Busi­ness Ed­u­ca­tion Comes to the Fore­front

The new econ­omy needs new man­agers

Economy of Belarus - - FRONT PAGE -

There were times when a pro­fes­sional did not need a de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion to be­come an ex­ec­u­tive. Things are dif­fer­ent now. To­day both state-run en­ter­prises and pri­vate com­pa­nies need ed­u­cated man­agers in or­der to grow and con­sol­i­date their po­si­tions on the mar­ket. In mar­ket economies such pro­fes­sion­als are trained by a broad net­work of busi­ness schools that have well-es­tab­lished ed­u­ca­tional tra­di­tions, cur­ricu­lums, stan­dards and tech­nolo­gies. How are things with busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion in Be­larus? Is the coun­try that has set a course for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the pri­vate sec­tor able to pro­vide the do­mes­tic econ­omy with well-trained pro­fes­sion­als? These and other ques­tions were ad­dressed by the Be­larus Econ­omy Mag­a­zine to Di­rec­tor of the School of Busi­ness and Man­age­ment of Tech­nol­ogy (SBMT) of the Be­laru­sian State Univer­sity (BSU), Chair­man of the Be­laru­sian As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness Ed­u­ca­tion, Pro­fes­sor Vladimir APANASOVICH.

Mr Apanasovich, a sim­ple ques­tion to start with: eco­nom­ics is taught in many uni­ver­si­ties across Be­larus and many be­lieve that there are many more eco­nom­ics stu­dents than the do­mes­tic econ­omy re­ally needs. There-

fore, why would we need to make a fo­cus on busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion?

It is true, things are not sim­ple here. Tra­di­tional uni­ver­si­ties fo­cus on eco­nomic pro­cesses at the level of re­gions, states and the world in gen­eral. There­fore, grad­u­ates are well fa­mil­iar with anal­y­sis meth­ods, can eval­u­ate a com­pany’s per­for­mance and make a gen­eral pic­ture of its eco­nomic stance, in other words, they know eco­nomic anal­y­sis the­ory.

Busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion, on the other hand, is de­signed to train spe­cial­ists who can cre­ate, man­age and ex­pand a busi­ness and ad­dress very spe­cific and clear-cut tasks aimed at help­ing a com­pany grow and pros­per in the mar­ket en­vi­ron­ment.

When did we turn our eyes to­wards busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion? It hap­pened in the sec­ond half of the 1990s when the econ­omy started em­brac­ing mar­ket re­forms, Be­laru­sian com­pa­nies be­gan pen­e­trat­ing for­eign mar­kets and faced fierce com­pe­ti­tion. It be­came ob­vi­ous back then that the things taught by Soviet uni­ver­si­ties had been an­ti­quated and the “old-school” econ­o­mists were un­able to deal with the new chal­lenges.

Un­for­tu­nately, up till now the ma­jor­ity of Be­laru­sian man­agers, in par­tic­u­lar, top man­agers of staterun and pri­vate com­pa­nies, have only in­dus­try-spe­cific ed­u­ca­tion and lack deep knowl­edge in econ­omy and man­age­ment. There­fore, they tend to rely on their in­tu­ition and ex­pe­ri­ence and are of­ten dis­ori­ented while mak­ing and im­ple­ment­ing de­vel­op­ment plans, first of all strate­gic plans, for their com­pa­nies.

In­vestors who start joint ven­tures in Be­larus of­ten point to the high po­ten­tial (I would like to em­pha­size that it is only po­ten­tial) of the man­age­rial per­son­nel and their poor prac­ti­cal train­ing. In other words, in­vestors have prob­lems find­ing a specialist who would be able to start work­ing for the com­pany with­out pre­lim­i­nary train­ing. Of­ten Be­laru­sian spe­cial­ists need to be re­trained, and their skills need to be up­dated in line with in­ter­na­tional prac­tices.

Busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion helps re­solve these is­sues, doesn’t it? But how? What does it fo­cus on?

