WA JOINS THE TREND TO I NTENS I VE COURSE S
UNIVERSITY of Western Australia will offer an intensive one-year MBA course from next year in addition to the flexible course it has offered for 40 years and which can be spread over as long as five years part-time.
Professor Phil Dolan, dean of the UWA Business School, says the new MBA will fill a niche in the west coast market. “Traditionally, we have offered a part-time MBA program, evenings and weekends, designed for people who are in the workforce who can’t take the time off to study full-time,” he says. “But increasingly, around the world, the trend is toward intensive one-year full-time MBA programs. What has tended to happen is that people who’ve wanted to study on that basis have either gone to the east coast or offshore. We felt that it was time that we had a world-class full-time MBA program offered in the state.”
Dolan says the new full-time degree reflects the changes in the MBA market. “Full-time MBA programs are condensing down into one year, driven, we think, by the fact that there’s a very high opportunity cost in taking two years out of the workforce. The salary you forego is more than the cost of the program. There are still a small number of high-quality traditional two-year courses, places like Harvard and Stanford, but the broader market is increasingly moving to one year.”
In the traditional two-year Ivy League MBA model, says Dolan, the program breaks for summer, during which the students do an internship. Business schools are building an internship, work experience and a hands-on project into the program itself, meaning they can offer a one-year programs.
“That’s the approach we’re following, in that a big part of our full-time program will be what we call the ‘business advisory project,’ where students, in teams of four or five will go into companies and work on real-world problems – actual projects with a deliverable at the end – and the students will be assessed on that. We’re seeing that employers want the students when they come out to have actually put into practice in a real-world setting the material that they’ve learned in the classroom,” he says.
Companies have supported the program by offering to host teams in the business advisory project – like “having a mini-consulting team come in for three months, for free,” says Dolan – as well as placing hand-picked high-potential students into the degree, and providing scholarships: BHP Billiton has donated $1 million worth of scholarships for the $66,000 course.
Site visits to big resources projects – as well as related sites, such as the harbour at Port Hedland and Rio Tinto’s remote operations centre in Perth – are also part of the corporate support. Dolan stresses that this is “not a resources MBA” – although, as would be expected of a university bearing the name of Western Australia, there is a “resources bent,” and one of the specialisations available in the program is in the natural resources sector.
“That simply reflects the very close relationships we have with some of the biggest resources companies in the world, on our doorstep: just as Stanford is right in the middle of, and deeply associated with, Silicon Valley and the IT world,” he says. “We’d like to think this program has the potential to attract students from around the world who want to work at a high level in the resources sector. We’re hoping to attract students from countries where resources are a big part of the economy – that could be Brazil, South Africa, Canada.”