B-School Prof: MBA Programs Helped Trash the Economy

Business schools educate armies of bankers, investors and corporate finance executives. How come they don't feel responsible for the financial havoc that has ensued?

After the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, and then again, following 2008's financial crisis, there was a brief flurry of soul-searching among business schools. Then poof, gone. Business schools still don't seem to be grappling with what it is they're teaching that could have contributed to the biggest economic failure since the Great Depression. As someone who teaches at business schools in the U.S. and the U.K., I find this deeply troubling.

How can B-schools teach about organizational change and then fail to be examples of it?

How can professors advocate for rigor and then not demonstrate it themselves?

I fully appreciate that some schools are more advanced, creative and thoughtful than others but I remain puzzled by how little core curriculum and ethos have changed across the board. So here are the top questions I think every business school needs to address in order to help create top flight business leaders:

1.- Does business education need to be so expensive? Harvard estimates that its 2013 MBA students will need to find $84,000 for 9 months of education. Others argue you can get by on $60,000 per year. But if you take into account two years of lost earnings, you're looking at a cost of anywhere between $240,000 and $400,000 for your MBA. If you are carrying this as debt, you'll find that your MBA, far from enhancing your career prospects, has shrunk them - because there will be plenty of jobs you cannot afford to accept. Wall Street or large corporations are the only places you'll find the salaries you need to eliminate your personal debt.The prospect of such debt-ridden graduands risking everything they don't have on a start-up seems counter-intuitive at best. But if B-schools turn into Wall Street feeders, the cost in loss of intellectual freedom will be immense.

2.- Does business education really need two solid years? Most European schools now offer MBAs in 12 - 18 months, in modules, in part-time and executive programs. This is challenging for teachers because it means students take learning, apply it instantly and come back and report whether it worked or not.

I think those reality checks are fantastic and there's no doubt that my part-time students are invariably the most challenging. It also makes a two year program look bizarre. Moreover, one reason many schools have failed to get their female enrolment significantly about 25% is because women don't like the idea of taking so much time out of the workforce when they know they may have to do the same again if they have kids. The business environment is dynamic and fast-changing and two years out of it feels increasingly anachronistic...


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