In defense of the Master of Business Administration

With more voices emerging to denigrate the Master of Business Administration (MBA) course of study, Jon Foster-Pedley, dean and director of Henley Business School Africa, has come to the defense of the MBA.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that the golden era for US business schools is over. It comes to join the growing criticism of thje MBA design and its relevance. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis which is said to have been cooked inside boardrooms, the MBA has been branded as a weapon of mass destruction.

Some of the reasons cited in the Wall Street journal are the high costs of the MBA with many schools charging $100 000 (more than R1 million). The two-year commitment was also described as too long.

The Wall Street Journal article also implied that some business schools are out of touch with today’s practical business challenges, focusing too much on theory.

Foster-Pedley says the trend in Africa is contrary to the Wall Street observation. “There is growing demand in South Africa for MBA courses, even from countries as far as Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. Companies in Africa continue to favour applicants with an MBA qualification and there appears to be no falling in demand,” he says.

“Traditional learning, to some extent, has been too theoretical. Interactive learning, which enables students to apply what they have learnt, is what employers want. For example, our Managers Accelerated Progression (MAP) course assigns students to an NGO where they apply what they have learnt, assisting the NGO with their specific challenges and allowing students to gain practical experience. Our MBA course encourage students to apply their knowledge to their own business.”

Henley is of the opinion that intelligence and education don’t necessarily go hand in hand. “People can be educated but lack business intelligence and vice versa.”

“Applicants are demanding a quality education that stimulates intellectually but also provides practical experience. Principles need to be applied, not just taught.”

Mr Foster-Pedley says the business landscape is changing from the focus traditionally being on business growth to issues around transparency, governance and the nullification of fraud and corruption, and Henley has kept abreast of this.

“Our goal is to ultimately equip our future and current business leaders with the business tools and ethics to move South Africa forward in the global business market. We are also extending these objectives to the rest of the Africa region,” he says.

“Although business schools in the US may be feeling the pinch, for us in South Africa we are seeing an expanding market. In Africa, we are finding that students have the capacity and desire to learn and grow, and contribute to Africa as a powerful emerging economy.”

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