Kester Eddy in Budapest -
A unique, three-day programme created to help business school administration staff in Central Europe better handle their jobs is attracting both schools outside the region as well as in-house corporate educators.
The Programme Management Seminar (PMS), which starts on Wednesday, March 2 at the IEDC Bled School of Management, Slovenia, has hosted almost 200 participants over the past six years, the vast majority from schools in the former socialist bloc. But seven of this year's 26-strong intake will be from Western Europe, including three from company education units. "Those responsible for educational programmes in companies have to keep up with the level of management education programs offered elsewhere (eg. by business schools and universities) in order to offer comparable level of content and customer service," says Don Nightingale, PMS director.
Programme managers deal with everything from ensuring students know their classroom schedules to helping visiting professors negotiate visa restrictions. They are often overlooked - at least until things go wrong - and need a wide variety of skills to handle what is typically a very challenging and fraught job, says Dianne Bevelander, associate dean at the Rotterdam School of Management, who also teaches on PMS. "Programme managers can never arrive in the morning thinking 'this will be my day' because they will be confronted by a whole range of unexpected issues. And often they go home at night frustrated and wondering why they've not achieved more," she says.
PMS classes range from creating a good team spirit ("absolutely crucial," according to Prof Nightingale) to dealing with difficult students and faculty.
Zuzana Krahulcova, programmes coordinator at the University of New York in Prague, the Czech Republic, says she hopes PMS will help her to handle the thorny problem of professor - student relations - or, more accurately, handling wayward professors. "I quite often mediate between faculty and students. One of the hardest issues are the cases when faculty clearly do not do their duties, for example, miss deadlines with thesis evaluations - but of course this cannot be used as an explanation to the students," she says.
This evergreen theme is certainly on the teaching agenda, but in many cases students learn as much from themselves as from faculty on PMS, says Bevelander. "Participants learn so much from each other, and gain self-confidence, especially once they realise they are not the only ones in the world facing these specific difficulties," she says.
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