Europe’s Evolving Philosophy of Business Education

Posted on December 8, 2008 | Filed in MBA

There is a great shift occurring in European business schools towards a highly modernized business education that incorporates multicultural diversity, interdisciplinary study, new technology, and the adoption of elements of the standard Anglo-Saxon university model.

The Bologna Accord and Europe’s New Educational Paradigm

The shift can be traced to the 1999 Bologna Accord, which outlined the steps necessary to standardize a model of higher education throughout Europe. Its primary goal is to enact reforms that would increase the level of competition between European universities. The reforms of the Bologna Accord include:

  • standardization of degrees granted;
  • establishment of clear divisions between undergraduate and graduate studies; and
  • promotion of student mobility across disciplines, institutions, and nations.

Currently a plethora of different degrees are offered by institutes of higher education in Europe, which often leads to confusion and bureaucratic nightmares. Also, the long first-section model of 5 years is gradually being adapted towards the Anglo-Saxon model of 3-4 years for a bachelor’s degree and an additional 1-2 years for a master’s.

The Accord has been adopted by 40 European nations, and some nations like Switzerland and the Netherlands have already enacted their provisions. 2010 is the target year for the Accord’s implementation in all participating countries.

The Contextualization of MBAs within a Larger Curriculum

In the spirit of the Accord, European Universities are seeking not only to coordinate their MBA programs with the exigencies of the labor and financial markets, but with a spectrum of other disciplines as well Colin Mayer, Dean of the Said School at Oxford said recently in an interview with Business Week that the school’s offerings work in conjunction with those found in the University’s law, finance and science programs. He says that it is this sort of interdisciplinary work that is essential to successful entrepreneurship.

Dean Santiago Iniguez of the IE school in Madrid says that earning an MBA should be an “experience” and not merely a transmission of knowledge. According to Iniguez, the ideal is to create managers who are cosmopolitan, capable of negotiating different cultures while speaking a unified business language.

The degree of interaction between MBA programs and other fields is not clearly defined by the Accord and varies across universities. Some universities have taken steps to simplify the process of taking courses across disciplines, while others like IE have taken the more dramatic step of providing highly customized course offerings within the MBA program itself: courses with subjects like Chinese philosophy and literature, or global musical trends.

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