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Business School Briefing: Covid lessons, MBA rebound, alumni networks


Welcome to Business School Briefing. We offer you insights from Andrew Hill and Jonathan Moules, and the pick of top stories being read in business schools. Edited by Wai Kwen Chan and Andrew Jack.


Due to the Easter holiday, the next Business School Briefing will be published on Monday, April 12.

Andrew Hill’s management challenge

World leaders are paying tribute to coronavirus victims on the first anniversary of the pandemic. But with a few exceptions, such as Norway and Sweden, citizens are still waiting for proper public inquiries into how their governments handled — or mishandled — the crisis.

As I’ve written this week, any self-improving organisation ought to be keen to learn the lessons of failure. The problem is setting the right scope for such investigations, so for this week’s management challenge — wherever you are located — lay out three criteria for a successful inquiry into your country’s approach to coronavirus and send the framework to [email protected].

In further reading, try this polemic from Asheem Singh of UK think-tank, the RSA. He suggests ways we could unharness ourselves from economic ideas that keep us yoked to the goal of “toxic productivity”. “Tech oligarchs and media plutocrats borrow from the imaginaries of yore to create a trope I call the ‘tech god’,” he writes. “In the cultural consciousness they embody the omnipotence of a deity and the swashbuckle of the pirate, melding with something new: the kindness of community, the generosity of ‘free stuff’ and sophisticated tools that speak to each of us.”

Jonathan Moules’ business school news

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has entered its second year, with ongoing disruption to business school classes, will the MBA rebound fizzle in 2021? Not according to a poll of 2,300 prospective students via LinkedIn and YouTube by admissions consultancy MBA Crystal Ball. It found just one in 10 respondents had deferring by a year as their main plan for 2021 while just over half were prepared to pay full fees for a highly ranked institution.

A separate study, by business school exam administrator the Graduate Management Admission Council, found declining concern among prospective students about the impact of Covid-19 on their career chances. The proportion of respondents reporting that they were extremely or very concerned dropped from 41 per cent in July last year to 33 per cent in December.

The Robert Toigo Foundation, a US-based not-for-profit body created to improve leadership diversity, this week announced its first partnership with a European academic institution, the University of Oxford’s Saїd Business School. The Toigo MBA program will provide up to $10,000 of leadership development training and career coaching to support successful candidates into senior roles. It is also timely for the UK given recent reports that almost a fifth of companies in the FTSE 100 – the blue chip London index have no ethnic minority board members.

For further reading this week, I recommend the following article from the Harvard Business Review. It relates to negotiation, the subject of my piece earlier this month, which sparked some lively reader discussion and a few calls for more discussion on this issue.

Data line

Online and campus-based global MBA alumni, who took part in the FT rankings surveys, were asked to rate their school alumni network. For all categories, the ratings by campus-based MBA alumni were higher than those provided by the online graduates, says Sam Stephens. Most categories ranked by online MBA graduates scored less than eight on average; the exception was in their assessments of the network when contacting other alumni and attending events.

Bar chart of Graduates' score out of 10 for various network benefits showing Campus-based MBA alumni networks are rated highly than online ones

Further analysis exploring FT’s 2021 Online MBA ranking can be found here.

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Top business school reads

Discovery of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in Italy raises EU hackles Company says 29m shots are awaiting quality approval before distribution to bloc and Covax

Investors hunt for source of fire sale that sent stocks tumbling Friday’s block trade selling spree on Wall St hit several Chinese groups and US media companies

US fears China is flirting with seizing control of Taiwan Chinese warplanes fly through island’s air defence zone in latest show of strength by Beijing

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