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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944
Part-II: Social Sciences and Humanities Vol. 4 No. 4 July 2013
Muhammad Mohsin Zahid1, Abid Naeem2, Faheem Ahmad3, Atiq Rehman4
1-3 COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Wah Campus, &
4Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Islamabad,
1 sats@
Corporate world is always looking for a trained and better equipped business
graduate who could deliver results instantly as well as in the long term. And business
graduates are expecting an instant return to their investment made in their business
education. Both of the sides can achieve their objectives through better aligned
business curriculum and relevant development of skill-set of the business graduates.
This study draws on the opinions of the MBA students and business professionals
about the MBA core curriculum and required skills in the business and professional
world. Study found some similarities as well as some significant differences of
opinion in the MBA core curriculum and required skills. Explanations and
suggestions are presented to these findings. Underlying factors are also identified
within the MBA core curriculum and required skills for a business professional.
Keywords: MBA Curriculum, Business Education, Management Education,
Professional Development, University-Industry Alignment
Business education is under severe pressure due to its increasing impact on the business
world and, so, on the society. Organizations expect well equipped MBA graduates with more
relevant and better skills so they could benefit from their education and development. Despite
a long history of MBA in the universities, dynamic nature of business and education has so
far widening the gap between business education and its actual application in the business
world. This study analyzes the Pakistani education & business environment and describes the
similarities and differences between the MBA curriculum and the required skills of actual
professional environment.
Masters of the Business Administration (MBA) degree is regarded as an important tool for
the growth of organizations. And the recruitment of the MBA's is increasing with the passage
of time in the business world (Kane, 1993). More than fifty percent of the recruiters have
expectations to gain considerable benefits from the MBA's, based on their quality,
productivity, promo ability, leadership skills, long term retention, management and technical
skills (GMAC, 2005). Organizations perceive that MBA is an important tool for the
development of expertise in new technological, financial and managerial practices and
employee's readiness to the future situations (Crotty, 1997). Several high end corporations
were heavily relying to transform their managers from "narrowly-focused managers" to
"multi-functional managers" on the MBA pattern of business development courses for their
executives, even before the MBA got into the mainstream of business environment (Crotty,
1997). Primary aim of these corporations was to take their organizations into the next phase
of the business.
For an individual, MBA is considered as the "seal of approval" (Thomas, Sharkey and
Beeman, 2008), on his readiness to the business environment, and even has become a
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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944
Vol. 4 No. 4 July 2013 Academic Research International
"currency" (Carnall, 1995), with international acceptability and a passport to managerial roles
(Baruch, 2001). And for the employee, MBA is considered as the vital component for the
career development, increase in salary, better management position and a producer of better
personal satisfaction (Ainsworth & Morley, l995).
Earlier, development of the managers was seen as the primary purpose of the MBA so they
could perform better and could become a better component of the organizational system
(Bolt, 1993). But now rapidly changing global settings have raised the bar of what is
expected and perceived from a MBA qualified manager. Extra responsibilities and
dimensions are being added to the manager's role (Vicere & Graham, 1990). Companies now
perceive the MBA's to help in the organizational transformation through leading the change
in the whole culture (O'reilly, 1993). Organizations want new ways of thinking and updated
strategies for greater competitiveness in the business arena (Bolt, 1993). So, pressure on
MBA education is enormous and increasing with the time so much so it is also seen as the
source of controlling gender discrimination (Leeming, 1998).
This high perception and expectation from the MBA puts a lot of responsibility on the
business schools that are the major factor in this development. It is acknowledged that
business schools do equip the students with the knowledge but the question remains whether
this knowledge is relevant? (Louw, Bosch & Venter, 2001). Business schools in this context
are already facing a huge criticism regarding the several aspects of the business education.
Mintzberg and Gosling (2002) along with Pfeffer and Fong (2002) argue that business
schools effectiveness is not at the level which is required; they point to the courses of these
schools which have relatively low relationship with the skills actually required in the
practical field. According to (Tay, 2001), curriculum and its delivery to the students is the
issue to be discussed for filling the gap of the future leaders. Other, serious concerns are
shown regarding the relationship and coordination between the business and education, lack
of input of business experience into the education delivery, too much focus on theoretical and
numerical side while neglecting the soft skills and non-readiness of the graduates for the
business problems (Bickerstaffe, 1996; Byrne, 1997; Hugo, 1998; Louw et al., 2001;
Navarro, 2008; Neelankavil, 1994; Oosthuizen et al., 1998; Pesulima, 1990; Tucker, 1995b;
Yucelt, 1998).