You know, mar­ket economies re­al­ized a long time ago that man­age­ment should be taught and learnt and it should be stud­ied se­ri­ously and con­stantly. Man­age­ment is not a job de­scrip­tion, but a pro­fes­sion. By the way, the MBA, a fa­mous in­ter­na­tional busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram, is de­signed to ed­u­cate pro­fes­sional man­agers. A per­son who has com­pleted an MBA course can lead any com­pany in any in­dus­try: in the ser­vice sec­tor to­day and in the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try to­mor­row. We are still un­ac­cus­tomed to that, while it is al­ready an es­tab­lished tra­di­tion in the West. To­day more than half of top man­agers of the world’s leading com­pa­nies have an MBA de­gree in ad­di­tion to their in­dus­try-spe­cific ed­u­ca­tion.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion dif­fers from a tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Firstly, all busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses com­ply with cer­tain in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and re­quire­ments. It is very good, be­cause this al­lows pro­fes­sion­als from dif­fer­ent coun­tries to speak the same lan­guage.

Sec­ondly, the busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem takes full ad­van­tage of in­no­va­tive train­ing meth­ods, like dis­tance learn­ing, coach­ing, case method. For ex­am­ple, stu­dents re­ceive lec­tures in an elec­tronic form and study them in­de­pen­dently. In class­rooms they dis­cuss and an­a­lyze var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions and cases. Nat­u­rally, a great num­ber of ex­pe­ri­enced ex­ec­u­tives, econ­o­mists and for­eign spe­cial­ists are broadly en­gaged in the ed­u­ca­tion process. Fi­nally, the sys­tem sug­gests ac­tive in­volve­ment of busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions in the per­son­nel train­ing process.

The in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence shows that busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion should be pro­vided by busi­ness schools set up at uni­ver­si­ties. Such schools po­si­tion them­selves as mo­bile rapid-re­sponse en­ti­ties with a high de­gree of in­volve­ment in the coun­try’s econ­omy.

Your school has been a pioneer in this new area of ed­u­ca­tion. How did it hap­pen? Is it pop­u­lar or, more pre­cisely, in de­mand among those who want to get a de­gree in eco­nom­ics?

We started from scratch as there was no busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion in Be­larus as such. The school was founded in 1996 as part of the Be­laru­sianAmer­i­can ed­u­ca­tional project. We trav­eled a lot. We watched, stud­ied, sent our teach­ers for in­tern­ship abroad and hosted for­eign lec­tur­ers here. We adopted teach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and tech­nol­ogy.

Over the years, we have es­tab­lished a good foun­da­tion – we de­vel­oped cur­ric­ula, worked out the struc­ture of the school, put to­gether a cre­ative team of pro­fes­sors, em­braced new tech­nolo­gies, and achieved a fairly high level of qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion. The school has gained pop­u­lar­ity and is rated high among those who pur­sue first univer­sity de­grees and those who wish to get the sec­ond de­gree or mas­ter’s de­gree, or roll into re­train­ing or ad­vanced train­ing pro­grams. From 2007 to 2010 SBMT acted as the of­fi­cial co­or­di­na­tor of the govern­ment pro­gram of in­no­va­tion de­vel­op­ment in the field of re­train­ing and im­prove­ment of pro­fes­sional skills of spe­cial­ists in pri­or­ity ar­eas of sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.

