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What's The Ideal Length for an MBA Program?

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What's The Ideal Length for an MBA Program?

Postby Anula » Fri Mar 31, 2017 5:11 pm

This is discussions about News Article "What's The Ideal Length for an MBA Program?".

What's the ideal length for an MBA program? While some swear by the 1-year program for its lower costs and lesser time spent away from work, others favour the slightly more elongated 16-month and yet others prefer the 18-month program.

Representatives from three business schools took up the debate in BizEd, published by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business(AACSB) International. They felt that the duration of the program was directly linked to the needs of the students. While some may want to acquire essential business skills as quickly as possible and return to the workforce, some may want extra time to develop specializations or get real-world work experience through internships.

Virginie Fougea, director of MBA recruitment and admissions at INSEAD, says the school was among the pioneers in launching the 1-year MBA almost 60 years ago. Students find the format ideal because it offers an excellent return on investment in terms of both time and money.

They need to spend less money on tuition and living expenses than in a two-year program. They are able to earn pay packets comparable to those who opt for the longer formats. They also enjoy a shorter payback period of 2.4 years, on an average. Almost 90% find jobs within three months.

While INSEAD, which has campuses in Fontainebleau, France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, is able to attract students from around 70 nationalities, it also needs to be efficient and flexible with regard to curriculum and teaching methods. she says.

A flexible curriculum allows students to create the ideal mix of courses for their own learning goals. Participants have a choice of 75 electives and two intakes, in January and September. They are also offered the option of studying at one of the campuses on three different continents or with one of the U.S. partner schools.

Classes are held almost every day, including Saturdays. Students who wish to get hands-on experience before job-hunting can participate in internships if they enrol in the January program. “Within our one-year time frame, we are confident that we cover the fundamentals students need to become successful leaders,” she says.

“Our goal for the program to bridge the boundaries between classroom theory and real-life practice and to put students back in the workplace with all their newly acquired knowledge still fresh in their minds,” she adds.

Andrea Masini, associate dean of the MBA program at HEC Paris cites the 16-month format as “the perfect model”. Most students enrol in business programs either to secure positions in general management or to switch careers. A 16-month program helps them meet either objective.

She argues that while it would be difficult to compress the necessary material into a shorter period of time, a longer duration program that keeps students out of the workforce may have have a negative impact on career advancement.

The 16-month program also fits perfectly into the academic calendar, as it can be composed of four four-month terms. “At HEC Paris, we offer two intakes per academic year, one starting in September and one in January. Because the four terms are identical in length, courses offered in a given term, such as specializations, can be made available to both groups. This format allows students in the two classes to mix and maximizes the number of available electives,” she says.

During the first eight months of the program, participants take fundamental core courses to learn the essential business disciplines. They also take a language course, learn leadership development, and receive career coaching.

The following eight months are more flexible in nature, which allows them to tailor their MBA experience. During one four-month period, they can choose from a range of electives and fieldwork projects; they also can opt to participate in international exchange programs with business schools elsewhere. During the other four-month period, they take courses in specific domains such as strategy, marketing, finance, or entrepreneurship.

She believes the HEC program has several advantages over a one-year format. During the eight-month term on fundamentals, students who come from functional jobs like engineering will have enough time to acquire key knowledge about finance and operations, essential if they are to be credible as general managers.

The format also allows them to build CVs by taking relevant courses, working on projects in their chosen fields, and interning at corporations in their new industries. They would find it impossible to fit in all these activities during a shorter program. It also allows for more opportunities in networking among the 200 students who typically come from more than 50 countries, with 90% of the class being international.

When compared to a two-year format, it works out to be cheaper and less time consuming. A two-year program tends to spend the entire first year teaching the fundamentals. Not only does this mean students have less time to customize their programs with electives, but it also means they might start their internships before they have taken the specialized courses that will provide them with the skills they need in their chosen industries.

However, for Ronald T. Wilcox, senior associate dean for degree programs at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, the two-year program reigns supreme. He feels it enables students to develop the necessary tools and skills including internship during the summer break. The format also gives students more time to reflect and research as they plan their careers.

It gives them time to develop intellectual reasoning. In the first year, students build their core knowledge, but as they take electives during their second year, they master new topics and disciplines that help them solve real-world problems.

Throughout the two-year experience, students hone their leadership abilities through courses, projects, travel, and club memberships, where they learn the benefits of speaking up and getting involved.

Students who invest time and energy in two-year programs are not only developing lifelong skill sets, but also creating relationships that will help them achieve their goals. These relationships—built through classroom experiences, team projects, faculty engagement, and social interaction—are among the most enduring benefits of the two-year MBA format, he says.

BizEd says as b-school leaders consider their own program formats, many benchmark against global norms. In that case, one-year programs might have an edge. According to the 2016 Application Trends Survey Report from the Graduate Management Admission Council, only 43% of two-year MBA programs experienced growth between 2015 and 2016, while 57% of one-year programs did. However, that’s the first time since 2012 that fewer than half of two-year programs saw volume increases, so it might be too early to spot a pattern.

Another key trend is increased customization, and that trend holds true no matter how many months the program encompasses. In fact, for students, the ultimate customization might be the length of the program itself as they choose how long to be out of the workforce while they hone their skills for the next phase of their careers.

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