Researching the MBA faculty and curriculum, the professional backgrounds of teachers, and even the individual teaching styles adopted in different courses is time well-invested for ambitious MBA candidates.
Although applicants are usually busy considering a multitude of factors when selecting an MBA programme, it is important not to neglect the role of the teaching faculty at a particular business school. Experienced professors and expert guest lecturers will be one of the primary sources from which class participants eventually acquire new knowledge and inspiration. Great teachers are able to steer fruitful discussions and translate their own business and managerial experience into relatable subject matter that can be useful to the entire class. Not to mention that a diverse and highly qualified faculty represents a great environment for networking and new professional opportunities beyond what the student body can offer.
Choose your MBA faculty
Since plenty of MBA programmes offer flexible curricula and a diverse range of specialisations and electives to choose from, it is now easier than ever for students to customise their course list. Apart from detailed descriptions of available courses, applicants can look for information about the professors who are in charge of different departments or subjects.
At the very least, B-school websites provide brief biographical notes about each of their MBA faculty members. This type of information can give prospective students an idea about the professional background of the person teaching a particular course they are interested in. Some websites and brochures also include personal quotes or descriptions of each subject compiled by the MBA professors themselves.
For prospective students who are particularly interested in an institution’s research focus, some schools, such as ESMT Berlin (Germany) and Cass Business School (UK), have also listed the publications and working papers of their faculty members in each of their individual profiles. There are plenty of business schools that pride themselves on possessing excellent research expertise and a reputation which often reflects the high quality of the courses and the professors who teach them.
“We are a research-focused school,” emphasises Mike Trick, senior associate dean of faculty and research at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business (US). “We really value the research of our faculty and we reward faculty for that research. We also want that research to show up in the classroom itself. That means that students are getting some really current stuff. It is rare that the content in many of our classrooms is coming out of textbooks.”
As Poets and Quants points out, even the level of specialisation of teachers can impact the overall classroom experience of a programme. For instance, both Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business (US) and Booth School of Business (US) are defined by a strong interdisciplinary flavour in their classrooms. Their programmes purposefully target more well-rounded academics over specialists to join their ranks. Booth has even adopted a wider definition of what “business relevant” is compared to other schools – a multi-dimensional approach which, according to the school, only enriches the discussions and deepens the learning.
A variety of teaching methods
In addition to getting accustomed to the individual styles of different professors, the way students learn in the classroom will also be affected by the teaching methods adopted by the school. With the increasing trends of digitalisation in all spheres of business, there are different educational approaches to teaching that newly enrolled students can expect. Some of the most common ones include lectures, experiential learning, and the case study method.
Depending on the class size, lectures are characterised by a more passive approach where students do not interact with the teacher and the rest of the class as much. However, they are an excellent means of introducing a particular subject matter to the entire class in a given time frame.
Of course, lectures and presentations can never be as effective by themselves as when they are coupled with team-based or experiential approaches. MBA students who learn more efficiently through class engagement and discussion may want to look for curricula that use a blend of methods which suits their preference. For instance, the so-called experiential approach endorsed by many B-schools features fieldwork or business simulations which make students’ learning experience more immersive.
Similarly, the case method approach which was introduced by Harvard Business School (US) more than a century ago allows class participants to analyse authentic management scenarios and come up with recommendations that the firm in question should employ in the future. According to Poets and Quants, schools whose dominant teaching method is the case study also tend to boast the best teachers in the classroom. This may be explained by the idea that case study teaching requires complete engagement with the task at hand and for it to be challenging. Therefore, professors who are one-way educators are usually not the most suitable type for a case study environment.
What to research
It is clear that the MBA faculty is an important aspect of the learning and networking experience. Professors and guest speakers certainly contribute to the overall satisfaction of students with the programme so it is best if candidates know what to expect once they are in the classroom. Prospective MBA students can of course speak with professors and former students involved in their preferred business programme directly and in advance. Events such as the Access MBA Tour or campus visits and open days provide an opportunity to ask specific questions about the teaching styles and methods at the school.
Official B-school websites and brochures are another easily accessible option in researching the professional backgrounds and experience of MBA teaching staff. It is certainly a good idea to check whether there are available statistics regarding the level of diversity in the faculty. Some programmes boast lecturers who are not only experts in a particular subject area but who also come from different countries or have diverse nationalities and ethnicities. These are factors which can signal that a B-school is striving for excellence and transparency.