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French Version

The Business school dilemma

Business schools are accused of doing a bad job in meeting the needs of both the students and the industry for effective education and relevant knowledge. They are accused of not preparing Business students enough to meet the real world of business.

They are also accused of becoming too commercial, too market driven and in a continuous phase of meeting the demands of the customers-students, which is lowering the values and principles of education.

The Business school is promising what it cannot fulfill and cannot guarantee such as increased salary, higher positions and better managerial skills. Unfortunately Business schools are showing little evidence that they are enforcers of professional standards and norms of conduct. This is obvious in the scandals of professional figures being prosecuted now for fraud, such as Enron’s.

Also in terms of the message sent to students there is little evidence of emphasis on high standards of professional conduct. In fact studies have shown that Business school students are reported cheating more than Science faculties such as Medicine and Engineering. The main goal for Business schools and other faculties should be increasing and enhancing the intellectual capital for countries and industries by the creation and exploitation of knowledge and critiquing relevant to management practice. But the dominant value proposition for Business schools is enhanced careers and better salaries especially through their MBA courses.

This is clearly seen on the universities’ web sites. The shamming thing is that all of us whether corporations, students, businessmen, universities and most academics are going with the flow and accepting this proposition as the true one, even though it is not that true. Another question to consider is whether the usefulness of Business schools is just for careful screening of motivated intelligent individuals or do they have to give a set of skills to those students? Yes for sure they’ll help corporations a lot in providing the best of the best through their screening process, but their role should be much bigger than that. Business schools should focus more on being educational institutions rather than screening and signaling services. This has led to students being more interested in getting in since they know once they got in, very few students ever flunk.

In addition they become more interested in networking than in the course material. The tension faced by Business schools is not different from those facing other professional schools such Law and Medicine. But Business schools often lack a coherent strategy, a set of enduring values, a professional ethos and a code of conduct from the profession or management that they serve; therefore they are more susceptible to and bothered by these conflicts and their resulting tensions. If they stop acting as businesses and just have a soul and a set of values, those tensions and conflicts will be minimal. With more than 100,000 MBA degrees awarded annually in the USA and an MBA enrollment growth of 35 percent in just 5 years between 1994 and 1999, it is obvious that the market is becoming over-saturated with Business degree holders. This is leading to erosion in the value of the MBA specifically and the Business school in general. Also the expansion of Business schools and universities in operating overseas has also contributed to the erosion of this value.

MBAs are regarded as cash cows especially the executive ones. Universities are taking advantage of their reputation and strength in order to sell MBAs to students and professionals at premium prices. Business schools face a lot of interrelated problems; they face intense competition not only from universities but also from other professional bodies such as CFA and CPA.

These competitors are mainly consulting firms, major corporations, technology firms and education enterprises. Other problems are how Business schools, which provide general information and knowledge, can compete with specialized bodies; for example is a Master in Finance better than a CFA? In addition there are problem with the perceived value that a Business school offers; with the student culture that the Business schools have fostered, and finally of the responsibility of Business schools in graduating corrupt executives due to lack of business ethics education. Universities have to look back at their roots and choose their set of values and most importantly their value proposition. Selling MBAs and promising high figures and a great boost in career are things they should not promise and involve themselves in; on the contrary they should focus on education.

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