Best case scenarios
UNIVERSITIES ARE FINDING INNOVATIVE WAYS TO MEET STUDENT DEMANDS FOR MORE HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE.
Students increasingly expect to graduate with key industry contacts and hands-on strategic experience.
Strong connections with the corporate world are becoming a key attraction for some of the top MBA programs, as students increasingly expect to graduate with useful business contacts and real-world learning through “living case studies”.
The University of Western Australia Business School boasts strong ties with Australia’s top mining and energy companies, including BHP Billiton, Woodside and Rio Tinto, as well as partnerships with Alcoa, Mirvac, Ernst& Young, ANZ, Mitsubishi and law firm Allens.
The school’s advisory board includes Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman, Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder, BHP Billiton iron ore president Jimmy Wilson, Westpac director Robert Elstone, Alinta chairman Tony Howarth and the chairman of Macquarie Group’s WA operations, Mark Barnaba. Michael Chaney, the chairman of NAB and Woodside, is the university’s chancellor.
Associate professor Paul Crompton, the director of postgraduate programs at UWA’s business school, says having such a strong board allows the school to bring high-profile speakers into the classroom. “[They] really put us in contact with the business community in Western Australia,” he says.
The UWA business program’s links to the resources industry will be further strengthened next year, when it will offer seven new MBA units focusing on the sector. The industry will provide strong input on course content and high-level guest speakers.
Crompton says that MBA students now expect courses to deliver direct contacts with potential employers. “Students are looking for a job and they want to build connections with industry. A lot of them have reached middle management and they are looking to progress further. TheMBA will help them take the next step.”
UWA’s MBA is a $48,000 part-time program, delivered over weekends and evenings. The university will offer a oneyear, full-time course from 2015. “We are talking to companies in Perth about putting their employees through the program. We are also getting support from the corporate community in terms of scholarships.”
Guy Ford, deputy dean of the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, says its MBA students take part in “living case studies”, in which students tackle real issues for companies as quasi- consultants. “MBA students want to develop their leadership capabilities and acquire a global perspective,” Ford says. “They need to develop new global businesses and understand and work with diversity and cultural differences. We have global corporations coming to the school with a problem or an issue and the MBA students can help deal with that issue.”
Students at Macquarie pay more than $ 60,000 for their MBA. Under the “living case studies” program, companies do not pay for the consulting services, but they commit to providing senior executives to work with the students on a regular basis. “Students love hearing from chief executives on issues, but they want to work on projects that offer practical and strategic experience.”
Some of the projects involve change management issues or advising a company on breaking into a new market. A recent case study involved working with the oncology arm of Pfizer on product development and the pharmaceutical giant’s relationship to the federal government’s pharmaceutical benefits
STUDENTS LOVE HEARING FROM CHIEF EXECUTIVES ON ISSUES, BUT THEY WANT PRACTICAL AND STRATEGIC EXPERIENCE.
scheme. Another project involved advising telecommunications company BT Global on issues it faced in developing newmarkets in Asia-Pacific. “The firms get access to students with very diverse views and experiences.”
University of Western Australia associate professor