Online MBA Rankings Q&A: Australian Graduate School of Management |

Online MBA Rankings Q&A: Australian Graduate School of Management

By Linda M

Updated April 30, 2020 Updated April 30, 2020

In conjunction with the launch of our Online MBA Rankings 2020, we’ve had the pleasure to interview different top schools.


Here is what Nick Wailes, Deputy Dean and Director of the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at the University of New South Wales Business School, had to say. 

QS: How do you feel about being named the fourth best online MBA program globally in QS’ ranking?


NW: AGSM is delighted to be recognised as one of the top ranked Online MBAs in the world. We are very proud of the program, the outstanding students it attracts and the success of our alumni. The AGSM MBAX is designed to provide students with the same high quality education experience they get in our other MBA programs but with the added flexibility of studying online. Flexibility and multiple options are important as more and more people want to build modular learning experiences to meet their specific needs – and gain a credible qualification at the same time. Strong growth in enrolments and our performance in the rankings suggests that we are achieving both these aims.


QS: AGSM’s online MBA program scored highly for the Employability and Class Experience indicators. Why do you think this is? Is there something AGSM is doing differently to other business schools?


NW: The high scores in the Employability and Class Experience indicators reflect a number of factors.


First, students enrolling in AGSM MBAX have an average age of 35 and many are experienced, mature professionals with established industry networks. MBAX provides them with an opportunity to accelerate their existing career or to transition to new industries and sectors. Students can specialise in contemporary fields like Technology, Social Impact, and Change so they set themselves apart with a recognised business degree and accreditation in an in-demand field. Second, we are continuing to ramp up our career support to students in our online programs, both through on-demand tools and resources and through online access to coaches and industry experts. MBAX students also have access to a wide range of industry initiatives run by AGSM Careers that connect students with alumni, employers and their experienced peers to maximise networking opportunities.


In terms of class experience our approach is not only to create a learning experience that is equivalent to that in our face to face MBA programs, it is to create the best Online MBA program in the world. Our Faculty and Educational Development team are highly experienced in designing virtual learning and the MBAX offers a unique interactive experience. We keep classes small (20-30) and while we provide a lot of resources for self-directed learning, the learning is mainly driven by high skilled and experienced faculty and facilitators through online discussion and dialog. A key part of this is learning from the experience and insights of others in the class, 20 or more experienced professionals from very diverse backgrounds and industries.


QS: Students on the program seem to have a high level of work experience behind them before starting the course. Do you think this adds to the character of the program?


NW: AGSM intentionally recruits a diverse, experienced cohort of highly motivated MBA candidates. This makes a huge difference to the overall experience, especially in online discussions. In a typical class you have 20 experienced professionals with deep experience from across a diverse range of industries and functions. This really helps accelerate learning because students get multiple perspectives on the same issue. This is why we place so much emphasis on diversity of background in our recruitment. It really enhances the learning experience. Its also a great network to tap into and just as in our face to face programs we see our online students leveraging this network effectively.


QS: What sets your online MBA program apart from others across the globe?


NW: The AGSM MBAX is designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the skills and confidence required to keep pace with progress. There are three main characteristics that set the AGSM MBAX apart.


Size really does matter. We are committed to small class sizes to enable meaningful dialogue and peer learning. Our commitment to small class sizes and learning driven by experienced faculty and facilitators.


Diversity. AGSM has always attracted and celebrated diversity of gender, experience and thought. In the MBAX we have a common core and offer specialisations in technology, change, social impact, finance and medical technology and pharmaceuticals. This means that students who might be interested in a technology specialisation have the opportunity to study with and learn from someone from, for example, a not for profit background. This diversity of thought and approach is a huge asset.


Programs are designed and facilitated by experienced academics and leading industry practitioners who know how to ensure that students are successful in this mode of learning and are able to immediately apply what they learn in the program to their work. 


QS: How important do you think online programs are today? Especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


NW: Even prior to the outbreak of COVID19, demand for high quality online education was accelerating. Our students are busy working professionals who need to be able to fit their studies around their other commitments, professional and personal and they don’t want to be forced to make a trade off between quality and flexibility. MBAX is really designed to address this need and enrolment has been growing 20 percent year on year. We are experiencing a “flight to quality” in the online learning space. In a COVID world, being able to offer quality online experiences is critical. Many professions will need to enhance their leadership capabilities to be effective in this new world and the skills that an MBA helps you build will be critical to continued success. Interestingly, our experience in online has meant that we were able to move all of our learning online rapidly and this has meant that students in our face to face programs have been able to continue to progress through their programs.


QS: Have there been many changes made to the online MBA program at AGSM since the last academic year?


NW: We are always changing and evolving this program. This year we have added leadership as a compulsory starter course both because it puts the leadership journey of an MBA front and centre in the program and it also helps create a sense of belonging to a cohort. We’ve also recently introduced a new specialisation in medical technology and pharmaceuticals. This really reflects the growth of this industry (something that will accelerate in a post COVID world). We have also introduced a number of new electives across some of the other specialisations including digital innovation.


QS: What can we expect in the future from AGSM’s online MBA?


NW: We are always looking for where problems are to be solved and that helps us proactively identify opportunities for growth and where there is demand for new specialisations we can introduce to the MBAX.  There are currently enormous opportunities in medical technology and health management and we are working closely with UNSW Medicine and will introduce an MBAX Specialisation in Medical Technology and Pharmaceuticals later this year. We are also working closely with our law school to develop a new specialisation. More generally we are always looking at how we can better leverage technology to enhance the learning experience and we are continuously evolving our online learning model. Later this year we will be introducing a new program called AGSM Advantage that will give our online students opportunities the opportunity to meet with senior executives and to participate in masterclasses from leading faculty and industry representatives. 


QS: What advice would you give to prospective students hoping to earn a place on the online MBA program?


NW: I’d give two bits of advice to any prospective student considering an online MBA.


First, you get out of it what you put into it. We are really looking for candidates that bring something to the learning experience of others and are able and willing to contribute to class discussion and peer networks. So this means you need to think about what is special or different about you and your experience and how you are going to use this to contribute.


Second, to be successful in online study you have to be well organised and structured. Thinking about how you will organise you time to fit in your study around your work and family commitments is really important. Related to this is the ‘cultural fit’ of the school. Do your values and beliefs align with the school’s purpose, mission and vision?


And finally, look at the school’s alumni – not just the very high profile leaders - but those who may have had a similar career pathway to your own. Are alumni advocates for the program? Are they accessible? Leadership development is not a discreet, one-off activity but an on-going process. A lively and connected alumni community is a good indicator of the depth of the school’s professional network and the access you will have to other business, government and not-for-profit leaders.

This article was originally published in April 2020 .

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Written by

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 


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