Friday, January 12, 2007

An MBA pays dividends
Degree is valuable in business world
Montreal Gazette
Sunday, January 7, 2007
Page: A15 Section: Editorial / Op-Ed Byline:
Source: Freelance

Every once in a while, a business professor will grab headlines by attacking the value of a Masters of Business Administration - or the innovations that have reinvigorated the MBA market in the years since the launch of the Queen's University executive MBA in 1994. As chair of the Canadian Federation of Business School Deans and the dean of one of Canada's top-ranked business schools, let me ask - and answer - three simple questions.

First, what does corporate Canada think of today's MBAs? A recent Environics survey revealed that 78 per cent of Canadian executives would choose a candidate with an MBA over one without an MBA if other factors were equal. Why? The executives' answers were revealing: They cited a superior skill set, greater familiarity with a variety of business disciplines and more exposure to a variety of business issues.

Second, what do students think of today's MBA innovations? Enrolment numbers tell us they are choosing programs that are customized to their needs.

For example: Specialized programs. The University of Alberta offers an MBA specializing in Natural Resources and Energy. Innovative delivery systems.

Through state-of-the-art videoconferencing, Queen's School of Business delivers its executive MBA to boardrooms across Canada - to successful managers who otherwise might never have pursued top-tier business education.

Customized programs. The University of Western Ontario's Ivey School recently launched a customized executive MBA for employees of JD Irving.

International programs. Queen's executive MBA students love the school's international partnership with Cornell University, and York University's Schulich students feel just as strongly about their relationship with Northwestern University. These and other innovations have brought students unprecedented choice. They demonstrate that just as business evolves in the global economy, so does business education. Of course, as I've said many times, there's no virtue in choice if it comes at the expense of quality. Can customization and quality co-exist?

That leads to my third and final question: What does the world think of Canada's MBA programs? Last fall, BusinessWeek released its latest ranking of the top international MBA programs, and for the first time Canadian schools occupy the top three spots -- Queen's (No. 1); Ivey/UWO (No. 2); and Rotman/U of T (No. 3). This is even more impressive when you consider that they outranked the most venerable European schools - IMD (No. 4); London School of Business (No. 5); and INSEAD (No. 6). This unprecedented rise in Canadian schools' reputation shows we're doing many things well. We have recognized the global business trend toward life-long learning; we are making business education accessible to students of more backgrounds, in more places, and at more stages in their careers. And we understand that there's always room for improvement - and for innovation.

The answers are clear: Canadian business schools have never offered greater quality, choice and customization than they do today. That's something to celebrate, not to tear down.

David M. Saunders is chair of the Canadian Federation of Business School Deans and the dean of Queen's School of Business.


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