Right time, right place
Today, individuals and owner-managers have a vast range of management education options available – each meeting different needs and preferences. But top of the tree, as always, is the MBA.
If you are thinking about ‘doing an MBA’, you should appreciate that this is a proverbial golden era in terms of what’s on offer locally. The calibre of those providing MBAs in New Zealand must surely be the envy of the world.
Let’s take a look at some facts, in no particular order:
University of Auckland MBA director, Peter Withers, chairs the Executive Association of MBAs (AMBA) Council, recognised as the global voice of the MBA through its 240 leading MBA schools worldwide. Withers has had considerable influence in shaping and advocating an applied approach to leadership development across the globe, which is a feature of the University’s own offering.
Massey University is about to launch an intensive, residential, five-day program, designed to give those considering a course of study a taste of the processes and demands an MBA requires. It is calculated to give the maximum impact from a limited time away from work, while the format and design creates a supportive environment where you learn from subject experts, practical application of concepts, MBA skills, and from each other.
Massey’s Albany campus will host the prestigious Association of MBAs (AMBA) Asia Pacific conference later this year.
Waikato University has certainly not sat back on its global laurels in 2011 when it was honoured with the inaugural AMBA ‘MBA Innovation Award’, in partnership with the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development, for its “exciting new practices that are innovative and original”. Its community involvement is to be extended and its MBA, revised in consultation with the business community, has been refocused on Skill, Capability, and Mindset – with the latter being directed and supported throughout by a professional psychologist.
AUT, which has just spent 18 months on a major review of its programme curriculum and structure – now covering the three key components of ‘knowing’, ‘being’ and ‘doing’ – was recently one of four finalists (the only from outside the US) in the MBA Business Roundtable ‘innovation’ awards in the US, with its ‘High Performance Teams’ approach involving a rowing eight.
Wellington’s Victoria University, with its ability to enable students doing their MBA at the Victoria Business School to engage with both the public and private sector, and a unique ‘Not for Profit Advisory Project’, is one of just 58 business schools worldwide which hold the ‘Triple Crown’ of international accreditations of EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA.
Victoria was also first in New Zealand to obtain accreditation from AACSB (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) in both business and accounting. Worldwide, less than one percent of business schools hold this distinguished mark of excellence.
Of course, when standards improve, tuition costs rise spectacularly, with the average cost of an executive-level MBA now topping US$77,000 globally (a New Zealand MBA, from an internationally accredited school is a relative bargain at approximately NZ$45,000).
Around the schools the air is thick with words like ‘innovating’, ‘realigning’, ‘better reflecting the needs of students and business’, ‘assessing emotional-intelligence’, and the like – responding to the fast-changing world we’re being plunged into, as well as the competition amongst local business schools.
These campuses almost sound like travel expos, with groups, cohorts and classes discussing trips to Japan, South America, China, the US, you name it, for a ‘business exchange experience’.
Our first stop around the campuses is Victoria.
“Our programme has been designed to capitalise on Victoria’s capital city status and its proximity to government agencies and the Wellington CBD,” says Natalie Stevens, director of Victoria University’s MBA programme, “Wellingtonians are a skilled population – compared to other regions, a greater proportion of the working-age population in the region has a Bachelor degree or higher, and much of the employment is in skilled disciplines.
“Victoria’s MBA programme reflects this. A key focus is developing a manager’s agility, so as to adapt easily to new situations, learn quickly and extract and apply learning from experiences and academic constructs to achieve results.
“Our MBA also offers students a raft of professional development opportunities and workshops which are both academic and applied in nature. These additional initiatives have been created as a ‘wrapper’ around a core academic curriculum specifically designed to increase agility,” says Stevens.
A key feature of the workshops is their engagement with both the public and private sectors. Students are tasked with solving real-world problems currently faced by senior managers. The workshops are a partnership between a business sponsor, which is heavily involved, the MBA student and the ‘client’. Sponsors add real value to the students’ learning experience and give weight to the project.
“Our MBA is renowned for its flexibility,” says Ken Lee, director MBA and Executive Education at AUT University, “enabling busy managers to fit their study around work schedules and family commitments, while receiving a consistent high-quality learning experience.
“We have established a leading position in a very competitive market, offering specific advantages which have strong appeal to the SME sector, by designing it for people who want to transform their careers and be at the forefront of business leadership, and are aspiring to general or divisional management or CEO positions.
“Our graduates make an impact and add immediate value to an organisation; equipping them to lead and manage organisations in the challenging global business environment too.”
The programme, which covers key components of ‘knowing’, ‘being’ and ‘doing’ is offered in six eight-week terms, each year, enabling candidates to join the programme at any one of six start times throughout the year and classes are offered twice each day. Physical resources are “second to none” and teaching staff are recruited on the basis of practical experience as well as academic credentials. Around 40 percent of the MBA is delivered by industry professionals who practice what they teach, every day.
