Stanford dean questions ‘transformative impact’ of one-year MBA

Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business suggests students want to spend more time at university, not less

January 28, 2019
Source: Getty
Time to grow: the ‘amount of change’ in an MBA’s second year is ‘extraordinary’

The dean of Stanford University’s business school has refused to rule out launching a one-year MBA programme even though he questioned whether the shorter degree would have such a transformative impact on students.

The one-year MBA model has traditionally been favoured in Europe as an alternative to the US’ two-year programme, but an increasing number of US institutions now offer the one-year degree.

When asked if Stanford was considering joining this trend, Jonathan Levin, dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, said he would “never say never” and acknowledged that the shorter degree was cheaper for students and meant that they could take “less time out of their career”.

However, the “amount of change” that students undergo in the second year of a two-year MBA was “extraordinary”, he added.

“I’m not sure the extent of their transformation would necessarily happen after one year,” he said, explaining that the two-year programme gave students a “whole year to take advantage of and use” what they have learned in year one, particularly skills such as leadership, decision-making and networking.

A recent analysis of global business schools, conducted by Times Higher Education in partnership with The Wall Street Journal, found that one-year MBA programmes outperformed two-year programmes on internationalisation and representation of women at staff and student levels. But two-year programmes record high scores on other metrics, including the strength of their alumni networks and the propensity for their graduates to do voluntary work.

Professor Levin said that a former president of Stanford University had proposed reducing undergraduate degrees from four years to three in a bid to alleviate concerns about the rising cost of higher education. But students were, in fact, spending more time at university, Professor Levin said.

“Now more than half of students at Stanford stay a fifth year” to undertake a master’s degree, proving that students actually want more time at college, he said.

Meanwhile, a fifth of MBA students do a second degree at Stanford University while at the business school, he added.

“The barriers between the schools are really low – students go back and forth to take classes; faculty go back and forth and teach classes or do research with each other. That’s been one of the central things that we’ve worked on and emphasised,” he said.

Professor Levin said that the demographics of students at the business school has also changed: 20 years ago, just 2 per cent of MBA applicants came from the public sector or non-profit companies, but today that figure is 20 per cent.

The institution has a loan forgiveness programme aimed at students who work in the non-profit or public sector. It means that those who earn below a certain salary on graduation will have their loan written off after 10 years.


Print headline: One year good, two years better, thinks Stanford business dean

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