. Some

schools, especially in Europe, such as Trinity College (Dublin) and Ashridge, build almost the

whole programme around projects. At Manchester Business School the so-called “Manchester

Method” reflects the school’s dedication to project work. Projects can help to instil some of the

softer business skills, such as leadership and interpersonal relations.

Elsewhere in Europe, the project often follows on from the taught part of the programme (and

may well take place with little input from the school) and concludes with a lengthy


disserta-Chapter 3

What you’ll learn—soft skills

Part 1

tion, reflecting the academic model of masters’ degrees in other subjects. Usually, students

undertake such projects individually. In part-time and executive programmes, the project is

often carried out within a student’s own organisation and is promoted as a key value to

spon-soring companies.

Other schools, including many in the US, build smaller and shorter projects into the structure

of the programme. This type of project normally consists of a consultancy-like task and is

ideal-ly of real value to the organisation in which it is undertaken. Students are divided into groups

of 2–4 and conduct research both within and outside the company. They prepare a report and

recommendations for action, which are often formally presented to corporate executives as

well as to business school faculty.

As part of their project work, students at London Business School (LBS) spend a week

observ-ing (“shadowobserv-ing”) managers at work and attemptobserv-ing to build an objective profile of their

management style. LBS says the shadowing project allows students to observe the challenges

faced by managers, appreciate the real world of managerial work by testing academic theories

against observed data, develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between

manager-ial style and organisational context, and reflect on leadership values.

Using practising executives

Many business schools are assiduous users of executives not just as objects of research but also

as adjunct faculty or at the very least as visiting speakers to address MBA students. In part their

success in doing so depends on their location. Schools based in large financial centres such as

London, New York or Shanghai usually have the most resources available.

Columbia Business School in New York is a good example. As the school is not slow to point

out, New York City acts as “a living laboratory”. Corporate stars are regular visitors on campus

to meet students and often work with faculty on research and teaching.

At Southern Methodist University (Cox) in the US, more than 200 executives and managers act

as mentors to students on the MBA and other programmes. Students can view the mentors’

professional biographies online and then nominate them as potential mentors. Once they have

met, student and mentor can decide how often they wish to get together and how the

relation-ship should be structured.

Executives in residence, who regularly teach courses or advise students, are particularly

popu-lar in North America. Mainly they serve for about year but it can be longer.


Part 1

Chapter 4

Different ways of taking the MBA

There are three distinct ways of taking an MBA: full-time, part-time (which includes variations

such as company MBAs and Executive MBAs) and distance learning. This chapter provides a

brief overview of each and points out some of the advantages and disadvantages.

Full-time MBAs

A full-time programme is what many prospective students regard as the “authentic” MBA

experience. It certainly offers advantages compared with other options. Studying an MBA

full-time gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the programme with few

distrac-tions from the learning process and in a stimulating atmosphere. Teaching faculty are usually

much more accessible than, say, on a part-time evening programme, where time for

out-of-class contact is limited.

Full-time programmes form the basis of the Economist Intelligence Unit ranking and they are

the only type of programme that fully delivers all four elements in our ranking criteria: career

opportunities; increased salary; networking; and personal development/education experience.

Part-time and executive MBA students are often sponsored so the career/salary issues are less

important, and distance-learning students may, by definition, find networking difficult.

Table 4.1

Why did you decide to study for an MBA degree?

(full-time students, %a)

To open new career opportunities 37

Personal development 21

To increase salary 14

To further current career 12

Educational experience 9

Potential to network 7

Company advice or requirement 1

a Importance accorded by students to each factor.

Full-time options (1-year, 2-year)

A full-time programme can take anything from ten months to two years to complete. In the

US most full-time programmes last two years, taught over four semesters (or sometimes eight

mini-semesters) of about 13–14 weeks in the winter and spring of each year. (This means that

they do not last two years in total teaching time, just two calendar years overall.) A variation

on the semester system is trimesters, or three periods in each of the two years (these are also

sometimes referred to as terms or, confusingly, quarters).

There is much greater variety outside the US. Some leading schools, such as London Business

School (LBS) and IESE in Barcelona, follow a two-year style programme, though with

consider-able flexibility. The LBS MBA lasts between 15 and 21 months; IESE’s programme is completed



Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Chapter 4

Different ways of taking the MBA

Part 1

in 19 months. At two other prestigious European schools—INSEAD in France and IMD in

Swit-zerland—programmes last under a year.

US schools have also tinkered with their programmes to reduce the time taken to gain an MBA.

Many now offer accelerated one-year tracks for students who have studied business or related

degrees at undergraduate level. Students take a short top-up course in business fundamentals

during the summer and then go straight into the second year.

The first year of a two-year programme is generally devoted to “core” courses dealing with

the fundamentals of business such as finance, accounting, marketing and so on (see Chapter

2). Increasingly, though, in response to student demand, schools will offer one or two

elec-tive courses in the first year to allow earlier specialisation that they can take into their summer


The second year is mainly a time for students to pursue their own interests or career objectives

by taking optional subjects, or electives. These, especially in the US, can (or sometimes must)

be grouped into specialisations, often known as concentrations or majors, that reflect

func-tional areas such as finance or marketing or even specific career goals.

Most also include in-company project work and softer elements such as leadership,

interper-sonal skills and general perinterper-sonal development, either as courses in their own right or as

paral-lel workshops and seminars.

However, two-year programmes only occasionally include the project-based thesis that is a

feature of many one-year programmes, particularly in the UK. Although so-called one-year

programmes vary considerably in length, they are all extremely intensive. Most of them follow

the same core/elective framework as two-year programmes.

Proponents of one-year programmes argue that the time spent face-to-face with teaching staff

differs little from two-year programmes, but their opponents respond that one year is not long

enough for issues to be covered comprehensively. It is certainly true that the intense pressure

of a one-year course is a good preparation for business life—where time management and

pri-oritising are essential skills—but the first year of a two-year programme can be just as

gruel-ling and effective.


Studying an MBA full-time will cost you a great deal of money. The directory section of this

book contains details of the costs at each school.

Costs for full-time students break down into three areas: tuition, living expenses and forgone

earnings. Note that tuition may not always include other business school expenses such as

textbooks, fees for the use of a gym and even such essentials as photocopying. Good schools

will make clear the scale of these additional costs.


As pointed out above, tuition costs vary greatly among schools. They are almost always

fea-tured on a school’s website. For an easy school-by-school comparison, look at the Appendix

tables on pages 322–32. Fees usually go up each year and may be finalised quite late.


Chapter 4

Different ways of taking the MBA

Part 1

In the 1990 edition of Which MBA? full-time programme tuition fees at MIT were listed at US$15,900, the equivalent to US$25,240 in today’s money. This year the fee is US$44,556—a measure of how the cost an MBA prices has risen since Which MBA? was first published.

Living expenses

For full-time students, tuition costs are only the beginning. They also have to find

accommoda-tion and fund their living expenses. Accommodaaccommoda-tion costs vary according to locaaccommoda-tion and some

examples are given in Table 4.2. Other expenses that need to be considered include health

insurance, networking (going for meals or drinks with other students or contacts) and overseas


Forgone earnings

Last, but by no means least, full-time students have to give up their salaries while they study.

Only a small number are sponsored by their employers. Although a typical MBA graduate from

a leading US school may expect a total salary (including bonuses) of around US$150,000–

160,000, he or she will have had to forego a pre-MBA salary of around US$55,000 for two

years. No wonder, then, that the payback period—the amount of time it takes to recoup the

total expenditure in gaining an MBA—is a topic of much interest to full-time students.

Table 4.2

Accommodation costs around the world, 2008a

City 3-room furnished apartment 4-room furnished apartment


Amsterdam €1,345 (US$1,842) €1,500 (US$2,055)

Barcelona €999 (US$1,368) €1,000 (US$1,370)

Brussels €850 (US$1,164) €1,200 (US$1,644)

Dublin €1,400 (US$1,918) €1,650 (US$2,260)

Frankfurt €1,500 (US$2,055) €2,850 (US$3,904)

Geneva Swfr2,600 (US$2,167) Swfr4,000 (US$3,333)

London £1,750 (US$3,500) £3,800 (US$7,600)

Lyon €720 (US$986) €650 (US$890)

Madrid €900 (US$1,233) €1,100 (US$1,507)

Manchester £580 (US$1,160) £800 (US$1,600)

Milan €1,230 (US$1,685) €1,460 (US$2,000)

Oslo Nkr11,000 (US$1,877) Nkr10,500 (US$1,792)



Which MBA? © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2008 Chapter 4

Different ways of taking the MBA

Part 1

City 3-room furnished apartment 4-room furnished apartment

North America

Atlanta US$875 US$1,650

Boston US$3,500 US$3,600

Chicago US$1,725 US$2,700

Cleveland US$725 US$1,100

Detroit US$1,275 US$1,715

Houston US$2,000 US$2,600

Los Angeles US$2,100 US$2,500

Mexico P20,000 (US$1,830) P30,000 (US$2,745)

Minneapolis US$750 US$1,600

Montreal C$1,200 (US$1121) C$1,500 (US$1,402)

New York US$6,000 US$6,000

Pittsburgh US$750 US$925

San Francisco US$2,095 US$3,000

Toronto C$1,850 (US$1,729) C$1,800 (US$1,682)

Vancouver C$1,513 (US$1,414) C$2,100 (US$1,963)

Washington, DC US$2,200 US$2,800

Asia and Australasia

Hong Kong HK$26,000 (US$3,333) HK$45,000 (US$5,769)

Melbourne A$2,380 (US$1,983) A$2,970 (US$2,475)

Perth A$1,600 (US$1,333) A$1,800 (US$1,500)

Shanghai Rmb17,000 (US$2,237) Rmb22,000 (US$2,895)

Singapore S$3,700 (US$2,450) S$5,800 (US$3,841)

Sydney A$3,000 (US$2,500) A$3,670 (US$3,058)

a Moderate cost accommodation taken from the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, June 2008, The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Part-time MBAs

Part-time programmes have always been an important part of the MBA market. Part-time

students usually attend classes in the evenings once or twice a week, at weekends, or both

(although there are many different formats and types of part-time programmes—see below).

Students may also spend short periods of time, generally a week, in residence on campus or at

other locations at some time during the programme.

Typically, part-time students are slightly older and have more work experience than their

full-time counterparts. This may reflect a different motivation for taking an MBA. Many part-full-timers

are seeking to advance their existing careers compared with full-time students, who are more

likely to be taking an MBA to change their career entirely. Equally, the majority of part-time

students try to persuade their existing employers to sponsor (or at least partially fund) their

degree. This is rarely the case with full-timers.





Related subjects :