B-Schools Prioritizing Jobs at Expense of Academics

by Vault Education Editors | June 13, 2011

Say you are an administrator at a non-top-tier business school. You are forced to choose between a stellar job-placement rate for graduates and the excellence of the educational experience. Which would you choose?

While the choice between great academics and great employment prospects isn’t mutually exclusive, it is a concern at some business schools, according to a piece in Inside Higher Ed.  

But because career changes and job placement have become such a focus of M.B.A. programs, [Harvard Business School Professor Rakesh] Khurana said, business schools might be focusing too heavily on these offices and teaching students career management at the expense of other key components of a business education. "The challenge in all of this is that it continues to move business schools away from the educational imperative," he said.  

At Wake Forest, job placement has become the top priority under the new helm of dean Steve Reinemund, former CEO of PepsiCo. Students are required to take a “Career Management” course early on, where they will suss out their career ambitions and passions. The early discovery will give students a head start on their careers by allowing them to tailor their courses, internships and networking.

Wake Forest also employs a relatively large number of career service officers—16, up from four three years previous. With 135 or so students, that’s almost one career service staffer per 8 students. In comparison, nearby Duke only has 25 staffers for 440 students (one per 17.6 students), according to the article.

The administrators at Wake Forest will argue that career planning and job seeking is a major aspect of business education, something that should be taught alongside finance, marketing and strategy. Khurana, though, is concerned the MBA has become too commodified, too much a goal in itself. If employers see it merely as a signaling mechanism, then schools won’t need to focus as much on student learning.

"The challenge you face here is that employers are recruiting in business schools even before students have taken a single class," Khurana said. "What's challenging is the idea that employers are not that concerned with what people are going to be learning and more interested in the kind of selection processes that they engage in."

[Inside Higher Ed]

Filed Under: Education


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