The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is probably the most sought after post graduate qualification in Sri Lanka today. The demand for this degree is such that it is now being offered by numerous institutions thus providing prospective students a wide choice to select from. Hence it is important that students make an informed decision when embarking on an MBA course since it amounts to a big investment in both time and money.
Origins of the MBA
The MBA Degree was first introduced by the Harvard University in 1908 as a response to the demands of industrialization emerging from the late 19th century. The companies in the United States started seeking “scientific approaches to management” in order to cope with rapid expansion of industry. The MBA was aimed at bringing managers from diversified disciplines to one common platform. The core modules in the MBA were designed to introduce students to all areas of business such as Accounting and Finance, Marketing, Operations and Human Resources. In 1957 INSEAD became the first European Business School to offer an MBA programme. As time went by some Universities and Institutes attempted to differentiate their product by offering MBA programmes with specialty in a given discipline. Accordingly courses such as MBA (finance), MBA (marketing), etc are now on offer. It has to be observed that specialized MBA’s actually defeat the primary aim of bringing the students to a common platform.
In keeping with the original intention of an MBA, it is mandatory that the course covers the key areas of business which are common to any organization. Accordingly topics such as Accounting and Finance, Operations Management, Marketing, Human Resource Management, Managerial Economics and Strategic Management should form the core areas of study. Supplementary subjects could range from International Business to Global Marketing, Project Management to Entrepreneurship. The sky is the limit as far as optional subjects are concerned. In fact it is prudent to supplement the core modules with subjects that are topical and relevant to suit the context in which the MBA is offered.
The MBA Class
One of the salient features of an MBA programme is that it offers an opportunity for student to learn from each other. Hence the typical MBA class should be a mixed bag of multi disciplinary professionals. Learning in the MBA classroom has to be enriched by the experiences brought together by those from different industries as well as different specialties. As an example, a class which has students representing sectors such as manufacturing, financial, hospitality, Telecommunication etc and made up of professionals in production, accounting, marketing, HR, etc will naturally enhance learning in the classroom. The fundamental idea is that each student is able to make his or her own contributions to common learning while at the same time drawing on the experience of others for his or her own benefit.
The MBA programme is not delivered entirely through lectures or lecture notes. Neither is it assessed purely on examination or research. It is a common feature that instruction in an MBA class is given by a combination to lectures, videos, seminars, presentation etc. There is prominence given to assignments and projects when evaluating learning of a module. The idea behind such an emphasis is that the MBA is not a mere test of academic content but a test of holistic development.
Opportunity for Networking
An MBA cohort comprising of professionals from a wide range of industries and services can act as a good source for establishing contacts and building relationships for mutual advantage. Today’s business world is such that networking helps both the individual and the organization equally. Therefore, it is important that an MBA class affords the opportunity for a student to establish and build such connections which help them professionally and socially.
Any MBA that is worth the while should have a component which calls for a Research Based Dissertation or Thesis. The basic idea of this requirement is to ensure that the student develops skills in research and is able to look at any business problem in the work place in a “scientific manner”. This no doubt will add value to decision making and problem solving in the real world of work. Thus, the demand for a research based approach can never be over emphasized in an MBA programme. The research also helps the student to reach a new found level of intellectual maturity which will be of value to the employer as well.
Balancing work and life
In the present context, it is very difficult to distinguish between work life, family life and social life. What happens in the work place will no doubt have an impact on the family life. Similarly issues at home will reflect on performance at work. The real challenge for an MBA student is to complete the course without letting up or compromising on any of the fronts. The high regard of employers for MBA graduates has much to do with their demonstrable ability to cope with pressure at the work place, remain focused amidst challenges and effectively deliver results on time.
A good MBA can truly enhance the professional worth of an individual and give a strategic advantage to the employer. However it is important to seek not the qualification but the benefits that can accrue from the rigor of the degree course. There is no short cut to a meaningful MBA. Hard work will eventually pay off and rewards will naturally follow.