The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is becoming increasingly publicly criticised by the likes of Mintzberg and other management writers. Much of their criticism is based on personal experience and opinion rather than any systematic research, and ready‐made solutions are proposed as alternatives. This paper (and its counterpart) are the result of a year of research into the future of the MBA. Its purpose is to question whether its current market decline is terminal or if indeed it can be resurrected.
A year‐long future study was undertaken at Cranfield School of Management combining a range of traditional research methods and samples including literature review, surveys of alumni, academics and futurists, interviews with recruiters and human resources (HR) managers, a Delphi study with international participants, and interviews and a focus group with business leaders. The results were then analysed and combined to form the pictures developed in this article and its counterpart.
The MBA is positioned here as a qualification that is plagued by market confusion as to what it actually represents and what its value is. A pre‐emptive post‐mortem is carried out into the future of the MBA and the future senior manager/leader, which highlights the gap between research and practice, league tables, e‐learning and attempts at internationalisation as some of the causes of the current malaise. The paper also looks at how some business schools are starting to address these issues in order to maintain the MBA as a valued qualification in the management marketplace.
This paper provides a comparison of MBA offerings and potential substitutes. It opens the arena of senior management education for debate by charting the future decline of the MBA, challenging business schools to make changes or witness the death of their cash‐cow.
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