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Intense, vigorous, soft and fun: identity work and the international MBA

Nic Beech (Strathclyde University, Graduate School of Business, Glasgow, UK)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 1 January 2006




A critical debate has been on‐going about the desired nature of international MBAs. One aspect of this debate, which has remained significantly underdeveloped, is the impact on students' identity of the way that MBAs are shaped and projected. This paper seeks to address this issue.


Taking the decision to do an MBA as a point of high intensity identity work, artefacts that input to that decision are subjected to narrative analysis. A total of 140 MBA brochures from the USA and Europe were analysed.


The findings lay out the dominant narrative style of the MBA identity as projected through brochures and associated publicity material.

Research limitations/implications

Narrative analysis emphasises some potential findings whilst de‐emphasising others. Its strengths are to be able to incorporate a large amount of empirical material and to uncover underlying patterns within that material. Its limitations are that it is not as focused on micro detail in the way that, for example, conversation analysis is, and nor is it focused on macro generalisation in the way that discourse analysis can be.

Practical implications

The analysis has implications for those involved in designing and promoting MBAs.


The outcome is a conceptualisation of some of the consequences of the projected identity of international MBA students. This is intended to be a contribution to the debate on the nature of international management education and to also have application within the debate on the nature and processes of identity work.



Beech, N. (2006), "Intense, vigorous, soft and fun: identity work and the international MBA", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 41-57.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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