It’s personal and highly popular

New Zealand’s MBA sector is currently booming, with new courses tailored to the work and lifestyle needs of today’s students. NZBusiness has been reviewing the options. 

Far from being the oft-rumoured  ‘yesterday’s qualification’ the MBA and its derivatives are booming in New Zealand, with a new campus for Waikato University in Tauranga and all the institutions we surveyed adapting to the changing business environment and the personal circumstances of students. 

The words ‘flexibility’, ‘customer-centric’, ‘agile’, ‘disruptive’, ‘collaborative’, ‘thriving’, ‘teamwork’, ‘high-performance’, ‘individualising’, ‘emotional intelligence’, ‘cross-cultural awareness’ and ‘creativity’ all abound in discussions with those directing MBA studies in this country.  

Our local MBAs largely feature well above expectations internationally. 

AUT’s director of MBA and Professional Masters programmes, Ken Lee is rightfully pleased their approach to ‘Developing High Performing Teams’ was one of three finalists in the MBA Roundtable (USA) MBA Innovation awards, and the only paper from a business school outside the USA to make the finals. 

“We submitted a paper which not only explored the theory of developing high performing teams but recorded how we put theory into practice by taking students into a competitive rowing environment or by taking them out of their comfort zone in a theatresports/improvisation setting.” 

AUT is regularly evaluated by Eduniversal which places it in the top ten percent of MBAs within the Oceania region, ranking over 200 MBA programmes. 

A significant tranche of new programmes is being announced by New Zealand’s MBA programme providers later this year and launched in 2019.  

Waikato University is launching its new Tauranga Campus next year. (see sidebox).  

And there’s much more. “From April and September 2019,” says Professor Elizabeth George, University of Auckland’s director of MBA and PGDipBus, “and subject to CUAP (Committee on University Academic Programmes) approval, the University of Auckland Business School will welcome two student groups to a new 18-month, interdisciplinary MBA programme.   

“Delivered through a series of courses designed around three major themes – ‘Achieving excellence in an existing business’, ‘Driving change’, and ‘Thriving under complexity’ – this integrative and flexible programme equips managers with a set of skills and the confidence to maintain and grow organisations in a dynamic context,” says George. 

In an acknowledgement of changing personal and employment factors – as well as costs – University of Auckland’s MBA courses will be delivered as two- to three-day block classes, over weekends, so students can step into, and then out of, their MBA experience in a way which reduces the negative impact on their personal and professional commitments.  

A quarter of the programme is delivered ‘in-class’ using interactive and experientially-based pedagogy, workshop-style activities, discussion of cases, simulations, and action-learning projects. The remaining 75 percent of time is independent student-led learning and group work which allows flexibility and integration into student’s individual lives.  

Flexible structures 

Over at AUT, flexibility comes in the form of six eight-week terms per year, which means that a student can start the programme at any one of six entry points and depending on personal commitments, hop on and off the bus as required – even take a term off – without causing major disruption to their study. 

“We offer papers predominantly in the evening to suit busy working professionals,” says Ken Lee. “Students can vary the number of papers they take each term, depending on those commitments. 

“Our MBA is the only programme in New Zealand which is 180 points duration and its flexible structure enables students to fit their study around their busy work and personal lives. This is a unique attribute of the programme. 

“We have a brand-new programme, first intake in March 2019, called a Masters of Business Management,” continues Lee. “This launches in August as a one-year full-time qualification (with part-time options available). It has fewer entry requirements than the MBA and doesn’t require work experience. It’s designed for those wanting to change their careers quickly into business management, or for those who are already in business and want to step up into management faster.”  

Lee says it joins a portfolio of AUT Professional Masters programmes, which include Applied Finance, Professional Accounting, Marketing, and Global Business. 

Meanwhile, if you turn to the NZBusiness 2019 Study Options Guide you’ll see that the Waikato Management School is triple-crown accredited by AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA – putting it in the top one percent globally. Waikato University has jumped 127 places in five years to be ranked #274 in the QS rankings, and third-equal in the 351-400 band for New Zealand universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.  

Their MBA students can choose to study at night, during the week, or over the weekend and can complete an MBA in two years, or four-to-five years. 

“We can’t keep doing the same old thing,” says Dr Heather Connolly, academic director for Waikato Management School Executive Education. “Continuous improvement of our programmes; integrating research which has global impact; and delivering modern learning environments, ensures we improve our standing continuously. 

“As to how we deal with developments like ‘Big Data’ and AI, our focus is not just discussing these disruptive technologies, in a single course. We want participants to think about, apply and examine how data and AI can be applied in all their MBA papers.  For example, AI and big data influences not just how we market to our customers, the types of business models we engage with, innovations etcetera, it also has an influence on the questions we should now ask, as part of governance. 

“Whatever develops in the local or international business world, we will still be preparing participants for the business world, where the only known is constant innovation and change,” says Connolly. 

“The unique DNA of the Waikato MBA allows for three intertwining streams of knowledge to be applied across the two-year part-time programme – innovation, responsible management and leadership – to be integrated into or the core focus of each paper in the programme.”  

Structured and personalised

Professor Ted Zorn is the new head of the Institute for Executive Education, a director of the e-Centre and board member of the Westpac-Massey FinEd Centre at Massey University, which is accredited by AMBA and AACSB and ranked in the top 150 universities worldwide for Finance and Business Administration programmes by Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects.  

“Our finance ranking is the highest among New Zealand business schools and the Business Administration is first equal,” he says. “We have introduced three major innovations in terms of content and delivery in our MBA programmes.”  