Out of desperation (Blass, 2005), several corporations have jumped into planning or
establishing (Nixon & Helms, 2002) their own universities because of the lack of business
schools ability to meet the expectations and making the MBA curriculum more relevant to the
actual ground requirements. So, with declining image (Halfhill, & Nielsen, 2007), MBA in
business schools needs to do a lot to improve itself not just because it needs to be more
aligned to the business world but also it is indulging into a "hyper-competition" (Thomas et
al., 2008) due to its attachment with several vital stakeholders like business organizations,
universities and students themselves.
Solutions are proposed in this regard but the most iterated solution is to change and update
the curriculum of the MBA programs. Continuous updating of the MBA education is the only
way to get what is expected from the business graduates (Ishida, 1997). This solution again
needs a right direction for streamlining the education and development effort. This direction
is to equip the MBA program with the courses which in return upgrade the management
competencies of the students. So, a good MBA considers the demands of the professional
environment and keeps updating its curriculum and "as the pace of business increases, so
does the need for MBA curricula to keep up with the changing requirements of competences"
(Baruch & Leeming, 1996).
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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944
Part-II: Social Sciences and Humanities Vol. 4 No. 4 July 2013
Considering the practical side of the MBA education, i.e. the professional businesses, several
competencies have been broadly identified as leadership (Schatz, 1997), interpersonal skills,
change management (Langbert, 2005), knowledge, intellectual ability, ability to work in a
modern organization, communication skills (Harvey & Green, 1994), creative thinking and
initiative, analytical and holistic thinking, problem solving, decision making, ability to accept
responsibility (Louw et al., 2001), negotiation, problem identification, teamwork
(Neelankavil, 1994), self awareness, self promotion, exploring and creating opportunities,
action planning, networking, matching and decision making, political awareness, coping with
uncertainty, development focus, transfer skills and self confidence (AGR, 1995).
In this overall background, several studies can be found which address the MBA
effectiveness and curriculum reforms (Kretovics, 1999; Hay & Hodgkinson, 2006; Dainty,
2008; Emiliani, 2006; Clinebell & Clinebell, 2008; Navaro, 2008), but most of the studies
focus the curriculum re-consideration and do not link it with the management competencies
(Dainty, 2008; Randlesome, 2000). Some studies do focus the competencies but in an isolated
manner which consider only few aspects from the larger set of competencies required in the
business world. So, these studies cover their individual domains quite promptly but this
pattern does not present a comprehensive solution to the issue under-consideration. So, there
is a need to conduct a study which addresses the "reengineering" (Kathwal, Abdou, &
Elmuti, 2002) of MBA curriculum but also considers the management competencies.
Moreover, considering the Pakistani environment, education infrastructure, overall education
curriculum, general industry-academic coordination, quality of teaching staff, education
assessment system and analysis of MBA courses with ideal MBA curriculum (Niazi, 2006;
Khan, 2008; Iqbal, 2004; Isani & Virk, 2003; Rahman & Zahid, 2009) are discussed but the
actual relevance of MBA curriculum with business environment and management
competencies is still an unexplored territory. So, objective of this research is to find out the
differences between the views MBA students and the business professionals about the
importance of core courses in MBA and required management skills. This study would also
extract underlying factors in the MBA core curriculum and required skills, based on the
This article takes methodological insights from the study of Louw et al., (2001) which based
their study on the differences of opinion between MBA students and business professionals,
theses opinion were collected through a survey. Considering the local professional and
education world, this survey instrument has to customize to relate it with the localized
settings. It is evident that students would only reflect what is being bestowed upon them in
their studies and education. As this study aims to assess the relevance of MBA courses and
management competencies, MBA students were involved rather than the MBA graduates to
assess the situation of educational institutes where these courses are being taught.
Data Collection
Two surveys were conducted in this respect, one survey included the top 16 most taught
courses in the universities (Rahman & Zahid, 2009) and both respondent groups were to
provide their rating for the importance of these courses in the professional environment.