Cur­rently the school of­fers first univer­sity de­gree (full-time and cor­re­spon­dence) in such ma­jors as “Busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion”, “Lo­gis­tics”, “In­for­ma­tion man­age­ment”. The first two ma­jors are also of­fered to those who pur­sue a sec­ond higher ed­u­ca­tion. The Mas­ter’s de­gree pro­gram (the sec­ond stage of ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion) fea­tures such ma­jors as “In­no­va­tion man­age­ment”, “Tech­nolo­gies of per­son­nel man­age­ment”, “Man­age­ment of lo­gis­tics sys­tems”, “Busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion”. The re­train­ing pro­gram (additional ed­u­ca­tion) in­cludes seven ma­jors. The school of­fers eleven pro­grams for im­prove­ment of qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

The ma­jor­ity of our stu­dents are ed­u­cated and highly mo­ti­vated people, as it is not cheap and easy to study at our school. Hav­ing gained some work ex­pe­ri­ence in a par­tic­u­lar field, seek­ing to re­al­ize their po­ten­tial, they come to the school with a de­sire to build a ca­reer and to ac­quire the nec­es­sary knowl­edge and prac­ti­cal skills for that.

And an­other in­ter­est­ing ob­ser­va­tion. Ear­lier most of our stu­dents were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of pri­vate com­pa­nies, who paid for them­selves. Some of them pre­ferred to keep this in­for­ma­tion se­cret from their em­ploy­ers (as it was seen as a sig­nal that the per­son was go­ing to quit). To­day the sit­u­a­tion is chang­ing. We see the in­ter­est on the part of en­ter­prises in train­ing spe­cial­ists for var­i­ous busi­ness sec­tors, and par­tic­u­larly in the MBA pro­gram that trains pro­fes­sional man­agers. The de­mand for skilled cre­ative man­agers is grow­ing, and this is a good sign for the econ­omy.

How big is the de­mand for your grad­u­ates in gen­eral? Does the school keep an eye on their ca­reers? How ac­tively is busi­ness in­volved in train­ing of busi­ness per­son­nel?

Of course, we try to keep in touch with our grad­u­ates. The school has es­tab­lished alumni as­so­ci­a­tions, hosts meet­ings, con­ducts ques­tion­naires. We also in­ter­view the man­agers who em­ploy our young pro­fes­sion­als and are ready to eval­u­ate their per­for­mance. It helps ad­just the learn­ing process and li­aise with em­ploy­ers. I must say that, in gen­eral, grad­u­ates with an SMBT de­gree are in de­mand in the la­bor mar­ket, many of them al­ready have their own busi­ness, or hold man­age­rial po­si­tions. To­day, for ex­am­ple, the de­mand is high for lo­gis­tics spe­cial­ists and mar­ket­ing ex­perts not only on the part of pri­vately-held com­pa­nies but also state-run en­ter­prises.

How­ever, as in the case of the en­tire higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, the link be­tween univer­sity cur­ric­ula and the mar­ket and in­dus­try needs is still the bot­tle­neck. We be­lieve we train very good spe­cial­ists, while em­ploy­ers re­main dis­sat­is­fied. It would seem a busi­ness should un­der­stand this is­sue bet­ter as it has more op­por­tu­ni­ties to get in­volved in the train­ing process and shape the de­mand. How­ever, so far our re­la­tions with busi­ness have not been ex­cep­tion­ally good. At best they would say: “Give us some good spe­cial­ists and we will choose.”

But with this ap­proach, a fo­cus on prac­ti­cal train­ing and re­spon­si­bil­ity dis­ap­pear. We are ready to come up with pro­grams to train spe­cific skills. There are all pre­req­ui­sites for that. We are pre­pared to en­ter into long-term agree­ments with busi­ness to train cer­tain pro­fes­sion­als and even en­tire di­vi­sions. Of course, for that we need a con­tract with an em­ployer.

I have raised the is­sue on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions. How­ever, very few re­spond to our call and come to give a lec­ture, talk and sign a con­tract.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem of the na­tional busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion is a limited num­ber of good places for in­tern­ship, i.e. mod­ern or­ga­ni­za­tions with well-de­vel­oped stan­dards of man­age­ment. Of course we find ways out. Thanks to in­ter­na­tional agree­ments stu­dents have an op­por­tu­nity to study the oper­a­tion of well-known com­pa­nies in Ger­many, Poland, Latvia, Lithua­nia. This year, for in­stance, MBA stu­dents will have a chance to go to Ja­pan for on-the-job train­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, they will visit Toy­ota Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion and get fa­mil­iar with the Ja­panese man­age­ment model KAIZEN.

