Flexibility and Relevance – A New Focus at Columbia Business School

Posted on January 21, 2008 | Filed in MBA

We have posted a few times before on general trends and changes in curriculum at top B-schools. We also discussed recent program changes at Yale’s School of Management. Today we will focus on Columbia Business School.

According to a recent BusinessWeek Online article, Columbia Business School is making changes that will cut down the length and number of required courses while making changes to its electives system. Such adjustments will allow students to take courses that are based on their career interests. Some highlights include “Power and Influence” as well as “Strategy, Structure and Incentives.”

Columbia’s reason for making these changes is threefold:

  • Columbia continually updates its curriculum every few years to stay up to date with current trends.
  • The school wants to provide flexibility for students. Since many students after their first year get a summer internship, those students may want to tailor some of their foundational knowledge to what they plan on doing in their internship.
  • Columbia wants to ensure that the knowledge students have from business school is practically relevant to the business community after graduation.

An important aspect of the experience at Columbia is the “Cluster” system. A cluster is a group of about 60 students that take their foundational courses together. One of the changes Columbia has in store for the incoming class is that there will be 2.5 fewer core courses, meaning somewhat less time being spent in one’s cluster. Such is an example of the many considerations a school has to make when updating a curriculum: How can Columbia introduce new flexibility while retaining the bonding experience that is offered by the cluster?

Much of these changes come in the face of some criticism of the relevance of the MBA degree. While the relevance is undergoing questioning from critics and journalists, the overwhelming number of MBA applicants around the world shows that the degree is still in high demand. The challenge for Columbia and some other schools we plan on covering is how to make the degree academically rigorous while being overtly applicable to real world business challenges students will face in their careers.

Trends in Curricula

So far a few the institutions we have looked at have similar emphases in their curriculum updating activities:

  • Striving for increased “relevance” of a degree
  • Offering a more practical approach to learning management
  • Making their programs more globally sound, and
  • More flexibility in their programs.

We will most likely see these trends crop up in our continued examination of curricula changes at top MBA programs.

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One Response to Flexibility and Relevance – A New Focus at Columbia Business School

  1. CitySmart

    Comment posted on January 28, 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

    I think: Best thing about Columbia is its location.