Hult: A Powerhouse Or A Pariah?

Swedish entrepreneur Philip Hult

Swedish entrepreneur Philip Hult

A ONE-YEAR PROGRAM WITH NEARLY AS MANY FACULTY CONTACT HOURS AS WHARTON

Hodges claims that once in a Hult classroom, MBA students receive 600 classroom hours, a surprisingly high number of contact hours with faculty for a one year program. The two year MBA program at Wharton, in comparison, provides for 660 classroom hours, while the Yale School of Management provides 672.

The one-year timeframe for Hult programs “is both an advantage and a disadvantage in terms of the students’ ability to build relationships and their professional networks, and deeply study and master topics,” says adjunct professor of social impact assessment Sara Olsen. “Both years that I have taught there, a not insignificant percentage of the students expressed a desire to have more time for my course,” Olsen says. “And of course Hult is not a research institution, so it does not offer opportunities for students to become involved in faculty research, although it’s worth noting that the school has a pretty entrepreneurial approach when it comes to collaborating with local businesses where students can tap into opportunities to dig deeper into applied research topics they find interesting.”

Although less than half of the 125 people listed on Hult’s website as the “faculty team” are credited with PhDs, Hodges estimates that the actual percentage is closer to 70% because not all of the roughly 200 teachers on Hult’s faculty are listed on the site and biographical information for some listed faculty is not up to date.

HULT SEEKS INSTRUCTORS WITH BUSINESS EXPERIENCE WHO ALSO TEACH WELL

In any case, 50 of Hult’s posted faculty team of 125 are classified as adjunct, with 43 listed as full time, 31 listed as part time and one not described by employment status. Philip Hult defends the school’s heavy reliance on teaching by adjunct faculty, consultants and working businesspeople, rather than on full-time academics. From the beginning, school officials sought instructors with business experience who could also teach well, Hult says.

“We got some people who they’d maybe been at a very good school in Boston, you know an MIT, a Harvard, hadn’t gotten tenure, but would’ve easily gotten tenure at a school outside of Boston, but they didn’t want to move,” adds Hult. “We started taking some faculty on who were great teachers but they sort of didn’t love research – that meant that getting tenure was impossible at some schools. We were very careful in hiring full-time faculty because we didn’t want to get sort of the ‘B-team.’ Certainly, six or seven years ago if we offered a full-time job to someone we were going to get the B-team.”

The North Face founder and former CEO Hap Klopp says the fact that the school brought him on in San Francisco to teach a new course he and two other businesspeople had proposed, on global product management, reflects Hult’s globalized approach and its flexibility. “They are not wedded to a methodology or established curriculum,” Klopp says. “To be able to come up with a course that is topical is, I think, the way you really maximize the education of these young people.”

BUSINESS SCHOOLS HAD BECOME VERY NICHE, FAILING TO ADAPT TO GLOBALIZATION

Hult’s international structure grew out of its founders’ belief in the need to adapt business education to the reality of globalization, Philip Hult says. Traditionally, business schools were really “banking and consulting” schools, Hult says. Institutions wanted to rank high, and rankings depended a great deal on starting salaries. “There’s a feedback loop that creates a certain kind of curriculum. Banks can pay high salaries. The banks say, ‘If the curriculum contained more of this, it would be more useful.'”

Business school had become “very niche, and not necessarily adapting to what we saw as the true globalization of business,” Hult says.

“We were hoping that we could improve the education and a piece of it was that we could sort of bring globalization to the education in a way that others weren’t.”

STUDYING ON MULTIPLE CAMPUSES OFFERS FAR GREATER IMPACT THAN CASE STUDIES

The rotation program, in which Hult students can study at multiple campuses if they pay their airfare, visa fees and accommodation costs, helps prepare graduates for a globalized world, Philip Hult says, adding that about half the students study on more than one campus.

“Taking a student who’s never been to China, to see it first-hand is going to have a far greater impact than all the case studies. The same about Dubai and seeing the Middle East and seeing the importance of energy.”

Instead of having an internship program, which helps students at other business schools obtain real-world experience and make potentially rewarding contacts, Hult students work in teams on six- to eight-week “Action Projects” for companies. Formal internships do not fit with Hult’s one-year program, because the MBA program runs through the summer, while MBA students in two-year programs are not in school, Hodges says.

However, each campus has a team that “tries to drum up local internships” for students informally, says Olaf Groth, a professor of global management, strategy, innovation, and economics at Hult’s San Francisco campus.