It would be great, how­ever, if do­mes­tic com­pa­nies were open for those who get busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion.

The school runs the Ca­reer De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter. What is it for and who does it cater for?

A tra­di­tional univer­sity stays in di­rect touch with its grad­u­ates mainly at the work as­sign­ment stage af­ter grad­u­a­tion. SBMT keeps the is­sues of em­ploy­ment in sight start­ing from the very first year of ed­u­ca­tion. The Ca­reer De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter of­fers spe­cial cour­ses and events where stu­dents learn to write re­sumes, have trial in­ter­views. The school has signed spe­cial agree­ments with big com­pa­nies which HR man­agers are in­vited to give lec­tures.

The school col­lects in­for­ma­tion on va­cant po­si­tions which stu­dents might oc­cupy dur­ing their stud­ies. Our aca­demic staff help stu­dents write re­sumes and even, if the em­ployer does not mind, come to­gether with them for a job in­ter­view.

The cen­ter caters, first of all, for school-leavers or so-called Gen­er­a­tion Y. Un­for­tu­nately, our sys­tem of higher ed­u­ca­tion in gen­eral, train-

ing meth­ods and tech­nolo­gies hardly take into ac­count the new men­tal­ity of to­day’s stu­dents.

What are the main fea­tures of Gen­er­a­tion Y?

The main one is mo­ti­va­tion for fast and con­crete re­sults. The main mo­ti­va­tion for us, I mean, Gen­er­a­tion X, was ed­u­ca­tion which would grad­u­ally lead to recog­ni­tion, pros­per­ity and so on. Many have ac­com­plished it like this: hard stud­ies have fi­nally brought them re­sults.

To­day’s young gen­er­a­tion, and ev­ery­one ac­knowl­edges it, seeks to get im­me­di­ate re­sults. Our higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is still un­ready to make the most of this kind of mo­ti­va­tion.

We have an eye on our stu­dents and see that those who come to get a sec­ond de­gree (as I have al­ready stated these people have cer­tain pro­fes­sional back­ground – for in­stance, only spe­cial­ists with two-year work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence can en­roll into the MBA pro­grams) are aimed at con­crete skills which can be im­me­di­ately ap­plied in prac­tice.

Lit­er­ally: hav­ing stud­ied the ma­te­rial be­fore­hand they come to the class in the evening to dis­cuss the key mo­ments with the teacher and each other. The next day they try to ap­ply this knowl­edge at their workplace and see how it works. This model of learn­ing is ef­fi­cient for the ex­pe­ri­enced au­di­ence and is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult for stu­dents who come from school with no prac­ti­cal skills un­der the belt.

These prob­lems are wide­spread. It means we need new in­stru­ments, ap­proaches to the learn­ing process, in­volve­ment of com­pa­nies and busi­ness unions into the train­ing process. Just have a look at the uni­ver­si­ties from de­vel­oped coun­tries. Along­side with the clas­si­cal cul­tural, ed­u­ca­tional and re­search mis­sion they start mak­ing busi­ness steps. As a mat­ter of fact, uni­ver­si­ties turn into commercial or­ga­ni­za­tions where knowl­edge and tech­nolo­gies are used for eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. They cre­ate com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages for re­gional and na­tional economies. For in­stance, it has been cal­cu­lated that stu­dents, aca­demic staff and alumni of the prom­i­nent Stan­ford Univer­sity have

set up about 39,000 com­pa­nies. If we take them as a sep­a­rate econ­omy, it would be­come the world’s tenth big­gest econ­omy with 5.4 mil­lion jobs and $2.7 tril­lion in an­nual rev­enue.

