The Case Method at the Harvard Business School: Papers by Present and Past Members of the Faculty and Staff

By Malcolm P. McNair | Go to book overview

Finally, among the numerous questions about the case method still remaining unanswered, there is sure to be that large and important one, "How much does it cost, and how do you finance those costs?" In the last paper in this volume Arthur H. Tully, Jr., addresses himself to this question.


The Financing of Case Collection

ARTHUR H. TULLY, JR.

The great success of the Business School during the war years in training supply officers for the armed services and analyzing many logistic problems might be said to justify those who see this faculty of the University as the one academic group which knows how to teach "administration." I realize, of course, the strenuous objections that many graduates of our Law School now serving the Government in administrative posts would make to any such contention.

Interesting evidence, however, is afforded by the brilliant record of the Advanced Management course of thirteen weeks offered to business executives in the last ten years. Furthermore, the testimony of employers and alumni is almost unanimous as to the value of the regular two-year course for those who are going to enter business. As one who has done little more than observe and applaud this Harvard development, I suggest the key to the success has been the insistent and persistent use of the highly expensive case method of instruction.--JAMES D. CONANT

The foregoing quotation from James Bryant Conant's final report as President of Harvard to the Board of Overseers, for the year 1951-52, seems an appropriate setting for this paper on the costs of the "highly expensive" case method and the means by which they have been defrayed. Administrators of schools or university departments who contemplate adoption of the case method frequently ask, "How much per case does it cost?" No categorical answer to that question is feasible, unfortunately, but an effort will be made to show that case collection is costly, to indicate roughly how expensive it is, to explain how the costs have generally been met in the past, and finally to describe the current vital role of The Associates of the Harvard Business School as financial sponsors of case and project research.

Gathering complete case histories of actual business problems faced by specific companies has been a continuous process supported by a variety of sources in the past but currently financed entirely through funds provided by The Associates of the Harvard Business School. These cases are the lifeblood of the School's method of instruction, under which the student gradually acquires the ability to recognize the existence of problems, to apply the reasoning needed for

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