Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Business School’

Ins and outs

July 10, 2009

The student:staff ratio at Harvard Business School will be taking a hit after it laid off staff and then announced a record intake for its MBA programme. Sixteen staff are being made redundant by the school, which has seen its $3bn endowment fund hit by the economic crisis. The total number of jobs lost will be increased once the non-replacement of retiring and temporary employees is taken into consideration. However, no faculty will affected.

The downturn has not been all bad news for HBS, though. On the positive side, the school’s 2011 MBA programme will be the largest ever, with 942 students already enrolled—42 more than the last intake—which it is attributing, at least in part, to uncertain times. A sluggish job market often leads to more people taking MBAs. Indeed a high proportion of enrolees have come from the beleaguered financial services sector.

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The Economist’s Business Education page

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A rare tweet

June 9, 2009

A recent study from Harvard Business School has dared raise one of the most important unspoken questions since a small boy wondered aloud why that Emperor fellow was naked. Exactly what is the point of Twitter? The technorati—and the media—may be enamoured with the micro social-networking site, where people can keep their “followers” informed of their every move in 140 characters or fewer, but, it turns out, very few others are. The study, conducted by Bill Heil, a Harvard student, found that Twitter’s usage patterns are different from other on-line social networks. “A typical Twitter user contributes very rarely,” says the report. “Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days.” The study, which examined the activity of over 300,000 people who had signed up to the site, also found that the top 10% of users accounted for over 90% of tweets.

So, to return to the original question: given those figures, what exactly is the point of Twitter? Despite describing itself as “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected,” Mr Heil believes that, in reality, it has become little more than a marketing tool for companies and celebrities. Quoted on the BBC, he said: “Twitter is a broadcast medium rather than an intimate conversation with friends…The Twitter management need to decide if this is a problem, and if they decide it is, how they will tweak Twitter to become more acceptable to the average user?” Answers in 140 characters or fewer please.

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The Economist’s Business Education page

Double first

May 11, 2009

Harvard Business School has topped its second major ranking in the space of two weeks. After heading US News & World Report’s list of American graduate business schools (see article), it has now also retained its crown as the world’s best provider of non-degree, executive-education courses according to the Financial Times. Swiss school IMD came second in the overall ranking, which combines the results of separate ratings of schools’ open-enrolment and customised programmes. Duke University’s Fuqua school and Spanish institution IESE were joint third. In the individual categories, Harvard topped the open-enrolment section, while—for a seventh consecutive year—Fuqua won out for its customised programmes.

With executive education budgets being cut by companies as the recession bites, these are tough times for business schools. The FT says that a 20% drop in demand for non-degree courses is being commonly reported by the top schools, while a report from Icedr, an industry research body, says that 60% of companies have reduced their training and development budgets. The paper says that open-enrolment programmes seem to have to been hit harder than customised ones. With one of the major issues being a moratorium on air travel at many companies, schools are having to change their models away from campus-based programmes, in favour of delivering more programmes at companies’ headquarters or remotely using distance learning technology.

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The Economist’s Business Education page

Harvard at 100: case closed?

April 9, 2008

So Harvard Business School is 100 years old this week. Many happy returns. Although the argument will continue as to whether it was Harvard or its near-neighbour, Dartmouth, which actually invented the MBA, few can argue that HBS has played the defining role in management education over the last century.

Perhaps most significantly, it was the first to have the bright idea of applying the case study—until then largely confined to law schools—to the world of the MBA. Harvard is still the world’s pre-eminent producer of business school case studies. Schools that teach almost exclusively through the case-study method—which also include West Ontario (Ivey) in Canada and IESE in Spain—point to the fact that it is the nearest a classroom will come to replicating real-life business situations. Furthermore, the cut-and-thrust atmosphere of the average case discussion inevitably breeds confident and persuasive speakers, able to think on their feet.

But the method is not without its detractors. One of the biggest criticisms is that it merely rewards those who shout loudest, not necessarily those with the most cogent arguments. With marks awarded for class participation, the clamour for “airtime” can lead to an overly competitive culture—something that most schools say they are trying to move away from.

Although the situation is improving, the other major criticism of the method is that cases also have a tendency to be US-centric. The question used to be asked about whether it was relevant for an Asian student, for example, to study case-after-case examining American business dilemmas. But in this world of globalisation, it is fair to wonder whether it is even relevant for US students any more.

So will the method continue into Harvard’s second century? A joke among management consultants tells of the freshly-graduated MBA who waltzes in to the office on his first day and demands: “bring me the first case!”. Business life has always been more complicated than that. But with the modern emphasis on learning through action—particularly with students being parachuted into real-life companies to solve real-life problems—surely there are better preparations for post-MBA employment?

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