Tomorrow’s MBA: Teach us how to run our own business!
Interview Barbara Bierach / 05-05-2011
A recent study by the Association of Business Schools that interviewed 476 prospective MBA students in 79 countries about their aspirations and expectations revealed a strong interest in entrepreneurship. The report called “Tomorrow’s MBA” shows that the salary increase after graduation is becoming less of a distinguishing issue between schools. Students are reacting to the downturn in corporate hiring in recent years and are looking at other career options. Whether they want control of their own careers in their own business or feel the need to manage change and a variety of projects in a large business, “entrepreneurship skills are increasingly valuable”, say the authors of the report. MBA-Channel asked Christos Kalantaridis, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradford University School of Management if you can really train to become the next Richard Branson or Bill Gates.
According to the ranking of the “Finanical Times” Bradford is business school number 9 in the UK, number 24 in Europe and number 90 globally.
Professor Kalantaridis, entrepreneurship continues to be the lifeblood of the economy and as the study shows there is a growing trend for MBA’s to set out as entrepreneurs. Why is that?
For two reasons: students feel the impact of the economic downturn on the job market, and the declining number of jobs in banking and finance. And secondly employers are giving growing importance to the entrepreneurial potential of candidates in their recruitment processes – even in public sector organisations.
Can you really teach someone to be the next Richard Branson or Bill Gates?
It is very difficult to guarantee that someone doing an MBA programme will become the next Branson or Gates – but the same is true for other disciplines. Going an art academy does not guarantee that you become a famous artist. But you can do a lot to enhance your ability to become entrepreneur. We in Bradford teach techniques and methods to increase the enterprising ability of people. We definitely achieve in making people more enterprising within the organisations they work for.
Why do you think a Business School is the right place for future entrepreneurs to train?
Business Schools are a very outwardly orientated part of any university. Their staff and students engage with businesses, executives and the public as a matter of routine. This is also the case for most significant research done in business schools: We go out and work with businesses to research our topics. Business School nowadays is the right place to learn the skills of an entrepreneur because it can provide an education that is formed not just by economics but also draws from other social sciences, business and management theory. Business Schools have a broad range of disciplines and can help to create the right mix of skills and competencies for future entrepreneurs.
What exactly do you teach those future entrepreneurs?
The process of creative thinking, for example, is a matter of routine in my class. My students learn these techniques and use them later at their place of work. At Bradford we also help students to identify and map out opportunities, either for the creation of new ventures or to indentify opportunity within large organisations. We teach an idea management system that students can replicate within their organisation. The core classes of any good Business School in marketing, operations or finance are all essential for entrepreneurs.
In the end it is all about training people to develop an entrepreneurial leadership skill. MBA students often become executives in large organisations. As part of their entrepreneurial education they learn the importance of creating a corporate culture of entrepreneurship. Even if they do not start their own business right away they know how to instil a culture to enable others to be entrepreneurial.
Other Business Schools have MBA programmes dedicated to entrepreneurship. Do you plan to create such a programme, too?
At Bradford we teach entrepreneurship in specific modules, in MBA programmes as well as in undergraduate studies. And these classes are immensely popular. In terms of MBA students’ interest they outrank many core modules. They are elective, but virtually all students take these classes. However, I don’t think we will create a specific named programme for entrepreneurship. Students who want to study for an MBA want to take a broader approach at a higher level of business and management education. Most students want to be sure that they do get the other skills as well.
And does it work? What do your students do when they have finished their degree?
Do many indeed set out with a venture of their own? I have had students who did set up their own business right away. But in my experience only a small minority of students have an idea, develop it while they are studying and then venture out after graduation. For most people that takes a few years. Most students want to accumulate a bigger network and more experience before they set out. Until they do that, they use their entrepreneurial skills in the organisations for which they work.
Facts and Figures Bradford University School of Management
Students: Approximately 100 full-time MBA students every year, taught in cohorts of around 60; 24 per cent female
Length of programme: 12 months
Cost MBA programme: £ 22,450 plus £ 7,500 for accommodation and books
Accreditation: Equis, Amba
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