The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an internationally recognised business qualification. Most students are managers, although some non-managers, such as doctors and teachers, do pursue this qualification. It originated in the US in 1900 and courses are now offered throughout the world. An estimated 100,000 students graduate each year from the 800 business schools in the US and Europe. The US still provides the largest proportion of graduates (77,000 annually).
The rest of the world, including Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa and Australasia, supplies 5,000. The content, length and structure of MBA programmes varies a great deal, both internationally and nationally
No two courses are exactly alike but the following 'core' subjects are usually covered: accountancy, economics, human resource management, marketing, organisational behaviour, quantitative methods and information management. In addition, most courses offer optional electives which permit specialisation.
In-company projects and dissertations are the norm in longer programmes. Interpersonal skills, leadership and communications training are increasingly incorporated.
The classic US two-year, full-time, academic and research-based MBA typified by Harvard Business School is no longer viewed as the only worthwhile model. There are five main possibilities: N Full-time (two years, generally non-sponsored) - the 'classic' US programme; the first year usually covers compulsory 'core' courses; optional or 'elective' courses follow in the second year.
- Full-time (10-15 months, sponsored and non-sponsored); focuses on general management, although some offer specialisation; a few schools offer completely specialised programmes.
- Part-time (including executive and modular, 18 - 36 months); follows much the same curriculum as a full-time MBA but is held over one or two evenings a week, or at weekends and with some residential blocks; executive programmes aim at managers with some experience who are sponsored by their companies; modular programmes, usually company sponsored, project-based, alternate classroom and workplace learning, each module lasting a couple of months.
- Consortium and in-company; programmes designed for one or more companies and closely link learning to organisational needs; programmes generally modular; students sponsored.
- Distance learning; can take at least 3 years; multi-media teaching methods, eg, videos and computers plus tutoring, summer schools, seminars; sponsored and non-sponsored.