Yesterday there was an article in the Wall Street Journal titled MBA Programs Take Fast Track that described how some executive business schools are significantly shortening the time it takes to achieve a part-time MBA. We’ve had a problem with what is being taught in MBA programs for quite a while, and this just further aggravates the problem.
An example is the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business that is changing their program from 22 months to 19 months, with classes meeting for two consecutive days on alternating weeks instead of once a week. Thunderbird is reducing their program from 21 to 16 months, and some programs can be completed in as little as 14 months. This makes it easier for students to keep working at "real" jobs, but what is being sacrificed in the meantime?
More executive MBA programs are switching to shorter, more flexible schedules to appeal to busy managers and sponsoring companies that want to minimize time away from the workplace. As business becomes ever more global, time is an increasingly important factor.
So schools are competing for students by creating shorter and shorter programs. Prospective students are saying things like
"Sixteen months will be very intense and will test my time-balancing skills to the max but it will mean five less months without a life," says Mary Stubbs, who works in aerospace engineering at Honeywell.
Ah shucks; a real MBA program means a sacrifice to the real job, to the employer, and a reduction in how many nights you can go out bar-hopping. But isn’t the point to actually learn something, and not simply have "MBA" on your resume? Ok, really!
What is being sacrificed in the meantime? I guess one potential argument is that the less time people spend learning traditional accounting and guru management in "business school" the better from a real-world perspective, but let’s leave that discussion for another time. But even if we simply assume a traditional MBA is valuable, then what is being sacrified with the MBA-lite?
In defense of their fast-track executive degrees, deans insist that they are paring programs with care.
How much care?
For example, it [Rochester Institute of Technology] embedded part of discontinued business, government and society classes in a leadership course and merged content from a management informations systems class into operations management.
Yep, nothing like further watering down one of the only classes that matters, operations management. I bet they kept the guru classes on the curriculum.
We also beefed up and gave credit for our international trip.
That’s edging a little close to degree mill status. Is credit for "life experience" next?
The traditional top tier schools are holding back, perhaps recognizing the damage a purchased diploma could do to the ivy on their walls. Or realizing that due to their names they have such a huge pool of prospective students that they can charge what they want for however long they want.
Both Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School are sticking firmly with schedules of 20 months and two years, respectively, because they believe a briefer course of study would diminish the value of their degrees.
Good for them, I guess. I still wish an MBA curriculum included spending a few months getting down and dirty on a certain factory floor in Georgetown, Kentucky.