Uzair Ali on an image Dwindling fortunes of the MBA
The glitz and glimmer associated with the Dwindling fortunes of the MBA are fast fading out and there is a strong feeling amongst both academics and economists that the days of MBA as the booster of business firms are numbered. It was considered a marvel that was credited with advancing the science of management and helping economies to grow. But there is an equally strong point of view that reviled it as an expertise of little practical value that produces intransigence instilled in its graduates considered harmful for business and commerce. Like any dwindling academic discipline the critics of MBA more loudly proclaim its demerits than the hurrahs of its supporters. Unfortunately the critics appear to be winning the argument.
It is generally believed that full-time MBA degree has reached saturation point and it is now being pursued by mediocres only who usually run the race when it reaches the finishing line. The typical MBA is fast being overtaken by highly focused Master in Management that is not only cheap to acquire but is also extended to undergraduate students. The overall acceptability of MBA has declined hugely as non-MBAs now attract 35% of people sitting for de facto business entrance examination GMAT. It is now known that when King’s College London launches a business school in November, it will offer specialised Masters Courses but no MBAs.
In case of Pakistan the degree still holds value but is gradually losing its shine. The emoluments offered to an MBA graduate are fast matched by non-MBA professionals in various commercial and business fields. Accordingly many business colleges in Pakistan have started reviewing their policy of offering large-scale MBA programmes. The most potent chink in the armour of this once-infallible qualification is the initiation of four year BBA programme that is considered much more sharp-edged than piece-meal MBA.
The MBA was based on the premise of a business professional handling management of it more appropriately than other stakeholders in the business. The rise of this professional class in Pakistan began in late 1960s when PIA took the entire class of IBA Karachi graduates on its payroll. The result was that the airline prospered to the degree that it was able to proffer advice and training to nascent, inexperienced airlines started by the Gulf countries. It was however found out that the regulation-laced business practices were ill-suited to organisations with a larger sprawl involving various strata of stakeholders. The enterprising batches of MBA’s initially produced in Pakistan acquired further specialisation in respective fields. The rise of the MBA qualified banker in Pakistan astonished the banking trade itself as money managers were catapulted to positions of economic managers, an extremely diversified and different field than regular money management.
The current scenario in this field relates to emphasis on management and is bereft of instilling qualities of a business leader. The dogmatic procedures followed by such business managers actually work against the corporate practices in vogue in Pakistan. To add to the woes is the chronic shortage of teaching faculties in business schools. The teaching faculties usually place undue emphasis on manuals written decades ago. Hiring teachers with adequate experience and skill is usually beyond the financial means of many outfits such as KASB that depends upon its former students to teach. Moreover, the extreme lack of doctoral faculty at business schools hampers research projects that are essential for development of a business professional and administrator. Unfortunately, the research is taught by former graduates and postgraduates of the institution.
The main difficulty however pertains to ever-widening gap between academia-industry linkages. The practice of inducting fresh business managers as exhibited by PIA is sadly missing. The industry now considers employing a stuck-up fresh graduate a waste of time as he is quite unable to properly understand the business techniques of Pakistani industry. This pitfall opens up large vistas of the nature of indigenous business practices that is often lacked by book-worms of MBA courses. It has been found through a survey that in most of the cases MBAs did not know the underlying assumptions of a particular business let alone the industry.
The part-time opening of MBA courses has cast a dark shadow over the entire business management programme. Part-time facility has badly eaten into the dedicated academic exercise that was thought to be so gruelling in content that it required full-time efforts of pursuers. The degradation of the programmes have reached an extent that students now expect it to be a pursuit in which only cramming at the time of examination is required. They are no more worried about attending classes or being part of any research process. MBA is fast running its course and unless its decline is arrested quickly it will become a laughing stock of the education scale of the country with its qualifiers reduced to the positions of glorified clerical accountants. It will be sorry state to be in. TW