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Could do better?

Senior executives give MBA courses mixed review

By Peter Walker for CNN

Not yet -- executives says business schools could still do better.


FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006



Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.


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(CNN) -- U.S. executives are generally positive about the way business schools prepare MBA graduates for the real world, according to a new survey -- but the approval is some way short of a grade A.

Overall, 69% of business executives felt MBA courses did a good job educating students to succeed in corporate life, said the study carried out for Graziadio School of Business and Management, part of Pepperdine University in Los Angeles.

However, only 7% rated the business schools' job as excellent, and 21% marked them down as only fair.

The survey "suggests that business schools in general are earning passing marks, but not straight As," said Linda Livingstone, dean of the Graziadio School.

"In the past several years major business schools have directed increasing focus on applied and relevant curriculum.

"Bringing real businesses with live case challenges and executives into the classroom as well as creating collaborative programs with businesses is starting to pay off. (But) clearly, senior-level business executives want more."

Despite the plethora of new teaching methods and real-world case studies introduced at business schools in recent times, by no means all of the leading executives in Fortune 1000 companies who were surveyed have noticed the difference.

Only just over a quarter of the executives thought today's newly-minted MBAs were better prepared to meet business challenges now than they were five years ago, while a far more numerous 61% thought levels of preparedness had stayed roughly the same.

More gloomily, 9% reckoned the caliber of new graduates was now lower than five years earlier.

Despite the mixed feelings, companies are continuing to stump up the cash to support business education.

Only 9% of those surveyed said their companies were paying less towards MBA tuition reimbursement than five years ago, whereas 17% said they were spending more with 69% reckoning the figure had stayed stable.

Ethics issue

One perhaps worrying finding in an era of high-profile corporate scandals is that there appears to have been little progress in educating would-be senior executives about business ethics.

Despite a plethora of publicity about the issue -- the survey was published the same day that Enron Corp.'s former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling and founder Kenneth Lay were found guilty of conspiracy and fraud in one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history -- only 18% of the executives reported that new MBAs were more ethical than their earlier-graduating counterparts.

In contrast, 67% thought that the supposed new world of corporate transparency had made no real difference to new MBAs.

One resoundingly good piece of news for would-be MBAs in the survey concerned women.

While almost 38% of executives believe it takes a woman up to four years to regain momentum in her career after a break of more than two years, for example to have a child, and 13% think she will never fully catch up, the vast majority said an MBA would help bridge the gap.

Nine out of ten of the senior executives said a women getting an MBA before returning to work would have some value for them, with 21% saying it would be "very valuable." Notably, the female executives surveyed more than twice as likely as their male equivalents to consider an MBA very valuable in this way.

"It is clear that after a prolonged absence, it's not unusual for a woman returning to work to face internal challenges catching up in term of skills, earning power, and acceptance among peers," Livingstone said.

"Clearly, senior managers need to give more attention to addressing the needs of those women who want to return to the workforce to more effectively address long-term staffing needs."

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