MBA goes global in bid to create the worldly wise

Overhaul aims to give students the flexibility needed in an ever-changing market. Hannah Fearn reports

March 24, 2011

A US business school is introducing modules taught overseas and is offering alumni the chance to return to study for free as part of an overhaul of its curriculum in the wake of the financial crisis.

Wharton Business School, part of the University of Pennsylvania, now flies students around the globe to take part in week-long modules introducing them to global business issues.

Its MBA curriculum offers students the chance to study healthcare in India and European finance in London, while closer to home, issues relating to technology and entrepreneurship are taught in San Francisco.

Modules are delivered by Wharton's own staff, academics from partner institutions around the world and experienced Wharton alumni now working in business.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, Thomas Robertson, dean of Wharton Business School, said reform had become a necessity.

"As the financial crisis came along, lecturers couldn't walk into the classroom and pull out lecture notes from the year before. A lot of change took place all by itself," he said. "We hadn't revised the curriculum in more than a decade, so it was time to look at it and think about it more fundamentally."

He said that the new curriculum was focused on providing students with skills that the school believes will be necessary to thrive in the new economic environment, as well as encouraging them to think about the social impact of their work.

Eight foreign modules, each up to a week in length, are being taught this year. These include a session in Brazil on energy and another on technology delivered in Israel.

"The course has to be germane to the market that you're operating in, so in London it's about European finance," Professor Robertson explained.

Above all, he argued, students must learn to be flexible.

"At least half of (our students) will work in industries that don't currently exist," he said.

"Twenty or 30 years ago the internet didn't exist, neither did social media, bioinformatics, sustainability or green products. We have to teach a culture of innovation and we have to teach the mentality that nothing's going to be the same."

All academic staff at the business school must now prepare at least two "pathways", or study routes, for students to choose from for each degree subject.

In future, the school will open its doors to alumni, allowing them to return to study short courses for free.

"When you talk to alumni 10 to 15 years out, they say they wish they'd had more in the way of (lessons on) leadership and communication, and how you deal with people," Professor Robertson said.

He added that he believed debates about the death of the MBA were mere "rhetoric" and said that he was confident about the future of both the US economy and business education.

"Any kind of disruption or downturn creates wonderful opportunities. There's a lot of wonderful hype right now about India and China, and the notion that China is the second most powerful economy in the world and will overtake the US within 20 years. Maybe it will, maybe not - probably not," he said.

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com.

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

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry