Executive MBAs and Corporate Universities.

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Keeping it on the company campus, The Economist, 16th May 2015

The lead article in the Business section of The Economist this week is titled ‘Management Training.  Keeping it on the company campus.’

As more firms have set up their own corporate universities they have been less willing to pay for their managers to go to business schools.

The idea of corporate universities is not new.  General Electric opened the first one in 1956.  The number has doubled between 1997 and 2007.  However it is difficult to define a corporate university.  They tend to focus on practice rather than theory and rarely award degrees.  One key feature is a curriculum tailored to the company’s strategy as each firm has different challenges.  This has resulted in companies increasingly spending more of their training budgets in-house.

Unilever, MTP’s largest client, is highlighted with mention of its campus in London opened more than 50 years ago.  It is in Kingston upon Thames known as ‘Four Acres’.  In 2013 they opened a second ‘Four Acres’, this time in Singapore.  Jonathan Donner, Vice President Global Learning and Capability Development, is quoted as explaining the need for Unilever to develop courses internally since programmes espousing the management style they are after are not available on the open market.

We have run programmes for senior managers in Unilever at Four Acres since MTP was formed, on a wide variety of topics. These programmes are highly tailored to Unilever’s approach to business and as such the content is regularly reviewed. Unilever have been running tailored programmes for many years and there is no sign of that changing.

I set out below some of the interesting issues raised by the article and our thoughts.

To what extent is management training moving to being more tailored to the needs of each company? 

The three founders of MTP met at Ashridge Business School over 25 years ago and even then it was clear that the market for management training was moving towards more company specific programmes.  We have seen this trend continue and do not expect it to reverse.

Do companies benefit from sending managers on external Executive MBA programmes? 

There are a whole range of reasons for a company to sponsor a manger to attend an external MBA programme.  As the article points out there is a downside in that it potentially makes the manager more attractive to other companies.

To what extent is it desirable for management training to focus on ‘education’ in a general sense of extending knowledge and to what extent should it focus on tools and techniques that participants can use in their jobs? 

Both have their place.  Sometimes we do not know how we might use what we have learned in the future.  For example, I studied Economics at University and wasn’t sure how I would use it in the future.  I have though found it incredibly helpful in the work I now do in teaching business strategy.

If companies are funding the learning they are increasingly looking to demonstrate a return on their investment.  It is therefore not surprising that we see a strong demand from clients that the programmes we run for them provide participants with tools they can use in their roles.

Is it worth spending your time and your own money to take an MBA? 

I have been asked this many times, including recently by my daughter who is currently taking an MBA at Durham University Business School.  I always respond by saying that if your motivation is an increased salary I am not convinced, but that if you want to study the subjects covered it is likely to be a good plan.

Please share your views with us.

Chris Goodwin

CEO, MTP plc

Read the article in full here

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