Ethics on the study program

by Leo d’Angelo Fisher. Business Review Weekly, September 2010

Stung by criticism that MBA executives contributed to the global financial crisis, many leading business schools in the USA and Europe have responded by rewriting their MBA curriculums.  Fisher reports that the biggest shortcomings of the transgressors who brought the world’s financial system to the brink involve familiar keywords:  ethics, values, sustainability, responsibility and accountability.  He asks:  If business schools are not to blame for the scarcity of these attributes in our business leaders then where does the blame lie?

In Australia most universities have reviewed their MBA programs since the financial crisis but business school heads say this has more to do with routine curriculum reviews than a response to the GFC.

Curtin University of Technology’s Graduate School of Business in Perth unveiled a new MBA program this year but its MBA Director Peter Galvin says this followed the completion of a normal five-yearly review of university programs.  He stated that the GFC did push some issues to the forefront, notably ethics.  Curtin has decided to integrate ethics into the whole MBA program rather than treat it as a discrete topic.  The emphasis is on infusing ethics throughout the program and getting students to think deeply about these issues.

Other changes include a focus on competitive entry – in which candidates must submit to an interview and write an essay for assessment – and a requirement that students must complete a minimum number of hours of professional development activities during their MBA programs.

Monash University in Melbourne will introduce a revamped MBA in 2011.  Features of the new MBA include a more balanced program that combines different teaching styles and the integration of management skills such as ethics, sustainability, critical thinking and decision-making with technical skills such as corporate finance, quantitative analysis and accounting.

Business school deans emphasise critical differences between Australian MBA students and their American counterparts.  Australian students are generally older when they start their MBAs – on average in their mid-30s, compared with the mid-20s in the USA – and are usually required to have at least three year’s management experience to be admitted to an MBA program.

Alec Cameron, Dean of the Australian School of Business (ASB) at the University of New South Wales says the GFC will inevitably influence the make-up of Australian MBA programs. At ASB this includes a focus on producing more adaptable and resilient managers with the skills to work in a turbulent environment.  Ethics and corporate social responsibility are also integrated into the MBA program. 

Cameron says that a positive to emerge from the economic downturn has been a more diverse MBA student base, with students seeking to apply their management education in fields other than investment banking and management consulting – such as the not-for-profit sector, in their own business or as social entrepreneurs.

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