The Blog

The dumbing down of business schools

Yesterday’s newspaper featured the following headline: “Wharton Makes a Claim to the Business School Party Scene”. How disillusioning that such a respected college at the University of Pennsylvania would brag about being a “party-hardy” school in order to attract a certain caliber of M.B.A. student.

But then, that seems to be the trend with North American institutions these days. I took a look at how M.B.A. schools in Canada market themselves and was puzzled with their positioning statements. To quote a few:

“Make your degree pay quickly…” (Ted Rogers School of Business, Ryerson University, Toronto ON)

“Over 94% of our graduates rate the program a good or excellent investment and, on average, achieve payback on their investment within 3-5 years.” (Queen’s School of Business, Queen’s University, Kingston ON)

“Our rigorous application process ensures you will be motivated, encouraged, inspired and challenged by others just like you.” (Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS)

“Stand apart from the competition…” (Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto ON)

“[We] will give you an edge in your career…” (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto ON)

It seems that the marketing for M.B.A. programs focuses on: the ability to score a high-paying position shortly after graduation; payback on investment; becoming a member of a unique, preclusive club; and lastly (and most alarmingly for future leaders), gaining a competitive edge within the rat race.

None of these four marketing appeals focus on humility and developing the ability to engage employees.

The students themselves don’t dispel or disavow this strategy. For many of them, an M.B.A. means one thing and one thing only: money. In today’s education environment, where an undergraduate degree is a given, a graduate degree becomes a necessity. But from the marketing I read, the students will be taught to step on someone else in order to get ahead. Self-absorption is encouraged. The quest for more money and a better position is a promised output.

There is nothing in business schools’ marketing materials about sacrifice, about providing a service to others, about caring for employees. Nowhere do I see an appeal to future managers about how to build great teams of employees who can flourish in their own right.

This is the antithesis of what being a great manager is all about.

Nick Forrest

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