These include: 
•A structured, personalised learning journey for each student, including one-on-one coaching and online tools for maintaining a personal development portfolio. 
•An integrated project (live case study with a New Zealand organisation) woven throughout courses in the first half of the MBA. 
•The key themes – Digital Transformation, Cross-Cultural Awareness and Sustainability – are incorporated throughout.  

“Our MBA enrolments have grown in the past few years, suggesting that students continue to see the time and costs as worthwhile,” says Zorn. “I believe we could put that successful growth pattern down to the three key principles we regard as our USP.” 

He lists these as: 
Personalised experience – individual meetings with the MBA director at key points in the journey, through a new personalised learning, including one-on-one coaching; with flexible delivery in three locations nationally. 
Closely connected to practice – application-focused, experiential learning; many guest speakers from industry; live case-studies. 
Internationalised – cultural competence development, embedded throughout the programme, plus a dynamic international study tour. 

Waikato Management School’s Dr Connolly believes they have a winning hand through exposing participants to generalist skills and learning in the first part of the new programme – coined ‘The Mindful Manager’.  

“Participants will have skills which are required in the C-suite and be in line for promotions or career movement to an executive level. The final part of the programme transforms participants from manager to ‘Strategic Leader’, with a focus on innovation, global business and governance for responsible management. 

“To summarise, we utilise our strategic areas of expertise to ensure cutting-edge thinking is delivered from research-led insights.” 

Ken Lee believes AUT, by responding to international trends, is moving towards a more customer-centric model of curriculum and structure, and is further exploring ways to embrace technological innovations in delivery; the growth of micro credentials; and effective partnership models.  

“Our MBA provides a ‘toolbox’ of functional management skills models and techniques covering the core functions of management, and enables – through electives – the opportunity to explore issues at a more advanced level and to specialise.  

“An MBA also instils (an intangible) level of confidence to engage at a senior management/ leadership level,” he says. 

Focusing on the whole person 

The University of Auckland’s Professor Elizabeth George has an active research interest in non-standard work arrangements and diversity in the workplace and has a PhD in Organization Science from the University of Texas at Austin.  

“MBA programmes generally are responding to the quicker pace of change students will need to handle in their post-MBA careers,” she says. “More courses now give students the opportunity to individualise their learning; taking courses specific to their career needs; and taking shorter and sharper dives into contemporary topics.  

“MBAs are also focusing more on those skills and abilities addressing the ‘whole person’ and the ‘whole issue’, rather than just providing discreet pockets of knowledge which address a part of the issue and only engage a part of the individual.  

“This could come in the form of more integration across the curriculum and a simultaneous holistic focus on the individual manager, equipping them with both emotional and cognitive awareness of the challenges they will face – and an understanding of their own strengths in dealing with these challenges,” says George.  

“New Zealand’s MBAs are in line with these global shifts. Given the size of the programme, we have less of an ability to offer the range of electives available in larger courses in bigger markets.  

“By the same token, the smaller New Zealand programmes can give students greater individualised attention, with the focus on the whole person.”     

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TAURANGA GETS ITS NEW CAMPUS

A new University of Waikato campus is set to open in Tauranga’s CBD in early 2019.

The campus is designed to provide a high-tech university environment with f lexible, innovative space for teaching and learning, and collaboration with local and regional industries and businesses.

“It will be home to a Research and Innovation Centre dedicated to ‘catalysing entrepreneurship, developing business incubation and driving commercialisation activity’, in addition to all the normal facilities,” says Dr Heather Connolly, academic director for Waikato Management School Executive Education.

The Tauranga MBA cohort will collaborate with this centre to incorporate cutting-edge research, regional business cases and industry experts into the programme content and delivery.

The building itself will feature a future-proof design with flexible spaces so it is able to cater to changing styles of teaching and learning, including the executive MBA style of teaching and programme delivery. “The University of Waikato MBA isn’t new to the region either, [we’ve been] proudly delivering the MBA in Tauranga since 2003, and celebrate 15 years of executive education in the Bay of Plenty this year.”

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CHOOSING AN MBA AT A CAREER ‘CROSSROADS’

Successful entrepreneur Crispin Korschen completed her MBA at the end of 2017 and is a 2018 MBA alumna of the University of Auckland Business School.

“I initially trained in visual communication design. During my career I created a series of businesses within the creative and retail industries. I chose to do the MBA because I was at a crossroads in my career.

Having just sold my business, I was considering what direction to take.

“The MBA intrigued me for a variety of reasons – the academic challenge; the chance to mix with people from many different industries; and the exposure to a range of disciplines.

“As an entrepreneur I’d realised it is not always possible to work at great depth in all areas of business during the everyday hustle.

“Being part of a cohort of successful people with different ideas, ways of thinking and support is another significant benefit of earning an MBA. It gave me confidence, opened my eyes to new possibilities and taught me adaptability.”

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CAREER-MINDED MOTHER QUALIFIES WITH MBA

By day Nadine Parata is national distribution manager at Ballance Agri-Nutrients. The rest of the time she is a Tauranga-based mother-of-two. She felt she needed to boost her career and aim for senior positions in the organisation.  

Research revealed Waikato Management School offered reputable and flexible postgraduate study options which would accommodate her commitments.  

In 2015, she started her Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies at home in Tauranga, before continuing to complete her MBA in Hamilton. 

“Balancing travelling the country for work, spending time with family, and studying has been a challenge, but nothing that is worth doing is going to be easy – and the MBA is definitely worth it,” she says. 

For Nadine, what made the MBA such a satisfying experience was the people.  

“The teaching staff are all fantastic and do a great job of challenging your thinking. But the true gold comes from working with other students in the class. Group work is always a challenge but the lessons you learn are invaluable, especially within the diverse group of students in the MBA.”

 

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