It is ab­so­lutely ob­vi­ous that in the 21st century uni­ver­si­ties grad­u­ally turn into some sort of busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors which cre­ate fa­vor­able con­di­tions for en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­i­ties for stu­dents, the aca­demic staff and work­ers, cul­ti­vate the en­tre­pre­neur­ial cul­ture and pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to en­trepreneur­ship. It is a gen­eral trend for higher ed­u­ca­tion de­vel­op­ment.

You are the Chair­man of the Be­laru­sian As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness Ed­u­ca­tion that in­cludes a num­ber of uni­ver­si­ties. Your col­leagues and you have cer­tainly built up a strate­gic vi­sion of busi­ness train­ing. What im­prove­ments does it need? Which goals are pri­or­ity?

The es­tab­lish­ment and de­vel­op­ment of the na­tional sys­tem of busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion goes in the tide­way of global trends in gen­eral but, un­for­tu­nately, it still lags be­hind and is of­ten con­tra­dic­tory.

The process is slowed down mainly by the high level of in­volve­ment with the tra­di­tional aca­demic sys­tem of higher ed­u­ca­tion. As a re­sult, busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion is reg­u­lated by a great num­ber of pro­vi­sions and in­struc­tions from the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry which do not take into con­sid­er­a­tion all the specifics of this seg­ment and of­ten di­rectly con­tra­dict in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized for­mats of man­age­ment train­ing.

For in­stance, it is dif­fi­cult to shift to credit-mod­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem within aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions and take full ad­van­tage of in­no­va­tive ed­u­ca­tion meth­ods, in­clud­ing dis­tance learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

An ob­vi­ous dis­ad­van­tage is a lack of in­te­gra­tion of the na­tional sys­tem with the in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. We have con­tacts and ties but we do not have fully-fledged joint projects with for­eign busi­ness schools. Our na­tional pro­grams are mostly fo­cused on the domes-

tic mar­ket and are not rec­og­nized in­ter­na­tion­ally and grad­u­ates are not com­pet­i­tive at for­eign mar­kets. This is not very good for a coun­try with an ex­port-ori­ented econ­omy where man­agers have to be as qual­i­fied as their for­eign coun­ter­parts.

We are not en­tirely sat­is­fied with the sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing the post­grad­u­ate train­ing pro­gram. The pro­gram was es­tab­lished in 2010 in line with the Ed­u­ca­tion Code, how­ever, the sta­tus of its grad­u­ates is still un­clear. There is no distinc­tion in the na­tional leg­is­la­tion be­tween univer­sity di­ploma and Mas­ter’s de­gree hold­ers when they are look­ing for a job. Nat­u­rally, there is no distinc­tion in salaries ei­ther. Whereas in many coun­tries hav­ing a Mas­ter’s de­gree is a manda­tory re­quire­ment for a min­istry em­ployee, which means that those who do not have it would not qual­ify for cer­tain po­si­tions.

An­other great prob­lem is the train­ing of teach­ers for the busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor and not only for it. To­day they are mainly mid­dle-aged people who have dif­fi­cul­ties with adopt­ing in­no­va­tion ed­u­ca­tion meth­ods es­pe­cially new in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies. A spe­cial govern­ment pro­gram or a solid sys­tem of per­sonal grants are needed to nur­ture high-class ed­u­ca­tors of busi­ness dis­ci­plines in Be­larus.

We would like to change the fi­nanc­ing scheme of the busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion ed­u­ca­tion and seek op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tract pri­vate in­vestors and in­ter­na­tional grants.

Ex­pe­ri­ence re­ceived within the As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness Ed­u­ca­tion gives us rea­sons to be­lieve that we are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion but very slowly. In our view, set­ting up a na­tional busi­ness in­sti­tute work­ing ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards could speed up the process. It would not only ful­fill func­tions of an aca­demic in­sti­tu­tion of this seg­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion cre­at­ing ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies and pre­par­ing busi­ness teach­ers but would also act as a co­or­di­na­tor of state pro­grams on man­age­ment train­ing in the pri­or­ity ar­eas of the mar­ket econ­omy.

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