The glitz and glow associated with the MBA is fast fading and there is a strong feeling among academics and economists that the MBA’s days as a business engine are numbered.
He was considered a marvel who was credited with advancing the science of management and helping economies grow. But there is an equally strong view that has reviled it as an expertise of little practical value that produces an intransigence instilled in its graduates considered harmful to business and commerce.
Like any academic discipline in decline, critics of the MBA louder proclaim its demerits than the cheers of its proponents. Unfortunately, the critics seem to win the argument.
It is widely believed that the full-time MBA has reached a saturation point and is now only pursued by mediocrities who usually run the race when it reaches the finish line.
The typical MBA is quickly being overtaken by highly focused masters in management that are not only cheap to acquire, but are also being extended to undergraduate students. The overall acceptability of the MBA has dropped significantly, as non-MBAs now attract 35% of those who take the de facto GMAT business entrance exam.
We now know that when King’s College London launches a business school in November, it will offer specialized masters but not MBAs.
In the case of Pakistan, the degree still has value but is gradually losing its luster.
The emoluments offered to an MBA graduate are quickly matched by non-MBA professionals in various business and commercial fields. As a result, many business schools in Pakistan have started reviewing their policy of offering large-scale MBA programs.
The most powerful chink in the armor of this once foolproof qualification is the launch of a four-year BBA program which is considered to be far more cutting edge than the sketchy MBA.
The MBA was based on the premise of a business professional handling its management more appropriately than other business stakeholders. The rise of this professional class in Pakistan began in the late 1960s when PIA took the entire graduating class of IBA Karachi on its payroll. The result was that the airline flourished as it was able to offer advice and training to fledgling and inexperienced airlines set up by the Gulf countries.
However, regulatory business practices were found to be ill-suited to organizations with greater proliferation involving various layers of stakeholders.
The enterprising batches of MBAs initially produced in Pakistan have acquired additional specialization in their respective fields. The rise of the MBA banker in Pakistan has stunned the banking industry itself as fund managers have been catapulted into positions of economic managers, a hugely diverse field different from ordinary fund management.
The current scenario in this field relates to the emphasis on management and is devoid of inculcating the qualities of an entrepreneur. The dogmatic procedures followed by these business leaders actually run counter to the corporate practices in vogue in Pakistan.
Added to this is the chronic shortage of faculty in business schools. Teaching faculties usually overemphasize textbooks written decades ago.
Hiring teachers with adequate experience and skills is usually beyond the financial means of many companies such as KASB which depend on its alumni to teach.
Moreover, the extreme shortage of doctoral professors in business schools hampers the research projects that are essential to the development of a professional and a business administrator. Unfortunately, the research is taught by former graduates and graduates of the institution.
The main difficulty, however, concerns the ever widening gap between the links between university and industry. The practice of inducting new business leaders, as PIA shows, is sadly lacking.
The industry now sees employing a stuck young graduate as a waste of time as he is completely incapable of properly understanding the business techniques of Pakistani industry.
This pitfall opens up vast insights into the nature of indigenous business practices that bookworms in MBA courses often miss. A survey found that, in most cases, MBAs were unaware of the underlying assumptions of a particular company.
The opening of part-time MBA courses has cast a shadow over the entire business management curriculum.
The part-time establishment severely ate away at the dedicated academic exercise which was considered so grueling in content that it demanded full-time efforts from pursuers.
Curriculum degradation has reached such a degree that students now expect it to be an activity in which only exam-time cramming is required. They are no longer worried about attending classes or being part of a research process.
The MBA is rapidly running its course and unless its decline is halted quickly, it will become the laughingstock of the nation’s education ladder with its qualifiers reduced to glorified office accountants. It will be a sorry state to be.