MBAs suffer crisis of confidence

By bne IntelliNews October 27, 2010

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When the global financial crisis struck in the autumn of 2008, business schools came in for considerable criticism. In the eyes of many, the schools - who had educated many of the financial whiz kids blamed for causing the troubles - had failed in their duty to provide the ethical framework that would have tempered at least the worst excesses at places like Lehman Brothers.

It was not the schools' only problem; many saw a downturn in applicants for MBA programmes, although a study by Ceeman, the Central and East European Management Development Association, revealed an increase in applications at some schools due, it was believed, to students taking the opportunity to take an MBA to enhance career prospects when the economy recovered. "For our full-time MBA, we experienced the sharpest drop in recruitment numbers in the 2008-2009 year," says Stuard Durrant, managing director of the CEU Business School, Budapest.

As the worst of the recession began to fade, numbers inched up to 27 (not including exchange students) in 2009-2010 and to 32 in the current academic year, he says.

In Poland, the only CEE country that could boast of positive economic growth last year, the lure of the MBA remains strong, says Andrzej Popadiuk, a board member at the Gdansk Foundation for Management Development. "About 2,500 managers graduate from the 70 MBA programmes offered in Poland every year. Despite the economic slowdown, interest is still growing. However, the proportion of students paying for themselves is increasing, as training budgets have been reduced at many companies," he says.

Professor Popadiuk is confident the industry has a strong future. "Having an MBA degree was a career booster 15 years ago, but nowadays it is expected. It will probably be a pre-condition for getting a decent managerial job in a few years time," he says.

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