From where I sit - Mission creep tarnishes MBA

May 3, 2012

The MBA landscape in Germany has always been somewhat troubled. For a start, the degree was actually prohibited until 1990, and since then, the road has been a rapid but rocky one. Recently, articles in the media have been drawing public attention to the various oddly named MBA programmes that do not deliver or are contradictions in terms.

Writing in Der Spiegel, Barbel Schwertfeger has criticised Germany for being "the land of specialised MBAs". She is not alone in arguing that the whole point of an MBA is to provide a general view of business for those who have practical business experience but lack a knowledge of the theory, or for those who have previously studied in other fields. For this reason, Michael Frenkel, dean of the WHU-Otto Beishiem School of Management, considers qualifications such as an MBA in Real Estate or in Event Management to be "one-colour zebras". And that's not to mention the MBA in Advanced Management or, in a redundant piece of terminology, an MBA in Business Administration.

The problem, some believe, is the "inflationary use of the MBA title", which has expanded into all manner of disciplines, shapes and forms. The fault arguably lies not just with the universities themselves, but also with the subordinate bodies that certify and sign off inappropriate and weak programmes. Furthermore, there is no real consensus about what an MBA qualification should entail and comprise.

There are thus allegations that many MBAs are little more than the traditional business degree, Diplom Kaufmann, rebranded with a different name. And it is true that in Germany, as it is in many other countries, some MBAs really do just involve the teaching staff offering their first- or second-level courses once again, possibly spiced up with some new case studies.

That MBAs can be quite lucrative creates the temptation to offer courses with this label, even though they would more realistically and fairly be described and run as non-degree crash courses in business or professional development programmes. When the calibre of the course or of the students is not of master's level, there is a serious academic problem.

There have been some genuine MBA horror stories in Germany. One programme offered in Stuttgart received millions of euros in funding but nevertheless eventually went bust as a consequence of "management errors". In Berlin, another school set out to be "the Harvard on the Spree", but after 10 years, it was still not allowed to grant doctoral degrees.

Of course, not everything is bad. German institutions do deliver some rigorous and well-respected MBAs, with that offered by the Mannheim Business School being generally regarded as an impressive case in point. And high-ranking administrators such as Andreas Pinkwart, rector of the HHL-Leipzig Graduate School of Management, argue that the degree has a bright future. After all, Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe and can attract both good academics and students. Furthermore, big business is not short of money to support the right programmes.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy