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Macquarie: Entry Ticket to Australia

Anne Scrutton is a very busy lady these days. The Marketing Executive at Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) in Sydney now has 15 per cent more applicants for MBA programs than she did last autumn. The reason is, of course, the prevailing economic crisis.

“Many people who were laid off have used their severance package to do their MBA”, she says.  “Others anticipate that jobs will be even more demanding in the future and they want to brush up their skills.” So now she organizes six information sessions for potential applicants per term instead of just two and each time she welcomes 30 people when once there were just 15 or 20.

This influx typifies MGSM’s strong reputation for finance – after all 23 per cent of all students have a background in the financial industry and a further 16 percent work in associated corporate services. The school also specializes in sustainability. Professor Gayle Avery, for example, works to combine sustainable leadership with green business practice whilst at the same time delivering a return to the shareholders. Another focus of interest is marketing and sales in China. Professor Yiming Tang heads international study tours to the People's Republic. Jonathan Ryce, CEO of Bonds Transport Australia remembers his own trip as a student: “The tour provided me with rare access to top managers across a variety of industry sectors and the chance to hear first hand how they are tailoring their marketing to suit the particular Chinese situation.”

It does help that MGSM also has a campus in Hong Kong. This serves both as base camp for international students who want to deepen their knowledge of the Asian market and as home campus for the many Asian students who prefer to do their MBA closer to job and family. The 30 faculty members commute between Sydney and Hong Kong and visiting professors and industry experts join in upon invitation by the school. 

MGSM is held in high regard, particularly amongst employers. Amelia Jacka, Human Capital Manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Australia says: “MGSM has the strongest reputation among my work colleagues, other organizations and students.” Studies show that 80 per cent of the applicants are interested in Macquarie due to word of mouth from friends, co-workers or employers. Anne Scrutton claims: “We have a very strong brand.” In Australia the school regularly ranks amongst the top three, together with Australian Business School and Melbourne Business School.  Internationally the school came in at 57th on the list of the “Economist Intelligence Unit”. This is no mean feat, since whilst MGSM is accredited with the European Equis and is in the third year of the accreditation process with AACSB, it still remains a small school: The “Financial Times” does not even rank the Sydneysider due to its relatively small number of full-time students.

Only 45 participants begin each full-time MBA course, commencing each January and June. The full-time program takes one year and is taught over four terms. At any given time there are also approximately 800 students studying part-time, in parallel to their professional commitments. This may be due to a “cafeteria-system” of classes that allows part-timers to take single unit courses to brush up on their skills in a certain area or to work towards a postgraduate certificate or diploma in management. “Half of our students start with the goal of doing a postgraduate certificate or diploma“, explains Marketing Manager Scrutton, “but 90 per cent of this half elect to acquire a full MBA title in the end.”

It takes a while to get there. Entry requirements for a full-time MBA are an academic degree and five years of managerial or professional work experience. Thus four out of ten students are already between 30 and 35 years old and another 25 percent are approaching 40. The majority - 64 percent – hold positions in middle management, 20 percent have a senior role in their company, 40 per cent are female.
Classes run in four terms per year in blocks of ten weeks. Each subject takes a term to complete and has 40 hours of face to face teaching. Each term consists of four units – core subjects and electives – and the school estimates an additional work load of approximately 120 hours per unit. Each unit costs 3,150 Australian dollars, so the year-long full-time program of 16 units comes to 50,400 Australian dollars - currently less than 28.000 Euro. That its MBA is so comparatively well-priced probably explains the current high interest from international students in MGSM.

Classes take place either in Hong Kong, in Sydney's central business district or in the leafy north of the city on campus at the Macquarie University to which the school belongs. Unlike most other business schools in Australia MGSM is a stand-alone profit centre and its faculty exclusively teaches post-graduates with management experience. With the exception of Melbourne, all other business schools in the country are part of the business faculties of the universities to which they belong and most professors at other schools lecture to university undergraduates as much as to MBA students. MGSM's pride and joy is having staff who can focus entirely on teaching post-graduates with existing management skills. Many members of the faculty also serve as business consultants. 

MGSM's management sees Melbourne Business School as its primary national competition since it operates a similar system. Internationally schools like Insead or the London Business School are the biggest competitors because they, too, offer teaching in Asia-Pacific.  However, many students choose Australia over Asia, primarily because they find life easer in a western English-spoken society.  Of course, Australia's beautiful beaches and magnificent surf conditions have considerable pulling power and then there is the fact that an MBA from such a well-regarded school almost acts as an entry visa to the country itself. MGSM alumni will have few problems in finding an interesting job down under – and that more or less guarantees a residence visa. Meanwhile the school is 40 years old and has produced 12,000 alumni, many of whom now hold influential positions in Australia and throughout Asia. 

Not surprisingly the background of students is international: about 30 per cent are Australian or from New Zealand, another 30 percent arrive from Latin America, mainly Chile, Mexico,
Columbia and Peru. The next big group comes from Asia, from India, China, Japan or Indonesia. The rest has roots in Europe and Eastern Europe. Students choose MGSM because they enjoy its international climate and splendid cross-cultural network opportunities. Belinda Sullivan, chief executive of the Eye Foundation in Australia says: “At MGSM every day you have a number of connecting points with lecturers, classmates, syndicate groups and alumni. At the end of the day though, your level of opportunity to build sustainable and broad networks is ultimately up to you."

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