UWA Business School
The "blame the business schools" brigade has been out in force in the wake of the global financial crisis. Business schools have been criticized for an undue focus on creating shareholder value in the MBA curriculum, for creating a perception that an MBA is a substitute for hard-earned business experience and for not placing enough emphasis on ethical standards and frameworks. These are hotly contested matters, particularly in the United States where the economic crisis has claimed significant casualties.
So, are business schools to blame? I think to place the blame for the Global Financial Crisis squarely on the shoulders of business schools is neither fair nor accurate. However there are things that business schools as a whole could do better. For example, while it is true that most MBA programs across a wide range of business schools appear comprehensive, teaching all aspects of running a business, we place tremendous value on being able to measure results objectively, to rank, and to quantify.
In the cultural lexicon around MBA subjects Accounting and Finance are frequently referred to as "hard" subjects vs "soft" subjects such as Organizational Behaviour, Business Ethics and Leadership. We need to emphasise the non-negotiable complementarity between the "hard" subjects and "soft" subjects and ensure that our graduates understand the negative impact of a sole short-term focus on the numbers and this quarter's result. It is critical that Business Schools are connected to the business community, to encourage debate and discussion about the business issues of the day and about their own curriculums.
We also need to emphasise that Business Schools provide a framework for prior and subsequent business experience of our graduates - an MBA is not a substitute for business experience. Business Schools are out of kilter if in attracting graduates; there is a greater focus on accelerating compensation post graduation rather than on the value and the learning that we can provide.
Certainly here at the UWA Business School we are constantly evaluating and improving our MBA student experience. We have not implemented any knee-jerk reactions to the events of the past year, but the year preceding the GFC we implemented a world leading model for teaching ethics. In addition, UWA was the first business school in Australia to require all postgraduates to complete a compulsory ethics unit.
We recently joined in partnership with the University of NSW, Melbourne University and Swinburne University to establish a WA node of the Centre for Social Impact (CSI), which is established to educate tomorrow's social entrepreneurs and strengthen today's social enterprise. The CSI provides a focus on delivering community benefit and generating social innovation. Part of the mandate of the CSI is to investigate how business can best restore public trust - how corporate citizenship can be fully integrated into business strategies directed to long-term sustainability.
We believe that we need to equip our students to be leaders in a variety of settings and to consider the impact of their decisions on multiple fronts: economic, social, environmental, and ethical. We need to give our students the confidence to act on their own values in the business environment.
The recent 2009 AFR BOSS MBA Ranking surveyed 1,700 MBA alumni which highlighted a firm belief that teaching on issues such as governance, ethics and social responsibility was required as an essential component of a good business school education.
UWA recently hosted Professor Mary Gentile world-renowned expert on the teaching of ethics in business schools and the co-author of the method Giving Voice to Values. Mary shared her experience and perspective on developing this unique model with business school students, workshops with staff, and a Luncheon Forum for senior business leaders.
The essence of this unique model is giving students and practitioners the experience of actually giving voice to their values so that when presented with ethically challenging situations they are empowered and rehearsed in how to respond. Research undertaken by Gentile and her colleagues confirms that the capacity to deal with ethically challenging situations can be learned and developed in the classroom for use later.
The UWA Business School encourages the healthy debate about the role of business schools in developing the next generation of business leaders with a broad mandate to care for the long term welfare of their companies and the communities they operate in and serve.
As part of this role, the School aims to be a forum for discussions of ideas and policies that will have a major impact in Western Australia. The Business School's comprehensive events program has centred on encouraging business discussion on key social and business topics. At recent events, critical issues such as the introduction and impact of the pending adoption of the global Emissions Trading Scheme in Australia, and what it means for business, government and the community; and the Global Financial Crisis: 12 months on - lessons we can learn from it, and how it will continue to affect us moving forward. In addition our Graduate Management Association (GMA) recently hosted an event where I joined UWA Chancellor Dr Michael Chaney in a panel discussion "Corporate Social Responsibility: Necessity or Contradiction".
CRICOS Code: 00126G