After six years of medical school, a demanding schedule in a busy hospital, family commitments and a mortgage to take care of, the idea of a doctor returning to business school might not seem an obvious choice. Wouldn’t they be better served joining the local golf club?
For Hugh O’Neill, a primary care physician running his own practice within the NHS, the decision to pursue the Executive MBA at Cambridge’s Judge Business School made perfect sense. “The health care industry is the UK’s biggest employer,” he explains, “and doctors here are increasingly involved in running big budgets. But there is a lack of management expertise in an industry with combined budgets of over £200 billion. It’s therefore invaluable to understand the science behind the realities of running a business.”
O’Neill argues that the work of many professionals, including doctors and lawyers, already provide a strong basis in organisational behaviour and negotiation skills. “The executive MBA then brings the quantitative skills and strategic business sense, and builds the bridge between us and the administration, or the business client.”
He feels that he is also learning a lot about time management. “The school provides a Virtual Learning Environment to complement the weekend we spend on the campus each month. So we can study when we want, where we want. I set aside 15 to 20 hours a week to do the course work. You quickly learn to get rid of superfluous things, including TV.”
O’Neill is one of several executive MBA students at Judge with a medical or legal background that is combining his initial training with the study of hard numbers. Fellow student Rizwan Hasan is an anaesthetist at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, who received a grant of £1 million from the London Health Authority to develop a digital pathology database. “I felt I didn’t have much business sense, and wanted to use my EMBA to see how I could further develop funding.
The Cambridge location gives me access to the heart of the UK venture capital industry, and there are many health care start-ups I can connect with.”
Both practitioners agree that they are able to bring the skills that they are learning at business school back to their daily professional lives. It is this ability to blend personal development in the classroom with career development in the workplace that is driving much of the demand for the executive MBA. The Executive MBA Council’s 2010 Survey reports a 3 per cent increase in enquiries on the previous year, and a number of leading schools are launching EMBA programmes this year to meet the demand.
Among them is EM Lyon in France, whose reputation for developing entrepreneurial leaders is being given an international dimension with a Global Executive MBA that includes study modules in Switzerland, China, Singapore and other high-growth countries. Chantal Poty, executive programmes director at EM Lyon, explains that the school is committed to creating ‘entrepreneurs for the world’. “The Global Executive MBA will focus on how senior managers and business leaders can utilise their entrepreneurial instincts, while maintaining and improving social justice in the workplace and beyond.”
Graduates of the programme will become members of the World Entrepreneurship Forum, a network of entrepreneurs, experts and politicians with a focus on social responsibility. Poty explains, “Social responsibility is very important on the Global EMBA. We want to develop a different kind of entrepreneur. And with the multi-site format, we aim to develop the agility that will allow them to be comfortable in all business situations on a global scale.”
The global mindset of business students is also on the mind of Bob Bruner, dean of the Darden School at the University of Virginia. He recently chaired a report by the US accrediting body, AACSB, entitled The Globalisation of Management Education, which suggested that business schools are falling behind when it comes to preparing students for careers in an increasingly global world. “The rate of globalisation is only going to increase,” Bruner argues, “and it will be a disruptive force for which managers need to prepare.”
Bruner’s school is responding with a Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) launching in August that brings students to the five markets that the school feels will figure most prominently in shaping business this century: China, India, Brazil, the US and Europe. Bruner sees the programme as playing a key role for executives needing to address international business issues. “The GEMBA incorporates more global content, and emphasises skills that are vital for those planning to work across markets.”
Tellingly, more internationally minded EMBA participants are choosing to take on the financial burden of their studies themselves, either because of tight corporate budgets or the career freedom that paying direct gives them once the programme is over. The EMBA Council survey reports that 35 per cent of EMBA students last year were fully self-sponsored. For many, the lure of a programme that provides a ready-made global network is compelling, and for this the executive MBA market has proved effervescent in recent years.
The London Business School now offers its Global EMBA in both London and Dubai, in addition to a joint programme with New York’s Columbia Business School and Hong Kong University. Rival school INSEAD has also expanded its global footprint, adding an Abu Dhabi campus to EMBA options in Fontainebleau and Singapore.
But leading the pack is HEC Paris, which offers five locations for their executive MBA: Paris, Beijing, Shanghai, St. Petersburg and Doha. The school ensures that all participants follow the same core curriculum and receive the same fundamental content, regardless of where they enrol. For professor Pierre Dussauge, academic director of the EMBA, the benefit is clear. “Our aim is to build a strong participant network across all five locations. If a participant is based in France, but completes a module in China, Russia or Qatar, he or she will be able to build a network of peers around the world.
This is an invaluable asset in today’s global business landscape.”