Core MBA Courses Given Thumbs Up

by John A. Byrne on

Eight of every ten current and former MBA students believe the core MBA classes provide them with a good grounding in the fundamentals of business, according to a survey published today (July 9) by The Economist.

Current business school applicants, who also were polled by the British magazine, were even slightly more enthusiastic about the core courses they hope to take in the near future. More than 80% of them believe the core curriculum in such basics as accounting, finance, statistics, marketing and organizational behavior, will give them a good grounding for a business career.

THE ECONOMIST ODDLY PORTRAYS THE FINDINGS IN A NEGATIVE LIGHT

The findings are a significant endorsement of existing MBA curriculum. Yet, The Economist is portraying the results in a surprising negative light. In a news release, the publication reports that “around a fifth of current, former and future MBA students do not think that core MBA classes provide them with a good grounding in the fundamentals of business.”

Bill Ridgers, editor of The Economist’s Which MBA? section, then reinforces the negative viewpoint with a statement. “It is worrying that so many business school students, who will often pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and lost income to attend a program, feel that areas as fundamental as business strategy and finance are not being adequately covered,” he says. “Strategy and finance should be what the core of an MBA program is all about; they are the building blocks on which nearly all other business knowledge is built.”

Of course, finance is considered a core subject at all business schools and a substantial amount of time and energy is usually placed on finance in core classes.

ONLY 25% OF THE 713 RESPONDENTS ARE EITHER CURRENT MBAS OR MBA GRADUATES

The findings were further complicated because the survey only had 713 respondents and a remarkably high percentage of them were applicants who haven’t yet experienced an MBA curriculum. The Economist said 75% of those responding have not yet taken an MBA. Some 16% are currently studying for an MBA and 9% have graduated with an MBA. The geographic distribution is: 36% from Asia; 1% from Australia/Oceania; 18% from Europe; 16% from Middle East/Africa; 21% from North America; and 8% from South/Central America.

According to the survey, 60% of current and former MBA students said the core classes should have focused more on business strategy, 38% said that more attention should have been given to finance and 33% said that a greater emphasis should have been placed on technology and information systems.

Prospective MBA students surveyed also believed that the core MBA should focus more on business strategy (75%) and finance (52%)—even though they have yet to sit in an MBA classroom. Around half (48%) of prospective students thought that economics should play a larger role in core classes.

The Economist said that nineteen per cent of current and former MBA students felt that the core classes should have focused less on manufacturing and production and 18% believed less of an emphasis should have been placed on accounting. While 9% of future students agreed that the core MBA should focus less on manufacturing and production, 10% thought the core MBA should focus less on statistics.

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  • Ken

    The data here is fudged in more ways than one. I think the economist article failed to recognize how many of those surveyed students had a business/economics or finance/accounting undergraduate degree or background. If you have a background in a certain subject redoing it in MBA would be a waste of time. I am an engineer and have always worked in core engineering. Basic courses in accounting, finance and micro-economics are not only beneficial but critical to develop a high level understanding of businesses and also serves as a platform to dive deeper in a specific area of interest. 

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