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Executive Education

When news meets business education

By Peter Walker for CNN
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(CNN) -- At some point in their course, pretty much every MBA student will encounter "synergy," a modern-day business buzzword for the mutually advantageous combination of separate elements or interests.

And what better example of the phenomenon than this: a media group owning a famous magazine name and a fast-growing online university combines the two for a branded business degree.

Meet the Newsweek MBA.

Launched with a flurry of publicity this month, the new MBA promises a "revolutionary approach" to business education, with fresh classes of students beginning the distance learning course nine times in the coming 12 months.

It combines the resources of Newsweek, the venerable news magazine which sells more than 4 million copies worldwide, and Kaplan University, an online-only institution with 26,000 students.

Both are subsidiaries of the Washington Post Company, also owners of the newspaper of the same name.

The new MBA's main selling point is the provision of up-to-the-minute case studies from the journalism resources of the magazine, rather than dusty examples from the past, as well as personal input from magazine staff.

The intention is to "use breaking business news to illuminate the issues and theories that are part of traditional MBA course work," according to the company.

"The Kaplan/Newsweek MBA will offer the best of both the classroom and the real world," said Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Richard M. Smith.

"The program will also provide an important new outlet for Newsweek's all-star cast of business reporters and editors and allow us to use online education to build an audience of young people who are on track to become the decision-makers of tomorrow."

Personal input

In practice, this will mean students receiving instruction from senior Newsweek staff on everything from global business strategy to leadership and the ethics of business transactions.

The online teaching will include interactive seminars, online quizzes, one-on-one feedback from professors and discussion forums.

"Traditional M.B.A. programs rely heavily on case studies, some of which are decades old," said Eric Goodman, Dean of the Graduate School of Management at Kaplan.

"While these studies have great value, students also have much to learn from events that are happening in the business world right now, events that Newsweek -- which recently broke the controversy over the Hewlett-Packard board of directors -- is in a perfect position to discuss.

"In addition, given Newsweek's strength covering international politics and business, this program will help us provide a global perspective to all our courses, from economics to finance to human resources management."

Of course, synergy tends to imply something more than just elegant efficiency: profit. Kaplan had revenues of more than $1.4bn last year, a figure it aims to add to thanks to the lucrative MBA market.

Whatever the innovation, some observers have been slightly skeptical at the idea, noting that Newsweek is more of a general interest news title than a business-specific one.

The writer of one finance-based weblog, or blog, said he was "not sure" about the concept, saying: "It's impossible to know how many business professors assign Newsweek as required reading, but it is probably a low number."


story.Newsweek.jpg

Up to the minute: Newsweek's headquarters in New York.

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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