T R ADI T ION CHAL­LENGED

Re­duced de­mand and com­pe­ti­tion from Asia is re­shap­ing the cour­ses busi­ness schools of­fer Aus­tralia’s ca­reer builders

The Australian - The Deal - - First Up - S T ORY B Y : J A ME S D U N N

AUS­TRALIA has a thriv­ing Mas­ter of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion mar­ket with al­most 70 in­sti­tu­tions of­fer­ing mas­ters of busi­ness de­grees cost­ing up to $75,000. But with more uni­ver­si­ties of­fer­ing their own busi­ness spe­cial­i­ties and cor­po­rate con­nec­tions, prospec­tive stu­dents are be­ing urged to take into ac­count a range of fac­tors to make sure they get value for money. With the high cost of be­ing out of the work­force, there is in­creas­ing in­ter­est in ac­cel­er­ated cour­ses in­stead of the tra­di­tional two-year, full-time MBAs.

“The most ex­pen­sive and pres­ti­gious busi­ness schools don’t al­ways de­liver the big­gest bang for your buck,” says Ross White, ed­u­ca­tion data man­ager at Hob­sons, pub­lisher of The

Good Uni­ver­si­ties Guide to MBAs. “Prospec­tive MBA stu­dents need to con­sider how much their MBA costs and en­sure that the rat­ings achieved by the busi­ness school and MBA are strong enough to jus­tify the ex­pense.”

And it can be ex­pen­sive. Aus­tralian fees range from about $18,650 at Cen­tral Queens­land Univer­sity to $75,000 at the Mel­bourne Busi­ness School (Univer­sity of Mel­bourne), although the on­line of­fer­ing from the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Busi­ness comes in at $18,000. (Mel­bourne Busi­ness School’s

se­nior ex­ec­u­tive MBA course is the most ex­pen­sive of­fered in the coun­try, clock­ing in at $120,000 for a 14-month course.) Ex­clud­ing ex­ec­u­tive MBAs, the av­er­age course in Aus­tralia will set a stu­dent back $40,671. The Univer­sity of New South Wales ($72,960), Mac­quarie Grad­u­ate School of Man­age­ment ($65,600), Monash Univer­sity ($60,000) and Univer­sity of Sydney ($60,000) round out the five big­gest-ticket MBAs.

But White says stu­dents “don’t al­ways get what they pay for” in the MBA realm. “Lower-fee MBAs and busi­ness schools are ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing rat­ings that match or ex­ceed those with higher fees. Ide­ally stu­dents should be look­ing for a mix of brand ca­chet ver­sus value for money: one with the best cor­po­rate links, the best salary and the best stu­dent co­hort – the most qual­i­fied peers,” he says.

Stu­dents take on an MBA course to ad­vance their ca­reers and, thus, their re­mu­ner­a­tion. And on that count, the cor­re­la­tion ap­pears to stand up. The 2013 QS TopMBA.com Global Em­ployer Sur­vey shows Aus­tralian MBAs are the high­est paid in the world, bring­ing in an av­er­age of $US133,100, with Switzer­land and Den­mark sec­ond and third. De­spite the rep­u­ta­tion of top MBA cour­ses in the United States, the av­er­age US MBA grad­u­ate makes less than $US100,000.

Vic­to­ria O’Con­nor, prin­ci­pal of in­for­ma­tion web­site MBA So­lu­tions, says de­mand is “mixed,” with most uni­ver­si­ties re­port­ing re­duced de­mand for “tra­di­tional MBAs”, the full­time, two-year de­gree, and greater in­ter­est in “ac­cel­er­ated” cour­ses that can be com­pleted in 12 to 18 months.

Bob O’Con­nor, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness at Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, says his univer­sity is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing “very strong” de­mand. “I think what is driv­ing that here in Queens­land is the soft­en­ing of the econ­omy: peo­ple are in­vest­ing in their ca­reers, tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to study while busi­ness is not as fran­tic as it has been in the last five or six years.”

Vic­to­ria O’Con­nor says more uni­ver­si­ties are of­fer­ing blended learn­ing – some on­line work, ei­ther as part of faceto-face work, or even on­line alone. More are in­clud­ing “soft skills” in their cour­ses. And there is a strong de­mand for spe­cial­ist busi­ness ar­eas, she says, with cour­ses now of­fer­ing more spe­cialised pro­grams, such as oil and gas, hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism, phar­macy man­age­ment, and e-mar­ket­ing.

Some of this change re­flects the fact that man­age­ment it­self re­quires the “soft skills” to be fully ef­fec­tive, says Laura Bell, as­so­ciate dean, aca­demic pro­grams, at Mel­bourne Busi­ness School. “Man­agers need a per­sonal ef­fec­tive­ness skill-set, too – things like be­ing able to deal with con­flict. In the real world, you have to work with peo­ple, and if you’re not emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent and you don’t know how to be­come a leader, your ef­fec­tive­ness is go­ing to be lim­ited.” Bell says Mel­bourne Busi­ness School has a “very com­pre­hen­sive per­sonal ef­fec­tive­ness pro­gram” for its full-time stu­dents. “We work with them be­fore they get here, we un­der­stand where some of their po­ten­tial de­fi­cien­cies are, and we work out for them the ar­eas where they need help,” she says.

Bob O’Con­nor says most uni­ver­si­ties are “tweak­ing” their MBA of­fer­ing to have a dif­fer­en­tia­tor, of­ten by tar­get­ing cer­tain in­dus­tries. “Ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion is try­ing to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. We have a num­ber of spe­cial­i­sa­tions, in what we call com­plex pro­gram lead­er­ship, and in­ter­na­tional lead­er­ship, and strate­gic pro­cure­ment. Pro­cure­ment is one of the last bas­tions of re­form that can still de­liver sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tiv­ity to an or­gan­i­sa­tion, and that’s a dif­fer­en­tia­tor for us. But, at the end of the day, though, these are spe­cial­i­sa­tions built as an ad­di­tion to a core. We’re talk­ing about tweak­ing 20 to 25 per cent of the pro­gram.”

Pro­fes­sor Mile Terziovski, dean of the Curtin Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness, says his univer­sity also of­fers an MBA in strate­gic pro­cure­ment, as well as one in oil and gas, in part­ner­ship with the Aberdeen Busi­ness School ( part of Robert Gor­don Univer­sity) to de­liver shared con­tent in the MBA (oil and gas man­age­ment) pro­gram. “Given that we are a Western Aus­tralian univer­sity, there is huge de­mand from the large cor­po­rates in Perth for this type of spe­cial­i­sa­tion, so that’s some­thing that we’re fo­cus­ing on quite heav­ily. But it is built on the tra­di­tional MBA, it doesn’t re­place it.”

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