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Delivering MBA courses – the case of Warwick Business School

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Article Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. The Warwick brand
  3. Flexible learning
  4. Are business schools responsible for the credit crunch?
  5. A global concern for management education

Are business schools responsible for the credit crunch?

Howard takes issue with the analysis of Dr Stefano Harney, reader in strategy and director of global learning at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London (reported in Times Higher Education, September 25 2008), that poor teaching on the part of business schools played a part in the current global financial crisis.

Harney believes that business school academics tend to focus on small, technical issues – for example product placement and supply chains – at the expense of wider moral ones, such as wealth distribution, the environment, war, workers' rights and equality issues. They also fail to challenge the culture of greed and produce ethical graduates.

But Howard believes that WBS students get plenty of ethical input,

"In our undergraduate programme we have a one-year course called 'critical issues in management'. We look at management problems from a whole range of perspectives, including ethical ones. Another year-long course on the MBA programme looks at how you handle people and what constitutes ethical relationships. So I don't think we overemphasize technical issues, and we do try to embed principles of sound ethical management in everything we do."

However, ethical issues are not just the province of universities,

"I think it's also a societal problem. What happened to the family as a unit, to church going, and to moral sense in learning? Indeed, a number of students don't see anything wrong in copying homework or plagiarizing articles they download from search engines. As a consequence we increasingly monitor plagiarism using software such as Turnitin."

And you cannot look at the current financial crisis simply through the disciplinary lens of management:

"I've no doubt that there have been instances of complete fraud, complete greed on the part of mortgage brokers in the US, people packaging together worthless financial instruments in order to get huge commissions. But you need to look at the financial system as a whole, at the behaviour of institutions and individuals as well as the design of financial instruments.

"What really went wrong in the first place? Just to blame the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US is over-simplistic, it's just a convenient hook. Look at Northern Rock in the UK, which was also loaning a lot of money on mortgages but didn't have enough deposits to justify those loans. It went to the wholesale market for funds which dried up, and then Northern Rock was nationalized. So it's not easy to find a simple solution and you need to look at problems from a broader behavioural and economic perspective."

The fact that management is studied at a major university along with other disciplines is a plus. Warwick has an excellent industrial relations faculty which looks at equality and workers' rights, while wealth and distribution issues are dealt with by organizational behaviour faculty, and sustainability and environment issues are examined across the University. Again the social science orientation provides a broad perspective.

He does agree, however, that MBA students do have high financial aspirations, and investment banking or consulting has been a traditional goal, but that too may be changing: Warwick's MBA students have an average age of 29, and and already have significant experience of business and management. They may now have wider aspirations in social entrepreneurship and the voluntary sector and WBS is meeting these new challenges. One example he gives is the fact that the current credit crisis has overshadowed, only temporarily, the need for greater expertise in the energy industry and WBS is the first leading business school to offer a global energy MBA.