The University of Sydney Business School is seeking to recruit a highly diverse student cohort for its new full-time MBA program with a campaign delivering the message that “the traditional MBA is dead”.
“To thrive in this world, business leaders need skills that equip them to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty."
The School’s first full-time MBA program will begin in the second half of next year and run alongside its highly successful leadership oriented part time MBA which was launched in 2013.
“We are aware that this is a very crowded field, but it’s also one in which there is too much sameness,” said the School’s Dean, Professor Greg Whitwell. “We are a business school that wants to make a positive difference.”
The full-time MBA (Leadership and Enterprise) will be limited to 50 students per semester. The School believes they will be attracted by the University of Sydney’s “extremely strong brand” and the opportunity to develop leadership skills capabilities appropriate to the economically dynamic Asia Pacific Region.
Declaring the traditional MBA dead, the School’s MBA Director, Professor Guy Ford, said that in order to thrive in an increasingly complex world, students need to be offered more than standard MBA business oriented units of study.
“For a very long time, traditional MBA programs have tended to offer little more than modularised doses of business knowledge covering topics such as accounting, economics, management and statistics, to name a few,” Professor Ford said. “This approach is becoming less relevant in an increasingly complex and volatile world, where business models are changing rapidly.
“To thrive in this world, business leaders need skills that equip them to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. To do this, our program focuses on developing skills around creativity, critical analysis and a systems approach to problem solving. We also work to develop the personal and interpersonal skills needed to lead effectively.”
Professor Ford acknowledges that the full-time MBA market has generally been shrinking since the early 2000’s as newly minted undergraduates gravitate towards specialised masters programs such as the increasingly popular Master of Management.
However, he points to the success of the Business School’s part-time program and says that the School is now attempting to create a new market with a full-time MBA which is designed to appeal to people keen to build future enterprises.
Explaining the School’s decision to limit the program to a relatively small cohort, Professor Ford said that 50 ensured diversity while still allowing for a tailored learning experience and extensive experiential learning.
“While many schools proudly boast the large size of their programs, the fact is that with big numbers you’ve got little choice but to use traditional teaching/lecture formats,” Professor Ford said. “This leaves little room for genuine experiential learning”.
The Business School’s proposed full-time MBA program has been welcomed by the nation’s peak industry body, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) which represents the interests of more than 60 thousand businesses employing over a million staff.
“In the face of rapidly changing economic needs, the workforce increasingly requires higher order skills including creativity, critical analysis, problem solving and advanced communication skills. This is exactly what this new MBA program will tackle” said Innes Willox, CE of Ai Group.
“It is encouraging to see tertiary institutions, such as the University of Sydney Business School, being prepared to change and innovate with their new MBA,” Mr Willox added. “In particular, this new offering promises to be more industry oriented and directed at preparing participants for the jobs and industries of the future.”
Commenting on the proposed full-time MBA program, Professor Greg Whitwell declared that the School’s “fundamental mission is providing a transformative educational experience that prepares students for the jobs and the industries of the future”.
“This full-time MBA is symbolic of what we believe a business school should be doing in an era characterized by extraordinary changes in the scale, scope and complexity of forces such as digital technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, the peer-to-peer economy, and historically unprecedented demographic shifts,” Professor Whitwell said.
“We feel it is our responsibility to nurture future leaders who can thrive in a world subject to more change and uncertainty than ever before. A full-time MBA is an important vehicle for us to do so,” he said.
Professor Whitwell went on to say that students should be encouraged to ask questions about the “roles and responsibilities of business and to explore ways in which business can be part of the solution to problems such as sustainability, climate change and poverty”.
“Too many MBAs fail to raise questions such as what am I trying to achieve? What kind of difference do I want to make? And what kind of organization – with what kind of values and with what higher purpose – do I want to work for?” he said.
“We want to give our students not only the ability to respond to change but to be change agents.”
“Our MBA (Leadership and Enterprise) will be unique, it will be industry oriented and leadership focused and it will produce a new generation of creative business leaders with new skills, greater confidence, international experience and a capacity to deliver outstanding results on an increasingly complex global stage,” he concluded.