The Business Education Insider: Bringing Attention to the Unattended

Would it surprise you to learn that almost half of MBA graduates in the U.S. earned their degrees from part-time programs? Perhaps not if you are affiliated with a university where part-time or “evening” programs are the primary focus.

Indeed, the evidence suggests that part-time programs represent a significant share of the graduate management education marketplace. For instance, results from 2012 Graduate Management Admission Council surveys found that 44 percent of MBA applicants considered part-time programs and that 58 percent of part-time programs were stable or gained applicants from 2011-12 (compared to 48 percent for full-time programs).

Yet even a casual reading of the massive amount of popular news coverage, academic literature and blogosphere commentary dedicated to full-time programs might lead one to think that the conventional two-year, “quit-your-job to complete” program dominates university-based business school offerings. Worse still, the large quantity and availability of information about full-time programs might also lead one to think that part-time programs are not just less prevalent, but not worth pursuing. The main point here is not to suggest that part-time programs are likely replacing full-time programs or that one is better than the other, but merely to recognize that relative to full-time programs, there exists a scarcity of high quality information regarding part-time graduate business programs.

Given the large percentage of students who enroll each year in part-time programs, this information gap is critical to address for numerous reasons.

First, part-time programs tend to have different student profiles, often attracting individuals with more work experience (97 percent reported work experience for part-time vs. 85 percent for full-time programs, with an average of 7.6 years vs. 4.5 years of experience, respectively). Further, the applicant type that predominates in part-time programs is the “working professional,” whereas for full-time programs it is “foreign candidates” (see GMAC’s Global Graduate Survey). Second, and most obvious, part-time programs are often delivered differently, with special attention paid to the needs of working professionals, including recruitment, admission and program structures tailored to this population. In other words, not all MBAs are created equal and meaningful differences are likely to exist between part-time and full-time programs.

This means that much of what we know about MBA programs and their stakeholders—which is almost entirely centered on full-time programs—might not be directly applicable to part-time programs, applicants and alumni, as well as to those institutions for which part-time programs are the flagship offerings.

With this in mind, an important goal of the Business Education Insider is to seek a more balanced approach in themes and coverage of business school offerings. This entails promoting a better understanding of both the similarities and differences between part-time and full-time programs, as well as within part-time programs.

This also means casting a more critical eye on interpreting popular news media claims of novelty or “groundbreaking” business school practices in order to ask questions such as for whom will these claims work, where are they happening, how widespread are they and what precisely makes them truly “new”?

Another important goal of the Business Education Insider is to seek a more balanced approach in terms of commentary. Here, the primary emphasis will be on evidence rather than just opinion. This approach is worthy of reiteration when considering the fact that most of what students and administrators are exposed to is purely opinion (some more informed than others) about business schools and business school programs. There is always room for informed and expert opinion; and we certainly intend to offer and invite such commentary. However, we also think there is a need for highlighting evidence-based information, such as practical translations of management education academic research as well as data-driven discussions around program quality; student learning and engagement; curriculum content and delivery, to name a few important issues. In addition, the Business Education Insider will encompass the latest evidence from professional and academic conferences related to management education.

It is time that the variety in management education gets its due.  We hope you will find the Business Education Insider to be a trusted source of information and insights as we explore the ever-changing world of business school offerings.

Dierdorff and Rubin By Erich C. Dierdorff and Robert S. Rubin, DePaul University Driehaus College of Business


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