The Executive MBA Alternative
By Spencer Matheson
The continued growth and popularity of the Executive MBA across the globe reflects the attractive rewards for both participants and their employers, ensuring both accelerated professional development and enhanced corporate performance.
Companies are realising more than ever that they must invest in employee career enhancement to retain top managers, says Bernadette Conraths, Head of Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA (EMBA). And recent conversations with admissions directors at top business schools worldwide suggest the executive education uptrend will persist into 2009, an indication that companies are taking this investment seriously.
According to the 2007 Executive MBA Council survey of member schools the percentage of students who received promotions increased from 34% in 2004 to 43% in 2007. “Based on feedback from our alumni and corporate partners, I believe that EMBA numbers are picking up as companies invest more in retention. The demand for quality executives is high,” says Conraths.
Targeted at senior managers and young executives on a fast-track managerial career, the Executive MBA has been the growth area in management education over the past five years. A growing number of schools, including Cass Business School in London and University of Virginia's Darden School are launching new programs. Meanwhile, other schools are developing partnership Executive MBA programs such as Rotman School at the University of Toronto and St. Gallen in Switzerland, INSEAD and China’s Tsinghua University, and London Business School and Columbia Business School, catering for an internationally mobile audience.
Kirt Wood, Director of Marketing and Admissions at the RSM Erasmus Rotterdam School of Management, notes that demand for the program is no longer regionally based. Fast-developing economies are looking to train the new generation of internationally experienced senior managers to manage growth. “We are seeing more enquiries and students from new markets,” he explains. “Central Asia in particular is entering the pool in a big way.”
As more and more EMBA participants are crossing frontiers, EMBA programs are unlocking the potential of the internet for distance learning. Online tutorials, groupware, simulations, and virtual group assignments all play an important role in the learning model. George Hill, Chief Technology Officer at Bell South International, has been impressed with the richness of the distance-learning segment of Emory University's Modular Executive MBA Program. "It is a virtual extension of the classroom. The ability to have discussions via the web is a powerful tool and has allowed me to participate frequently as I travel internationally. I found the online discussions as engaging and intense as the classroom case studies."
Women and EMBAs
The international audience isn’t the only group attracted to Executive MBAs. The accessibility of the programs means more and more women are considering studying for this prestigious qualification while balancing work and family commitments. Several EMBA schools are now looking to accept highly qualified women with slightly less work experience than they have traditionally targeted. Columbia Executive MBA Dean Ethan Hanabury sees EMBA demand trending younger as women check the MBA box. “They’ll do this while advancing professionally before they start to think of children and other family obligations. And when you think about the average age of somebody attending an executive MBA program, it’s right during the peak of child-bearing years.”
But what is the driver that is sustaining the demand for the Executive MBA? After all, the program requires a considerable investment of time and money from both employer and employee. Frank Bertuzzi is now an EMEA representative for Teraware Communications in the US. When he began his Executive MBA at ESC Lille in France he had spent 12 years in his home country as an engineer. "After 12 years in engineering, I decided to enrol in an Executive MBA program to take charge of my career and expand my horizons. I had acquired skills in sales and management at work, but I gradually realized that I needed a more theoretical knowledge of business, which one can rarely find in companies. I chose to enrol at ESC Lille because of the reputation of the school, its expertise in project management, and its exchange program with UTS in Sydney. I completed my EMBA in France and Australia and passed international certifications in project management and cost engineering. My career turned international, and I now work for a California-based global manufacturer that provides solutions in optical networking.”
For the majority of Executive MBA participants, the intense schedule is just part of the trade-off that sees them able to earn more and move ahead, without interrupting their careers.
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