OPEN A LL HOURS

Mac­quarie’s MBA course lets stu­dents jug­gle the pres­sures of study, work and fam­ily

The Australian - The Deal - - First Up - S T ORY B Y : S U E O ’ R E I L LY

SYDNEY busi­ness­woman Karen O’Con­nor (pic­tured) was half­way through her part-time MBA at Mac­quarie Univer­sity’s Grad­u­ate School of Man­age­ment when she gave birth to twins. But she man­aged to jug­gle all the com­pet­ing de­mands on her time and en­ergy.

“One of the ma­jor rea­sons I chose to do my stud­ies at Mac­quarie Univer­sity’s Grad­u­ate School of Man­age­ment was be­cause its MBA de­gree course is just so flex­i­ble, of­fer­ing lec­tures at nights and week­ends as well as dur­ing nor­mal work­ing hours,” O’Con­nor says. “I was able to start quite slowly, study­ing on a part-time ba­sis while also work­ing in a very de­mand­ing job. Plus I never found the course re­quire­ments hard be­cause it was all just so in­ter­est­ing.”

As MBA stu­dents, of­ten in their late 20s and 30s, seek to jug­gle the pres­sures of study, work and fam­ily, uni­ver­si­ties are find­ing that hav­ing flex­i­ble stu­dent op­tions is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant.

O’Con­nor be­gan her MBA stud­ies part­time in 2004 while work­ing as group mar­ket­ing man­ager of a $70 mil­lion sur­gi­cal sup­ply busi­ness with four other mar­ket­ing man­agers and re­port­ing to her. She first grad­u­ated from Mac­quarie Univer­sity with a Mas­ters of Man­age­ment in 2011, fol­lowed by her MBA in 2012. The key to mak­ing it all pos­si­ble, O’Con­nor says, is max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity in both lo­cal work­place and univer­sity course­work re­quire­ments – com­bined with de­ter­mi­na­tion, a will­ing­ness to work very hard, and, ide­ally, if there are young chil­dren, an ex­tremely sup­port­ive part­ner.

Ac­cord­ing to Mac­quarie Univer­sity’s Pro­fes­sor Charles Areni, the rapid rise and in­creas­ing pres­tige of Asian uni­ver­si­ties, par­tic­u­larly in China, means max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity for Aus­tralian-based stu­dents will be es­sen­tial if all ex­ist­ing Aus­tralian univer­sity MBA of­fer­ings are to sur­vive in the medium to longer term.

Over­all, Aus­tralian univer­sity grad­u­ate man­age­ment and busi­ness schools have ex­pe­ri­enced a fall in over­seas stu­dent en­rol­ments of 10,000 in the past few years, Areni says, a wor­ry­ing trend only par­tially off­set by a slight rise in lo­cal en­rol­ments. Areni says it is es­sen­tial for uni­ver­si­ties to un­der­stand the pres­sures that study­ing for an MBA can place on stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly those who also have young chil­dren and/or de­mand­ing jobs, and do all in their power to har­ness tech­no­log­i­cal and other in­no­va­tions to help ease these pres­sures and ex­pand study op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“For ex­am­ple some busi­ness schools, par­tic­u­larly in the US, are now begin­ning to explore the op­tion of of­fer­ing on­line-based MBAs. One such is Penn­syl­va­nia’s renowned Whar­ton Busi­ness School, which is dip­ping its toe into this in­no­va­tion as an ex­per­i­ment, in part, just to see how the mar­ket re­sponds.”

“Tra­di­tion­ally, the view has been that it is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial for MBA stu­dents to work to­gether in groups and be able to in­ter­re­late closely with each other and with lec­tur­ers, mean­ing that en­tirely on­line, ‘ vir­tual’ MBA cour­ses have not gen­er­ally been con­sid­ered fea­si­ble. But grad­u­ally, uni­ver­si­ties are begin­ning to recog­nise that on­line of­fer­ings can be very ef­fec­tive in gen­er­at­ing vol­ume via up­selling and cross-sell­ing,” Areni says.

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