Second survey included the 37 management competencies (Louw et al, 2001) required in the
professional environment, and like earlier, both the students and the managers were to
provide their rating on the relative importance of these competencies. First group of
respondents, were MBA students who are enrolled in full time 2 years or more MBA degree
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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944
Vol. 4 No. 4 July 2013 Academic Research International
course and have completed their core courses and do not have any practical management
experience. Second survey was conducted from the managers who have more than 5 years
experience of practically running the business in Pakistan. Data was collected through self-
administered and online questionnaires from 327 MBA students. The 153 business
professionals provided their opinion related to this study. Majority of the business
professional responses were collected through online forms. Respondents for the study were
geographically from the cities of Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and
Wah Cantt. Convenience and snowball sampling was used due to the limited resource
availability for the study.
Total number of 16 identified MBA courses are listed in the Table 5 which has three panels.
Panel A shows the responses of managers regarding the importance of MBA courses; Panel B
depicts the responses of students while Panel C shows the differences of ranking to analyze
the difference between the two. Panels include conversion of questionnaires responses into
mean and standard deviation. Ranking is based on the percentage which is achieved by
performing linear transformation to map the five-point likert scale into relative percentage
with 1=0 percent, 3=50 percent and 5=100 percent.
After ensuring the internal consistency by Cronbach Alpha, independent sample t-test was
conducted to compare the responses of MBA students and business professionals. Responses
about the importance of core courses of MBA from the students and business professionals
are compared to test the statistically significant differences between the opinions of both the
respondent groups. The t-test shows the significant differences between the importance of
core courses of Human Resource Management, Corporate Ethics, General Management,
Financial Management and Financial Accounting.
In some courses, quite understandably, the difference of opinion is quite huge; Human
Resource Management course was regarded as the most important course by the business
professionals but the students considered it as not much important, so the accumulative effect
shows the Human Resource Management course at the number 13 level from the student's
perspective. Corporate ethics/social responsibility courses were ranked at number two by the
students but according to the business professionals it was not that highly ranked. This
phenomenon may be a reflection of the general thinking that a student is in an ideal state of
mind and may see the world according to the ideals taught to them in the educational
institutions, but as the business graduate indulges into the realms of the business world he
tends to realize the not-so-perfect nature of professional life which is being indicated by the
relatively lower ranking of the corporate ethics and social responsibility courses in the MBA.
General management course is ranked at the lowest by the students while the business
professionals think that General Management course is relatively more important. This trend
may point towards the issue that MBA students are taught quite a diverse type of courses
related to the management, and as they progress in their studies their focus tends to shift
towards advanced courses, especially in their field of specialization. Thus, the basics of
management may lose its importance, but the business professionals have rightly pointed out
the fact that basics of management never lose its value and are vitally required in the
professional life. Financial Management and Financial Accounting courses are ranked
relatively higher by the students while business professionals have put them on lower ranks.
Factor analysis was conducted on the core courses of MBA; principal component analysis
was used for factor extraction with oblimin rotation which allows for inter-correlations
between the factors. Factor analysis on courses qualifies the test with KMO measure of
journals..pk Copyright ? 2013 SAVAP International
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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944
Part-II: Social Sciences and Humanities Vol. 4 No. 4 July 2013
sampling adequacy, and Bartletts test was significant which shows that responses are enough
correlated providing basis for the factor analysis.
Factor analysis reflects three major factors in the structure of core MBA courses. First factor
extracted was relates to the courses which account for commonly working with numbers and
quantitative analysis. This factor has been identified as the `quantitative courses group', and
includes Quantitative Analysis incl. Statistics and Financial Accounting. Second factor
extracted is leaning towards the management courses and has thus been called `management
courses group', this factor includes the General Management and Strategic Management.
Third extracted factor includes most of the courses which are directly relating to the human
interaction and behavior. So, this factor has been identified as the `interaction courses group',
this group of courses includes the courses of Organizational Behavior and Business
Table 1. Managers and MBA students perceptions of relative importance of MBA courses in
Panel A (Managers) Panel B (Students) Panel C
Courses Ranking Rating Standard Rating Standard
(%) Mean Deviation Ranking (%) Mean Deviation Ranking
Human Resource 1 85.00% 4.4 0.63 13 62.50% 3.5 1.51 -12
Management Or 2 78.25% 4.13 0.64 1 85.00% 4.4 0.97 1
Business Comm.
