MBA back in demand

Richard HallBy Professor Richard Hall, Associate Dean, Management Education, the University of Sydney Business School

Interesting to see a report in last week’s Business Review Weekly – the MBA is in Demand Again – which refers to the recently released MBA Jobs and Salary Trends Report from QS Intelligence Unit. The report notes that it seems that demand for MBAs is back on the rise and that MBAs continue to enjoy significant salary increases.

The survey found a 14% increase in global MBA hiring in 2013, a big turnaround from the 5% decline in MBA hiring in 2009 in the wake of the GFC. And there is good news on the salary front too: the Asia-Pacific region enjoyed the highest increase in overall compensation (8%) and the highest salaries were paid in Australia. So it seems like a pretty good time to be doing a good MBA in Australia.

It’s instructive though to consider the survey findings and report in a little more detail.  When we were undertaking our industry consultations and market research as part of the development of the University of Sydney MBA, we were struck by two really strong and consistent findings: employers, and many potential MBA applicants, really wanted a program which was strong on the development of leadership skills and which developed soft skills (which we prefer to call ‘personal skills’) much more seriously.

The QS survey findings echoed in the BRW report indicate that, for the first time, improved leadership skills are starting to be recognised by employers of MBAs. The report notes that traditionally ‘leadership was found wanting’ – a key reason for our program having a strong emphasis on the development of practical leadership skills and for making Leadership Practice and Development the first core unit undertaken by all our MBAs.

But the QS report also notes that ‘Business School graduates are still not meeting the expectations in terms of ‘soft skills’ such as communication, interpersonal and strategic thinking’. I’d certainly agree with that. Our aim in the MBA and in all our management education programs is to develop personal and interpersonal skills as practically as you can: through a heavy emphasis on learning by doing. That’s why we get our MBAs to practice their communication skills – giving and receiving feedback, coaching, motivating, asking constructive questions. And it is critical that our MBAs get involved in doing strategy, thinking critically, developing and testing arguments as thought leaders and working on real business projects and real problems. In our view that’s how you get great at the personal skills that really make the difference.

Check out the full BRW story: “Employers forgive MBA sins of the past as Australia tops salary rankings for alumni”

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