Management Communication in Non-U.S. MBA Programs: Current Trends and Practices
Knight, Melinda, Business Communication Quarterly
A study of top-ranked, full-time, global MBA programs suggests that management communication is indeed both an important focus and component in the curriculum. The methods of delivery, however, do not seem to follow any particular model, such as the common U.S. practice of a separate program or department. Required courses are found at 10 of the 24 schools, including two at 2 schools. Elective communication courses are offered at 8 schools, and related courses, those with a communication component, appear at all but 1 school. Communication is perceived as being an integral part of overall management development and global leadership, as opposed to a skill that could be assessed via testing or other assessment.
Keywords: MBA curriculum; management communication instruction; global survey
MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION instruction reflects both local demands and global imperatives. As ABC becomes more international in scope, with conferences drawing members to sites around the world, we need increasingly to be aware of trends and practices in communication instruction in this global context. As one step toward that goal, I conducted a survey of highly rated, non-U.S.-based MBA programs that paralleled my earlier survey of such programs in the United States (Knight, 1999). This article reports on the results of that survey.
To select the sample programs, I consulted ratings compiled by four leading business publications: the 2004 Business Week "International Top Ten"; the 2004 Wall Street Journal list of 21 top international schools; the Forbes 2003 top 18 non-U.S, schools; and the top 50 of the 100 schools ranked by the 2005 Financial Times survey. Rating criteria have often been transparent for U.S. business schools but less so for international programs. For instance, Business Week, which started the whole ratings race almost 2 decades ago, relies on recruiter and student input, whereas the Wall Street Journal rankings are based on recruiter input as well as conversations with deans, career-services professionals, and business school associations. Only schools that attract a global mix of recruiters (from four or more countries) were included in the Wall Street Journal survey, which ranked international schools for the first time in 2004. Thus both Business Week and Wall Street Journal rankings primarily measure customer satisfaction, either student and recruiter or only recruiter.
Another major player in the ratings game, U.S. News & World Report (which rates only U.S. schools), uses ostensibly more quantifiable data, such as student performance and starting salaries, along with input from deans; the goal of this survey is primarily to measure a school's reputation. In a novel approach, Forbes looks at salaries and stock options for alumni in their first 5 years of work to calculate their return on investment. The Financial Times, which has been rating global MBA programs for 7 years, uses salary data from alumni 3 years after finishing their degree, diversity information obtained from the schools, and an assessment of faculty publications. Diversity is measured by such factors as international mobility of graduates and the demographics of students and faculty. Table 1 lists the 24 schools in the sample and the sources for their selection. It also notes, where appropriate, membership in the Community of European Management Schools and International Companies (CEMS), a prestigious consortium of 17 schools, mostly in Europe, and 50 multinational companies.
For consistency, I surveyed management communication instruction only in full-time programs, not executive, regionally specific, specialized, or part-time ones, and only in programs offering an MBA. A school's reputation, and thus its ranking, seems largely to depend on its full-time programs. Executive and regional programs offer great variety, along with very interesting institutional and corporate partnerships, and they probably contribute more revenue to the school, but these programs appeal to specialized audiences and are, in general, much smaller than full-time MBA programs. …