Strategic 3 78.25% 4.13 0.64 4 77.50% 4.1 0.99 -1
Organizational 4 73.25% 3.93 0.88 8 70.00% 3.8 0.92 -4
Corporate Ethics Or 5 73.25% 3.93 0.96 2 85.00% 4.4 0.84 3
Social Responsibility
Quantitative Analysis
incl. Statistics 6 71.75% 3.87 1.19 12 65.00% 3.6 1.71 -6
Information 7 71.75% 3.87 0.83 10 67.50% 3.7 1.06 -3
Marketing 8 70.00% 3.8 0.94 5 77.50% 4.1 0.88 3
General 9 70.00% 3.8 0.86 15 57.50% 3.3 1.42 -6
Business 10 68.25% 3.73 1.28 7 75.00% 4 0.82 3
Business 11 68.25% 3.73 1.1 3 80.00% 4.2 1.32 8
Financial 12 66.75% 3.67 0.98 6 77.50% 4.1 0.99 6
Operations And
Supply Chain Mgt. 13 66.75% 3.67 1.05 9 70.00% 3.8 1.03 4
Entrepreneurship 14 60.00% 3.4 1.4 14 60.00% 3.4 1.07 0
Financial 15 55.00% 3.2 1.01 11 67.50% 3.7 0.95 4
Business 16 55.00% 3.2 1.01 16 55.00% 3.2 0.92 0
As earlier, t-test was conducted on the responses of the students and business professionals
about the competencies required in the professional world. Responses about seven of the
Copyright ? 2013 SAVAP International journals..pk
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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944
Vol. 4 No. 4 July 2013 Academic Research International
total thirty seven competencies were found to be significantly different between the MBA
students and the business professionals, these seven competencies were `Time Management',
`Ability to convey a strong sense of vision', `Clear oral communication', `Holistic (systems)
thinking', `Organizing skills', `Supervisory skills' and `Numerical skills'. The students
ranked `Time management' as the most important skill for the business world but according
to the business professionals this skill is not the most important skill for professional life, and
ranked at the third. This aspect may point towards the general perception of the students that
professional success is based on the time management skills while the business professional
responded that `Time management' skill is not THE top most skill needed for the
professional world; `decision-making skills' and `leadership' skills are more important than
`time management'. `Ability to convey a strong sense of vision' was another skill which had
significant differences between the responses, students considered at the fifth most important
skill while business professionals ranked it seventeen. This difference can be attributed to the
focus of business professionals towards operations and day to day tasks rather than ability of
a manager to convey a strong sense of vision to his fellows and especially subordinates.
Third significantly different skill the `clear oral communication' was ranked more important
by the students, while another skill `clear written communication' was also ranked higher by
the students than the business professionals. This phenomenon may be a reflection of the
nature of the educational environment where students are more dependent on the oral and
written communication during the lecture and especially in the examinations, thus they
consider the oral and written communication relatively more important than the professionals.
Fourth significantly different skills the `holistic (system) thinking' is ranked higher by the
professionals which reflects the importance of changing dynamics of the business arena
where professionals are increasingly expected to cater to a larger set of stakeholders needs
and wants. `Organizing skills', `supervisory skills' and `numerical skills' have been ranked
higher by the students; professionals have a different opinion and ranked them lower.
Students' opinion may have been developed due to the educational environment where they
are more exposed and encouraged to these skills. On the other side, professionals have
indicated the requirement of a different and diverse set of skills as the important skill-set in
the professional world.
Factor analysis was conducted on the management competencies by both the respondent
groups (Lawley and Maxwell, 1971; Hatcher, 1994). KMO value and Bartletts test were
within acceptable range and were significant. Factor analysis revealed four major groups of
competencies inclined together, these were namely `Leadership Skills', `Social Skills',
`Analytical Skills' and `Soft Skills'. Leadership skills factor included the skills and
competencies as `ability to delegate', `motivating skills' and `planning skills'. Social skills
factor was based on the competencies as `social skills and abilities', `facilitating skills',
`working in teams' and `clear written communication' skills. Analytical skills was reflected
by the `numerical skills' and `sensitivity to business environment'. Soft skills factor consisted
of the `emotional stability', `interpersonal skills' and `negotiating skills'.
Table 2. Managers and MBA students Competencies
Panel A (Managers) Panel B (Students) Panel C
Competencies Ranking Rating Mean Std. Ranking Rating Mean Std. Ranking
(%) Dev. (%) Dev.
Decision-making 1 92.75% 4.71 0.45 2 94.50% 4.78 0.42 -1
Leadership 2 89.25% 4.57 0.49 3 89.00% 4.56 0.96 -1
journals..pk Copyright ? 2013 SAVAP International
436 .pk

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