MBA origins :
The MBA started life in America as a Master of Science in Commerce degree at the first graduate school of management, at the Tuck School of Business. Founded in 1900 at Dartmouth College, the MSc Commerce Degree later became known as the Master of Business Administration, but it was Harvard who offered the first MBA in 1908 at the newly formed Graduate School of Business Administration (GSBA). It took a further 35 years until the Executive MBA (EMBA) program was first introduced by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 1943. Now offered by most business schools, the EMBA was a global degree from the start being made available in three continents. Developed to meet the educational needs of company executives, the course allowed students to gain an MBA whilst continuing to work full-time. EMBA students come from a variety of organisations and businesses but are unified by their experience in managerial positions. Since the EMBA was introduced, the MBA became a more globally recognised and accepted degree and by the 1950’s, MBA’s were being awarded outside the United States of America.
Europe adopts MBA
In 1957, INSEAD (Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires or European Institute of Business Administration) became the first European business school to offer an MBA program. In the first year, just over 50 students graduated from the institution. Today, over 900 students graduate every year. This growth has been seen across Europe, with more and more business schools offering the MBA. Today over 300 MBA programs are available in 35 countries throughout Europe, varying in size, quality, history and institutional governance. Whilst European business schools can’t boast the lengthy history of their American counterparts, their popularity and prestige is certainly rising and some are undoubtedly amongst the best in the world, such as London Business School (LBS), IMD, INSEAD, IESE and IE.
The evolving MBAs
Nowadays though, MBA’s and EMBA’s come in a variety of forms. Years gone by, the MBA was the only degree that a young manager would consider, but these days the decision isn’t always as straightforward. As the global economy continues to stutter, the need for choice and competing degrees is required, and nowhere has this view been more apparent than Europe. A recent rise in demand for pre-experience masters in management (MIM) degrees have lead to many established schools seeing a decline in MBA applications.
In Asia, it is clear that there has been a shift away from the traditional MBA, but unlike Europe, there has been no clear winner that has replaced it. In India, the flagship postgraduate business degrees are aimed at students who have only just graduated, making the average age of an MBA-equivalent qualified Indian student considerably less than their American counterparts. China are pushing their executive and part-time MBAs as the premium product. Countries throughout Asia are finding their place on the world management stage, both in the education and business sectors, and it seems that the jury is still out on what is going to become the standard.
The added problem that many are citing as a factor for declines in MBA numbers is the fragmentation of the degree. Whilst those directly involved with the MBA are referring to this as customisation or specialisation, there is no doubt that it is creating a fragmented qualification. One such specialism that is now available is the field of luxury goods. Understandably, executives of luxury and boutique brands need unique skills, such as the ability to negotiate between the contrasting departments of a high-end company, allowing the creative and the commercial elements to work in harmony. Specialised MBA’s are becoming more widely available, from an MBA in Medical Services Management to an MBA in Government, students now have more choice than ever, but many are wondering whether this is a good thing. A niche course, designed for a niche sector can seem risky to some, especially when combined with the high fees demanded for them, but those who design, run and take the courses claim that a focused MBA is the best way to avoid wasting time and money.
It’s clear that the MBA has changed over the years, and it would be reasonable to suggest that it will continue to develop as years go by. With the rising interest in MIM degrees and other non-MBA equivalent qualifications, the question remains whether or not it could be replaced. At this point though, it is impossible to tell, but whilst employers favour it, students will demand it.