Meet the deans
THE HEADS OF FOUR LEADING BUSINESS SCHOOLS EXPLAIN THEIR STRATEGIES FOR STAYING ON TOP, INCLUDING MORE HANDS-ON LEARNING AND STRONGER LINKS TO ASIA.
The heads of four leading business schools explain their plans for staying on top, such as stronger links with Asia.
Melbourne Business School dean Zeger Degraeve took the job 18 months ago determined to enhance anMBA program that was already sitting high in rankings and surveys of Australian business schools.
An expert in creating organisational cultures that foster risk-taking and quality decision making, he had previously contributed to executive development programs for clients such as Chevron and Cadbury-Schweppes in Africa, Europe, Asia and the US.
During his 12 years at the London Business School, he was professor of decision sciences and rose to become deputy dean of programs. Then the Melbourne Business School caught his eye. Attracted by the calibre of academic staff, students and alumni, Degraeve arrived keen to help the school take full advantage of the opportunities offered by globalisation and Asia’s vibrant business world.
The revamped program now offers an intensive 12-month, full-time-MBA, in place of the traditional two-year course, and there is a strong emphasis on providing career services. As well as core units such as accounting, students are coached in a vast array of personal skills and immersed in cross-cultural situations – not only working with people from different cultures, but across academic disciplines. There are more than 40 top-level international-school exchange partners and each MBA course group completes a consultancy project in Shanghai.
“We attract students from all over the world, and by working with those classmates on a range of projects, they develop an ability to work with people whose laws, values, styles of leadership or even ways of speaking might seem alien or hard to understand,” the Belgian-born Degraeve says.
The timing is important. With business schools in Asia growing rapidly in number, stature and ambition, Australia’s leading full-time-MBA programs need to stay competitive. According to the latest
GraduateManagement Admission Council survey, students evaluate the manyMBAs on offer on the basis of access to an alumni network, the quality of career services, and the percentage of the class receiving job offers. To remain attractive, the GMAC survey states, business schools must “get inside the heads of their target markets”.
The Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of NSW’s Australian School of Business is doing just that. Dean Geoffrey Garrett has been in the job for eight months and understands the need to maximise opportunities.
“Our full-time program is the highestranked Australian program in the Financial
Times Top 50 global rankings,” he says. “But we haven’t embraced – and I don’t think any Australian university has embraced – the challenge and opportunity of the Asian century enough.”
Being in the Asian time zone, Garrett believes it’s time to re-orient business training. “We already have a course in ourMBA that takes students to Asia to better understand the business context, but there is scope to do a great deal more.”
Garrett wants to expand the ASB’s MBA course in Hong Kong to make it a platform for Australian students to step into work experience in the southern Chinese cities of Shenzhen or Guangzhou.
“The dynamic Pearl River Delta area is going to become an 80-million people mega-city. You want students not just in a classroom, but being out with Chinese people and working in Chinese businesses.”
The part-time MBA is being restructured to better meet the needs of the ballooning number of busy students with full-time jobs. This year, there were slightly more than 50 full-time MBAs but 1500 (mostly local) part-time students. The part-time executive course will gradually increase the amount of online course work offered for technically based core subjects, while face-to-face interactive sessions, in which students learn about and practise a suite of leadership skills, will be maximised in intensive blocks of a week or so.
The University of Queensland Business School surprised its heavyweight competitors last year by leaping to the front of the regional pack in one survey, ranked by The Economist as the top MBA provider in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and 27th globally.
Andrew Griffiths, previously leader of the school’s “strategy cluster”, was appointed dean earlier this year. He attributes the strong performance to an inflow of talented professionals drawn to Queensland’s mining boom and the assiduous building of alumni relationships.
“We have something like 35,000 alumni spread across the world and we’ve actively gone to key locations in North America, Europe and Asia,” he says. “This has meant we can deliver a range of services that attracts high-quality students and international faculty to teach and research with us. So it’s a virtuous circle.”
UQBS student numbers have doubled over the past three years, with Australians making up 85 per cent of the student body. They are offered immersion programs – one group heads off this month to India. That visit will be reciprocated when the Indian School of Business sends a group of students to Australia.
A prime offering at UQBS is that selected students are placed into consulting teams with MBA students from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School. They complete a US market entry or expansion project over a 13-week period for a paying Australasian company.
The school’s Social Economic Engagement Program is voluntary, and does not count towards course credits, yet student enrolments have more than doubled since it began a few years ago. One group recently returned fromColombia, where it collaborated with students from Javeriana University in
Bogota, assisting people in the city’s slum areas to establish small businesses. As a result, Javeriana is establishing its own social entrepreneurship course, and UQBS students will return next year to monitor the results.
“[Students] really enjoy this ability to give back,” Griffiths says. “But they also see this experience as a differentiator. And when they go out into themarket, employers are asking them about these pro bono projects and are more interested in them than grades.”
Relationships between Australian schools and overseas universities are highly sought after by students. The UTS Business School in Sydney has a long-standing undergraduate degree run jointly with Shanghai University. Dean Roy Green, a noted specialist in management and workplace innovation, spoke to the deal from Shanghai, where UTS is exploring joint postgraduate opportunities.
According to Green, UTSMBAs are quite distinct from traditional courses, whose foundations date from the 1970s. Its MBA programwas created in the 1990s and is more geared to the demands of global businesses.
“Traditional MBA programs tend to be about management proficiency in functional areas and specialisations, but UTS emphasises boundary-crossing skills such as leadership, communication, problem solving and critical thinking.”
Green says this emphasis will be developed into design and integrative thinking. “We are making use of a ‘living lab’, the u.lab, which is partly modelled on such initiatives as the d.school in Stanford, DesignWorks at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and Design Factory at Aalto University in Finland,” he says, referencing design schools that foster innovation.
“This is also exemplified by our new Integrative Business Consulting project, which was introduced last year in collaboration with the Fox School of Business in Philadelphia. This enables student teams to undertake real consulting exercises with selected companies under the supervision of industry mentors.”
There is a broad recognition in theMBA sector that social responsibility is a critical part of leadership preparation in a globalised business world. With the reputational damage
EMPLOYERS ARE ASKING STUDENTS ABOUT THEIR PRO BONO PROJECTS ANDAREMORE
INTERESTED IN THEM THAN GRADES.
of tragedies such as the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh still fresh, and the global financial crisis being sheeted home to MBA graduates triggering the sub-prime crisis, the trend towards ethical leadership and business training in Australian business schools is emphasising the concept of “shared value”.
MBAs are still passports to high salaries and fast-tracked careers, but the emphasis is shifting to different skills – adaptive thinking, innovation, entrepreneurship, cultural understanding and ethical behaviour.
UTS Business School dean Roy Green (top); Australian School of Business chief Geoffrey Garrett (above left); and the University of Queensland’s Andrew Griffiths.