Education Innovation: Queen’s University Belfast Aims to Offer the MBA of the Future |

Education Innovation: Queen’s University Belfast Aims to Offer the MBA of the Future

By Temoor Iqbal

Updated July 10, 2018 Updated July 10, 2018

Sponsored by Queen’s University Belfast

The business world is in a state of flux, with political uncertainty and economic shifts rocking what were once solid foundations. For many established business players, this may have temporarily reduced the scale of opportunities for growth, but for unburdened go-getters there are now more ways than ever to disrupt the settled order and use entrepreneurial skills to create opportunities others have yet to even see. With this in mind, Queen’s University Belfast has developed a new MBA program for the modern business world. Launching in 2018, the MBA at Queen’s will equip a new generation of leaders with the adaptive skills and lateral, entrepreneurial thinking they need to shape the future.

MBA courses once worked to help students enter the C-suite through a traditional pathway, but as the experience, origins and goals of MBA candidates have diversified, courses have had to adapt. The modern MBA programs that will survive and define the next generation of business and executive education are those that are flexible enough to incorporate individual needs, and forward-looking enough to teach with a practical and integrated entrepreneurial mindset. With this in mind, we spoke to Dr Kate Kenny, MBA program director at Queen’s, about the school’s modern, leadership-driven MBA and how it differentiates itself from other offerings in the sector.

What differentiates the MBA at Queen’s from those offered by other institutions?

Queen’s offers something of a different journey towards the MBA. In developing the program, we consulted industry leaders in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, as well as our alumni and our current students. We asked what an MBA for today’s global and ever-changing business environment would look like. We designed a unique program in response to this feedback, offering several key features.

First is a focus on business ethics and sustainability. This underpins our entire program, and includes an ethical leadership challenge carried out with an industry leader. We also offer a distinct international focus, including an international study tour, for which students spend five days in San Francisco. The idea of the trip is to experience a different working culture and business environment, and gain an insight into global business trends through networking opportunities with high-level executives. Students visit industry leaders in the specific areas of entrepreneurship, innovation and data analytics. The trip combines talks, hands-on site visits, a tour of San Francisco, and a visit to an ethical, sustainable Napa Valley winery.

Global business issues also underpin the way each subject on the program is taught, and our students come from all over the world, as do our academics and guest lecturers. Alongside this, the MBA has an emphasis on big data, business analytics and entrepreneurship, providing students with key specialisms relevant to today’s business trends.

What tangible skills do MBA students learn at Queen’s, which they might not develop elsewhere?

At Queen’s, MBA skills development is focused around our year-long leadership development module. The program emerged from employer feedback; we asked industry leaders about key skills gaps in the MBA students they encountered, and they told us that while students tended to be academically strong, they had concerns around their abilities in the softer areas of leadership. These included negotiation skills, ethical leadership, communication and resilience.

Built around addressing these areas, our leadership development program is targeted to each person’s specific needs. Through the year-long module, students learn more about themselves, their approach to teamwork, their communicative strengths and their weaknesses, along with their own leadership style. Guided by an individual coach and mentor, each person defines at the outset what they would like to work on during the year. The end goal is to encourage each person to develop the insight and self awareness required for effective leadership in a global context. Since we have a good mix of local and international students in our cohort, there is a wide mix of goals, strengths and perspectives, with all students benefiting from this international diversity.

Is the teaching at Queen’s different in any way? What role does integrated teaching play?

Our academic program is somewhat different to other MBA offerings in Ireland and the UK, though it aligns with other top global universities, in that we have adopted a transversal approach. Students look at the principles and also the practice of key business topics, including marketing, strategy, finance, operations and economics.

But our MBA differs in that modules are not offered in a standalone, siloed manner, because real-life business practice does not work that way. Instead, modules build on each other, through developing specific mindsets. This means that subject specialisms are integrated. For example, strategy and organisational behaviour are brought together to solve real-life problems, including with a live consultancy client that works with students during the year.

Moving into the future, how do you see MBAs evolving as the business world changes?

Future MBAs will need to address the changing political, economic and business environment. This means that traditional methods for teaching management topics and skills need to change, for example through offering integrated teaching and new modules such as our core rethinking capitalism module. Co-teaching with partners from industry, but also non-profit organisations and those in the public sector, is vital for enhancing academic material, and we have already incorporated this into our new program.

MBA delivery is also moving towards online and digital options, and Queen’s is working towards this too. However, a key aspect of the value of an MBA is the contacts and connections one makes, and so any online program would need to carefully integrate such opportunities – something we’re very aware of as we develop courses for the future.

To find out more about the new MBA at Queen’s University Belfast, please visit the program website, email MBA Administrator Stephen Armstrong or call +44 (0)28 9097 4038.

This article was originally published in July 2018 .

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