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Journey to my MBA

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Economist MBA News - GMAT Changing

Testing times

The GMAT—the contentious entrance exam required by most important business schools—is set for an upgrade. Dubbed the “Next Generation GMAT”, the test's administrator, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), says it is responding to changes in the business school market, such as an increase in specialised masters programmes and more variations on the traditional MBA. Few firm details of what the new exam will look like are yet available—the GMAC is set to go through a lengthy consultation process with schools, with the new test to be launched in 2013—but it may look to address some of the criticisms that are often levelled at it.

Despite being the de facto entrance exam for business schools across the world, the GMAT is only available in (American) English and has often been accused of a cultural bias towards Western students. Furthermore, breaches of security, such as last year's cheating scandal (see article) and the problem of professional test-takers sitting the exam for prospective students, are also sure to feature in the GMAC's deliberations.

Meanwhile, the GMAC has announced that it has brokered a deal with “a leading international bank” to provide at least $500m in loans to international students. The organisation says that international students have been especially hard-hit by the financial crisis as they are not eligible for federal loans and some big lenders have become reluctant to advance credit. The loans will initially be open to students in about 40 business schools in America and Europe, beginning with the 2009-10 academic year.

On the cases

INSEAD and London Business School were winners at the annual European Case Awards in early March. The awards, which honour the best management case studies—a teaching technique pioneered by Harvard Business School—are bestowed by ecch, which describes itself as “a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting and facilitating case study based learning in management education and development.” The top honour went to four INSEAD professors—W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne, Ben Bensaou and Matt Williamson—for their study of Cirque du Soleil, a Canadian performing troupe.

All told, INSEAD picked up four awards, while London won in three categories. According to ecch, this year's cases concentrated on some of the areas hit hardest by the downturn, including the banking sector—cases of how not to do things, perhaps.

Concentrating minds

The University of Chicago's Booth Graduate School of Business has announced the addition of “concentrations” to its executive MBA curriculum. Students can now add a concentration in finance, marketing or strategy by adding a week of coursework (and paying an additional week of tuition) to the 21-month programme. The school is touting the concentrations as a way for students to signal to prospective employers that they have “in-depth knowledge” of a particular area. Although Booth offers its executive MBA programmes on three campuses—in Chicago, London, and Singapore—students would have to come to the Chicago campus for the concentration classes.

An emerging trend

In Spain, IESE at the University of Navarra has announced the creation of a new “Chair of Emerging Markets”, to be led by Alfredo Pastor, a professor of economics at the school. IESE said it was launching the chair in response to what it sees as poor understanding of such markets by European companies, and an overly-cautious response to them despite their potential. As such, the new chair aims to “foster research and encourage a constant and vivid exchange of knowledge and ideas about emerging markets for the benefit of companies and their managers.” It will do so via research, events and, eventually, the creation of courses on emerging markets.

Port of call

London Business School has some reason to feel grateful to off-the-beaten-path travellers. In early March, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, founders of the Lonely Planet series of travel guides, announced a gift to the school to endow a chair in entrepreneurship. Mr Wheeler received a master's degree from the school in 1972. LBS did not disclose the exact sum of the gift but described it as “multimillion pound.” Rajesh Chandy, who specialises in entrepreneurship and innovation in emerging markets, will be the first professor to hold the Wheeler Chair.

Executive stress

Heading south from Regent's Park, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has announced a foray into the once-lucrative world of executive education. Despite fears that corporate training budgets are being hit hard by the recession, LSE is banking that offering programmes dealing with today's gloomy business environment will buck the trend. Short courses, including “Banking in an Age of Turbulence” and “What’s Wrong With the EU and How to Fix It” are being offered as part of its “Executive Summer School”, which will run in June and July. The venture is further evidence that LSE is looking to compete head-to-head with traditional business schools. The school already offers an MBA in partnership with New York University’s Stern School of Business and HEC School of Management, Paris.

Barring the golden doors

The value of an American-earned MBA may be dropping for foreign students. In early March Bank of America confessed to having withdrawn job offers for MBA graduates who would need H1-B visas, reserved for highly-skilled workers, to work in finance jobs. The reason? Any institution wanting to receive money from the Troubled Assets Relief Programme cannot apply for H1-B visas if it has recently made workers redundant—two provisions that apply to a good many American banks. Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia Business School, called the provision “absolutely terrible” in an address to students. One-third of Columbia's MBA class of 2009 came from abroad.

Credit where due?

Despite recent bad press, MBA degrees must still be a mark of prestige, if the actions of Dave Bing, a former basketball star and entrepreneur competing in Detroit's mayoral election, scheduled for May, are anything to go by. Mr Bing, who received the most votes in the mayoral primary in February, has been forced to admit he did not receive an MBA from Kettering University (previously known as the General Motors Institute), as he had claimed in a promotional video for the National Basketball Administration. “I felt I had an MBA for the work I had done in the industry I was in,” he told the Associated Press. Mr Bing does hold an economics degree from Syracuse University, but he also admitted he had received it in 1995, not 1966 as previously stated.


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