Three cheers for the part-time MBA! It is not a refrain you are likely to hear every day, I have to admit. But why does the full-time MBA receive all the accolades while part-time programmes are met with a rather embarrassed silence, even though the degree received by graduates is often the same?
This might seem an odd thing to write about in a magazine dedicated to the full-time degree, but I think it is worth asking the question. Why has the part-time MBA always been the Cinderella of the MBA market, and can and should that change?
It strikes me there is a real case to answer here. For what everyone has learnt in the past decade is that the MBA market has to offer more flexibility to students; it has to make better use of technology; it has to be more affordable; and participants need the security of a job at the end of the process. A further point is that there are too few women on traditional MBA programmes, and there is evidence that part-time programmes might help redress that balance.
But the one thing that has convinced me the part-time MBA should be revisited is a comment I heard some years ago from Kim Clark, the former dean of Harvard Business School, whose MBA is ranked number one in the world by the FT this year. He said that students do not turn down a seat at HBS to go to another business school; they do so because they have great opportunities at work.
As economies recover around the world, this is clearly going to become a bigger problem, as corporations bid to retain talented staff. They may even be persuaded to sponsor part-time MBA students as part of that process.
Of course, this idea is not new. When the Fuqua school at Duke University in North Carolina launched its Cross-continent MBA more than a decade ago, the then dean Rex Adams described the part-time degree targeting managers in their late twenties as hitting the sweet spot.
There are other very successful part-time programmes out there, often called Executive MBAs, that cater to this market. At Iese Business School, for example, the average age of participants on the Madrid EMBA is 31 similar to those studying on a full-time MBA at Insead. And whatever business school I talk to, from France to Australia, part-time and executive MBAs are booming, while full-time degrees flounder...