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WORLD BUSINESS

Boardroom to battlefield

New MBA aims to produce better military managers

By Peter Walker for CNN

story.tank.gi.jpg
Master and commander -- business leadership in the defense world.

FACT BOX

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

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

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) -- They have a national monopoly and a guaranteed, not to mention generally appreciative, customer base.

Yet such are the pressures of business that this group now has its very own specialist MBA.

Who? Britain's armed forces.

From September, the first students will begin studying for the MBA (Defense), jointly run by Cranfield Business School and the Defense College of Management and Technology at Shrivenham, also part of Cranfield University, based around 75 kilometers northwest of London.

The course is the successor to a qualification taught at Shrivenham for the past 21 years to senior military officers -- including those from overseas -- as well as top defense civil servants and other senior officials.

It has been re-vamped in an effort to make it more relevant to the modern world of multi-million dollar defense tenders and professional management.

"The program will meet the need for those working in this sector to command a comprehensive portfolio of commercial management skills, enabling them to contribute more effectively towards Ministry of Defense initiatives," said program Director Graham Clark.

Offered as a full-time one year course costing $49,500, the qualification -- also known as an MDA -- can also be taken part-time for two and a half years and as a four-year flexible program by distance learning.

The latter option lets military officers continue the course if they are posted abroad -- in theory, allowing them to write essays as they lean their laptop computer on a tank in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Money management

Along with learning a range of management and strategic techniques and an understanding of cultural and political differences, the course aims to equip students with top-notch commercial management skills, letting them "contribute more effectively towards Ministry of Defense value-for-money initiatives."

One oft-cited example of defense mismanagement is the Eurofighter project jointly developed over a 20-year period by British, German, Italian and Spanish companies. Britain is committed to buying more than 200 of the fighter planes -- despite an ever-rising price tag and concerns it is already outdated before it has even gone into service.

The new qualification would be welcomed by all those in the military world, said Ron Matthews, professor in defense economics at the Defense College of Management and Technology, who is academic leader of the new MBA.

"The MBA (Defense) reflects a growing interest both within the UK defense sector and the international defense community for management education. It is a development of the existing MDA at Shrivenham but with a significant broadening to encompass the skills and knowledge one would expect to acquire from a traditional MBA program."

The first part of the program sees would-be MDAs study a series of standard business modules alongside their MBA counterparts before taking courses more tailored to the defense world.

Compulsory subjects for study include defense sector leadership, managing military projects and defense economics and finance, while students also take optional modules like risk evaluation and crisis management.

It might all sound very specialized, but compared to the courses usually taught Defense College of Management and Technology it is the ultimate in civilian-style management.

Other postgraduate courses on offer -- which probably wouldn't get you into the corporate boardroom -- include Guided Weapons Systems, Gun Systems Design and Explosives Ordnance Technology.

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