As you might expect from Peter Withers, director of academic programmes at the University of Auckland Graduate School of Management, it is recognised globally for its applied decision-making focus. In addition to the hands-on domestic and international consulting required of its students, the programme places considerable emphasis on personal and professional development and preparing its students for new responsibilities and challenges on graduation.
“Locally, the term MBA is often misunderstood, if not derided, as there is a wide range of ‘MBA’ programmes available – all of which cater to different audiences and offer different learning outcomes.
“In short, it is not enough to simply award an MBA. It is equally important that the graduates are schooled on how to leverage that MBA both as individuals and in the context of their employers,” Withers says.
To this end, UoA students complete their MBA with back-to-back, ten-week leadership and coaching courses delivered by pre-eminent New Zealand leadership figures and executive coaches.
“SME employees and owner-managers are not immune from the necessity to have an advanced business education. The business environment they operate in is now complex and competitive with little room for error or complacency.”
Eclectic and diverse
Massey University has the longest running MBA course in New Zealand. It also claims to have the largest internationally-spread and growing local alumni group of more than 2,500 graduates. “They’re drawn from the most eclectic and diverse groups you are likely to see on a local campus,” says Mike Fiszer, associate pro vice-chancellor, Executive Education and Enterprise.
“If owners of SME-sized businesses are considering sending someone on or coming on an MBA themselves, our ‘In-Sight MBA’ is a minimum-risk way of ‘try before you buy’, as we will credit part of the fees in a discount, should you decide to do the full EMBA,” says Fiszer. “Either way you will have built on your existing management competencies by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the interplay of functions in an organisation.
“Although, as of yet, there is no academic credit gained from attendance, there is a significant ‘heads-up’ as far as we can make it on the challenge and intensity of, and commitment required, for the EMBA.
“And there is no compromise on quality: the programme team is made up of our top academics and business executives with a wealth of specialist subject experience and expertise.
“This is a big year for us; in addition to our ‘game-changer’ (above) we are celebrating 50 years as a University and 21 years in Albany; and between 12–14 November we host AMBA’s Asia Pacific conference in Auckland – a good opportunity for anyone considering an MBA to check us out.
“We are also double-accredited, with AMBA and AACSB. We teach nationally in at least four centres, bringing together students from many varied backgrounds and business-types. Additionally, we have an MBA cohort operating in Doha, Qatar, for Qatar Airways, our first venture offshore,” Fiszer says. “And Massey has the only university-based ‘live’ Bloomberg trading room: you can get trader certification separately too.”
Being up-to-date and “ahead of the pack” is very much the focus of James Bennett, Massey’s director of the Executive MBA. “Our MBA has a challenging depth of leader development built in – for example, leadership, social and emotional-intelligence assessment and development. As a sign we practice what we preach, not only are topics such as Big Data and Analytics, Design Thinking and Business Sustainability included, but we will also use business locations as teaching venues.
“This contextualises the learning and sharpens the questions noticeably, especially when the senior management are in sight.”
Dr Peter Sun, associate dean Enterprise, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato is just as excited about the changes taking place in their MBA as he was on the occasion of their global award.
“Waikato remains committed to bringing sustainable values into the forefront of business dynamics. We’ve listened to a cross-section of business, who encouraged us to ‘forget the emphasis on academics’. They wanted our MBA to be more than another Master’s degree, and provide graduates with the skills, capabilities and, most importantly the mindset to meet the challenges of an increasingly challenging world.
“The themes of the programme, built on the core purpose of the programme, will create graduates, who will be distinct and competitive within New Zealand and the international marketplace.
“From 2015, our MBA will achieve those goals through three themes: ‘Responsible Leadership’; ‘Sustainable Values’ – ethical, social cultural,
as well as environmental; and ‘Creating Value’.
“They will gain the necessary skills and competencies required to lead and perform in organisations, while – uniquely, we believe – gain an understanding of self and social identity in interacting with team and organisation in the context of organisational culture, power, politics, communication, conflict, negotiation, crisis and change management.
“Obviously there is a whole lot more to that and the achieving of sustainable values across the spectrum,” says Dr Sun. “Again, and dare I use ‘uniquely’ again, what business and the whole country is looking for – they will learn lead, influence, and implement value creation strategies which transform organisations and people within it. The ‘holy grail’, if you like,” he says.
Participants joining the Waikato MBA programme will enter into the Leadership Clinic run by organisational psychologist, Dr Colleen Rigby, and do a personality profiling; social intelligence evaluation; and 360 degree survey of their leadership style.
Leadership workshops and further assessments at the end of the first year and at the conclusion of the two-year course follow. On average, half the students, including those at the Tauranga campus, pause after year one, return to industry and commerce and return to complete their MBA a few years later. The balance go to year two.
Dr Sun believes the second significant change at the University is the commitment of key business people and entrepreneurs in the Waikato region to raise $1 million for a Centre for Community Leadership, which will assist both alumni to improve their connection with the greater community and for the community to harness their skills.
“In the longer term this might come to be seen as our greatest achievement.”
›› Kevin Kevany is an Auckland-based freelance writer.
Email [email protected]
August 12, 2014