The Value Of A Flexible MBA

Value of Flexible MBA

Starting in Fall 2020, McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management will offer 12-, 16-, and 20-month MBA options to meet changing student needs. 

MBA graduates today look strikingly different from their predecessors. They’re a more diverse bunch in demographic terms, to be sure, but they also represent a wider variety of values, goals, and career interests than ever before. Some plan to take the traditional route of returning to the companies they left, while others will use their newly minted degrees to pivot in a completely different direction.

This fall, McGill University will join other top MBA programs in offering flexible-length programs that serve a broad range of student needs. “As we witnessed changes in what students are looking to get out of an MBA, we recognized the need for different lengths of programs,” explains Dr. John-Paul Ferguson, the Academic Director of the MBA Program at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

Value of Flexible MBA


Maintaining Core Competency

 “A major part of our redesign is making sure we have a flexible program length that still provides the same core content without sacrificing on program content,” Dr. Ferguson emphasizes. The McGill MBA program’s new 12-, 16-, and 20- month options all provide traditional managerial education with the opportunity to declare a specialization. No matter what length of program they choose, every MBA student begins their degree the same time and enrolls in the same classes during their first semester. “This is important, because core managerial expertise is the hallmark of a good MBA education,” believes Dr. Ferguson. “And it’s also valuable for the class to start together so students can develop the social relationships that are every bit as valuable as coursework in an MBA program.”

The difference in length between McGill’s 12-, 16-, and 20-month options comes down to the time students spend in the workplace, not the time they spend in the classroom. Depending on the internship experience they desire, students can tailor their programs accordingly.

Choosing the Right Length

Traditionally, most students pursue an MBA degree to accumulate broad skills that will propel them to a higher rung of the ladder at their current company. Employees hired with a specific skill set may spend several years rising through the ranks before they plateau because they lack the managerial skills to effectively run an organization. “If you’re looking for general managerial expertise and want to return to the firm where you worked, you want to finish the MBA as quickly as possible,” Dr. Ferguson notes. Students in this situation have no use for an internship experience, because they already have a defined career plan. “Particularly in North America and Western Europe, there is an increasing demand for programs designed for these students,” says Dr. Ferguson. “We meet the demand through our 12-month option.”

While some MBA students seek condensed program options, others prioritize the work experiences that are integrated into longer programs. “One major change in business education over the past 10 to 15 years is that increasing numbers of MBA applicants are trying to use their degree to change jobs, industries, and countries,” Dr. Ferguson has observed. “For these students, internships and other experiential opportunities are incredibly valuable. Our 16-month option gives them the time to obtain the skills and experience they need.”

For international students who plan to launch their careers in Canada after finishing their MBA, McGill’s 20-month option is ideal. Canada offers a work permit, valid up to three years, for students who complete two years of study at a Canadian university. The longer program not only affords these students the experience of working for Canadian companies, but it also facilitates the transition into permanent residency.

Ultimately, the most successful MBA programs will evolve alongside student needs. As students use their MBA to further an increasingly diverse set of goals, they find value in programs that provide the flexibility to forge their own path, however long it takes.

Ashley Rabinovitch

Ashley writes stories that matter for brands that change the world. She spends her days interviewing fascinating people and weaving their narratives together in print and digital media. A native of Ohio, she was on track to become a policy wonk until she discovered her niche in political communications. 2016 was an excellent year to exit American politics, so she traveled the world to collect fundraising stories for a nonprofit before landing in Montreal. Today, she leverages her talents on behalf of universities across North America.

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