A controversial issue is spreading among business schools when the London School of Economics launched its management department and didn’t include any form of Master of Business Administration (MBA) course in its programs.
It was in 2006 when LSE decided to dismiss MBA, which later on sparked outrage among professors and students. Professor Saul Estrin the head of the department who made the ruling said, “They put me on the rack.” Americans who were members of LSE disagreed the most. They feared replacing MBA with a masters degree in management would lower down the reputation of business schools.
However, the decision of LSE was based on a shred of evidence, which eventually worked out for the school. Currently, LSE has more than 600 masters students, and the school incorporated part-time masters in management as its strategy to compete with rival schools that offer an Masters of Business Administration program.
Anne Massey was about to get her deanship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s business school in October 2017 when plans about canceling MBA programs leaked. A barrage of complaints from students and alumni strewn when people heard the news, but Massey said that proposals got dismissed. A week after Massey’s statement, she resigned.
According to the AACSB, in a survey conducted among 661 institutions accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, only 79 do not offer MBA in any form. It just shows, a full-time MBA program remains a flagship course across many schools.
However, several schools have recently dropped full-time MBA courses, while a few new institutions opened without Master of Business Administration programs. Some of the schools that decided not to offer MBA as part of their strategy to cope up with changing business education demands include the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, King’s College London, and Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
According to Professor Estrin, it’s possible for schools to survive without an MBA program. In fact, ten years ago Prof Estrin decided to stop offering MBA to students when employers told him that they wanted to hire employees as soon as they graduated from so they can send the new hires to internal training programs. Typically, Masters in Business Administration Students who begin working before they go to business schools are considered “less malleable.” As mentioned by Prof Estrin in a statement from FT, employers wanted to hire people with “more specific sets of skills, such as critical thinking.”
There had been notable changes in the number of MBA enrollees across various schools. At the Wake Forest University School of Business, 123 students declined to 98 within five years before the school decided to close the program in 2014. According to dean Charles Iacovou, the schools based the decision on the inability to sustain the program financially.
However, when the Wake Forest University offered part-time MBA courses in the evening and during weekends, they saw a 44 percent rise in the number of enrollees. Currently, there are now MBA 321 students in the two campuses combined.
Wake Forest launched a course for specialist masters in business analytics in 2016 with an initial plan to enroll 25 students. From 25, the number of students became 39 as the program received too many top-quality applicants that they had to change plans. The year after, the number of students grew even more substantial, reaching a total of 67 students in 2017. The school then started offering a part-time version of the course.
“We recognized this key change in the marketplace,” Mr. Iacovou said in the statement.
In 2017, the dean at Tippie, Sarah Gardial announced the closure of the school’s full-time MBA program. According to the dean, the decision was based on the economic factors when running the course. The declining economy of full-time Masters of Business Administration programs was a crucial aspect of the ruling. Besides dean Gardial, two previous deans had the same decision.
The closing of MBA at Tippie wasn’t taken lightly by the alumni and the students. Many had violent reactions about the decision; some of them even expressed their anger on social media.
“In those first 48 hours it was ugly,” Gardial said in a statement with FT.com. “Telling them that we would be investing in other forms of programme and that staff would not be losing jobs did not wash.”
Dean Gardial shared the data with the students and the alumni showing that running a full-time MBA course resulted in a $1m loss a year, excluding the costs used for faculty staff. People calmed down upon knowing the information.
As Ms. Gardial mentioned, the school’s full-time MBA program will be replaced by specialist masters courses as degrees in business analytics continue to succeed. Since 2014, there had been a 517 percent growth in the number of applicants in such classes.
“A lot of the students for these courses are working professionals who are coming back to enhance their skillsets,” Ms. Gardial said in a statement with FT. The dean believes there’s a constant need for life-long learning.
Ms. Gardial added that ever since Tippie decided to close down their full-time MBA courses, other deans started considering the same move.
“I am not a champion of closing full-time MBA programs,” the dean said in the statement. “What I am is a champion for responding to new demands in the marketplace.”