Higher-Ed Bubble, MBA Edition

3 May 2011 at 12:04 am 5 comments

| Peter Klein |

Mike Ryall on the MBA curriculum (via Josh Gans):

What is the logic for having world-class academic researchers (who, for the most part, have never managed a business themselves) teach business classes to MBA students? The topics covered in many first-year microeconomics MBA courses, for instance, are a subset of those contained in Section III of Economics for Dummies. There may be good reasons for someone to pay $3,000 for a class taught by a researcher that covers the same topics in this $12 book — greater clarity and/or depth, for instance — but still, at a 250:1 cost ratio, students had better be getting something more for their money. It’s not clear that they are.

The argument is not unique to business schools, but applies more broadly across the college curriculum — hence the threat (to incumbents) of for-profit and other alternatives. Oh, but the University of Phoenix isn’t Harvard, you say? Consider: “In an earlier age, professors took their knowledge certification role seriously (with the fail rates to prove it). Today, many faculty view their role as educating everyone admitted to the program, passing them through, and leaving it to the recruiters to sort things out on the back end.” Of course, at most US colleges and universities, the goal of the undergraduate program is also to pass everyone admitted to the program.

See also: “Why Harvard and Yale  Had to Merge” (via Troy Camplin).

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education, Institutions.

Inventors During the Industrial Revolution Mitch on Hoselitz

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joe Mahoney  |  5 May 2011 at 6:09 am

    I concur with Mike Ryall’s emphasis on the human capital component to (MBA) education. I would add that while the analysis of business is not the experience of business, improved analytical thinking (know why) is often complementary to experential learning (know how).

    As C.S. Lewis noted: “a true analysis of comedy may not itself be funny.” That said many of the most successful comics (those who have the know how) are often articulate about the philosophy of comedy (the know why). Know how and know why are distinct and complementary forms of knowledge that contribute to skillful performance.

  • 2. Kevin Benko  |  5 May 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I am 46 years-old, having returned to university for a second bachelor’s degree, having earned my first bachelor’s degree in 1994, and only having to fulfill the specific requirements for the second major, and the required “diversity” course, and have no choice but to agree with Peter Klein.
    Just over the past 17 years, the quality of education in universities has not only declined, but has screamed and died. Also, my first Bachelor’s degree was from a “podunk” university, while my second Bachelor’s degree, which I will be receiving in a week or two, is from a BIG UNIVERSITY.
    Hell, my podunk high school, from which I graduated in 1982, had a better quality of education than BIG UNIVERSITY delivered to me. However, I did manage to learn thing in spite of the crappy education I have just received, and I very well could have done this on my own, but I needed that degree, that official certificate of approval, because, for some reason, others still consider that vacuous certificate of approval of more value than an individual’s ability to sufficiently learn things on their own.

  • 3. CrankyProf  |  5 May 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I take Mike’s point to be that there would be no reason, starting ab initio, to hire research faculty members to do much of the teaching in an MBA program. (I take Joe’s point that there are some classes where this is more appropriate than others.)
    The variable cost of getting research faculty to teach, however, is very low for the U. — the salaries are getting paid anyhow. Unfortunately, the University is encouraging a misallocation of resources (from research to classroom teaching) by following its private incentives to “get the most” out of its research stars.

    The University even uses an asymmetric dual-pricing system to capture rents while perpetuating this inefficiency (charging an arm and a leg to buy out of teaching a course, but paying much less to teach an extra one.) What the University allowed its faculty members to reimburse the school for hiring high-quality teaching faculty to defease their own teaching requirements? Value would be created; research faculty, teaching faculty, students, and the University itself would be better off.

  • 4. Troy Camplin  |  7 May 2011 at 4:45 am

    I have actually been told by an adminsitrator that their goal is to keep as many students enrolled as possible (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, if you know what I mean?)

  • 5. ¿Burbuja en el mercado de los Posgrados?  |  11 May 2011 at 2:23 pm

    […] que cada quien llegue a sus conclusiones. Hay buenos artículos/posts al respecto aquí, aquí, aquí y aquí. ¡Gracias Ratón por la […]

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