Magazine article Management Today

Degrees of Relevance

Magazine article Management Today

Degrees of Relevance

Article excerpt

Single-company and consortia MBAs strive for acceptance

Britain's employers have long had a fairly low opinion of that pinnacle of achievement in management education, Master of Business Administration. The MBA degree is widely held to be overly academic, theoretical and divorced from business reality. The business schools are strenuously trying to lay these criticisms. Since the late 1980s, many schools have moved towards single-company and consortia MBAs. But has the new relevance and practicality had to be paid for -- by loss of quality, perhaps, or transferability?

Certainly, it's difficult to conceive of a qualification more relevant to a particular business or job than a company-specific MBA. Lancaster University Management School has been running an MBA programme specially tailored to the needs of British Airways since 1988. More than 120 students have completed the 30-month course, which combines project work and classroom studies. 'The course material is designed to interlink with what is happening at BA,' explains programme director Julia Davies. 'As part of the organisational behaviour course, for example, we might look at culture change within BA.'

Juxtaposing theory and practice in this way is intended to bring direct and immediate benefit both to BA and to the MBA students. 'BA has been impressed by the impact on the organisation and on managers' development,' claims Davies. 'MBA students challenge what has often been taken for granted, and help BA look beyond where it is now.' From the students' point of view, the qualification is said to be comparable with MBAs gained elsewhere.

But single-company MBAs are not universally approved. The Association of MBAs (AMBA) does not accredit single-company courses, and some leading schools like Cranfield and London Business School have declined companies' proposals to lay on company-specific degrees. Professor Terry Hill, dean of the full-time MBA at LBS, explains: 'In single company courses it's very hard to guarantee sufficient numbers of suitably experienced and qualified people over time. The danger is that the acceptance criteria alter, and the value of the qualification falls.' LBS also sets great store by the international flavour of its open MBA programmes, and it's hard to match that kind of international mix in a single company. …

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