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Chapter 1.2. A Model for Strategic Planning, Analyzing Cases and Decison Making

Chapter 1.3 Forest & Forest Case

Chapter 2. Influencing / Persuading

Chapter 3. Negotiating / Conflict Resolution

Chapter 4. Networking / Self Marketing

Chapter 5. Entrepreneuring / Venturing

Chapter 6. Business Plan Outline

Chapter 7. HBS Case Method Deprives Students of An Authentic Learning Experience

Chapter 8. Improving Your Ability to Recognize Business Opportunities

Chapter 9. Why Business Schools Need to Know What MBAs Want to Learn and How to Find Out

Chapter 10. What do MBAs Want and What Do They Get?

Chapter 11. Applying Services Marketing Concepts to the Administration of A Business School

Chapter 12. A Model of the Business School as A Developer of Achievers

Chapter 13. Obtaining More Options in Your 401(k) or 403 (b) Retirement Plan

Chapter 14. Breathe Slowly - Reduce Your Blood Pressure

Chapter 15. The Body Mass Index (BMI) Is Wrong



Chapter 10. What MBA Students Want and What They Get


A 1999 survey of graduating MBA students  at the author’s business school revealed low willingness to recommend the MBA program and low perceived value of core courses and courses in the students’ major fields. 

When other findings of this exit survey were compared to results of a survey of entering MBA students, it appeared that insufficient learning of valuable and strongly needed skills had caused the low levels of satisfaction.   The paper concludes with a suggestion to interested faculty to conduct similar surveys to determine whether changes in teaching and learning might be beneficial.

    A pair of surveys were conducted at the author’s business school during the Fall 1999 semester.  The over-all purpose of these surveys was to obtain information for improving the curriculum with the ultimate objective of increasing the value of the MBA program. 
    The first survey, conducted in September was administered to entering MBA students.  The aim of the survey was to discover students’ perceptions of the relative importance of sixteen abilities (See Exhibit 1 for a replica of the questionnaire used):
    1.    Competence in an important business discipline.
    2.    Understanding of business areas outside your major.
    3.    Ability to recognize business opportunities.
    4.    Ability to solve business problems.
    5.    Ability to integrate global issues into business decisions.
    6.    Ability to apply theory to practice.
    7.    Ability to develop spreadsheet models.
    8.    Ability to use the Internet.
    9.    Skill in writing business reports.
    10.    Skill in giving oral presentations.
    11.    Ability to work well with people of diverse backgrounds.
    12.    Skill in directing the work of others.
    13.    Skill in resolving conflicts.
    14.    Ability to prioritize activities.
    15.    Skill in marketing yourself.
    16.    Skill in starting your own business.

    This survey  has been described in Chapter 9.   Results only will be summarized in the next section of this paper.
    The second survey, conducted during November of 1999, was administered to MBA students completing program.  The second survey aimed to measure satisfaction with the MBA program and to obtain some understanding of the causes of the suspected less than complete satisfaction.  This survey is reported in detail in this paper.  It is expected that this report will enable readers to conduct similar surveys in their own schools and to use the resulting information for increasing the level of satisfaction of their MBA programs.

The Entry Survey: What Do MBAs Want?

    In the entry level survey, the 377 entering students received the questionnaire shown in Exhibit 9.1, which asked them to evaluate the sixteen abilities shown above with respect to their value in helping them to maximize their success in business and with respect to their need for self improvement.  There were 310 usable replies, for a response rate of 82.2%.  Summary results are presented in Exhibit 9.3.
    Results are ranked by “Composite Index,” which is the sum of the “Valuable” and “Need Improvement” average scores.  The higher the Composite Index, the stronger the expression of want on the part of the entry level students.     For example, “Ability to recognize business opportunities,” “Ability to solve business problems,” “Skill in marketing yourself” and “Skill in giving oral presentations” are ranked highest, in terms of value for maximizing success in business and students’ need for improvement.  At the opposite end, “Ability to develop spreadsheet models” and “Ability to use the Internet” are ranked lowest.

What Do the MBAs Get:  Findings of the Exit Survey

    The Exit survey was requested by the associate dean responsible for the MBA program.  His objective was to obtain information to guide the faculty in developing courses and curricula that would increase student satisfaction with the MBA program.  Surveys conducted under guidance of the AACSB, showed that 55% of our graduating students were reporting that they were satisfied with the School’s MBA program.  This level of satisfaction was similar with the level of satisfaction expressed by exiting students at six comparable schools.
    The issues to be investigated were:
    1.    What percentage of the graduating students were sufficiently well satisfied to recommend the program to a friend?
    2.    How valuable were the core courses?
    3.    How valuable were the courses in the students’ majors?
    4.    How did the “Valuable” and “Need Improvement” averages reported on the Exit survey compare with averages reported on the Entry survey?
    On the Exit survey, of the 160 students enrolled in the capstone course, 124 submitted usable replies, for a response rate of 77.5%.
    Exhibits 10.3, 10. 4 and 10.5 show the results of the Exit survey regarding the first three issues listed above and comparisons with similar surveys conducted at the School in 1991 and 1992. 
    In all instances, while there had been improvement, the 1999 results were not good enough to be used in a marketing program.  Considering the substantial amount effort dedicated by faculty and students in bringing the students from entry to exit, this did not seem to be an acceptable outcome.  On the other hand, other business schools did not seem to be getting better results according to data delivered to the school by AACSB-sponsored surveys.

Why Weren't the Outcomes Better?

    Exhibit 10.6 suggests an answer to this question.  This Exhibit compares answers to the “How much improvement do you need?” on the Entry and Exit surveys.  While exiting students say that they need less improvement than entering students in all sixteen categories, the differences are small.  The exiting students do not appear to have learned enough of what they needed to learn!  To improve the outcome measures, the school has to close the gap between what the students want and what they get. 

Summary and Conclusions

    In this case, graduating students of an MBA program did not report a high level of satisfaction.   A likely reason was that they did not learn enough of what they needed to learn.  The solution to this problem may be to change the curriculum and teaching and learning methods, to help students develop the abilities they need for success in their business careers.     
    The recommendation to interested readers is to conduct similar research in their schools to determine whether changes are needed and what the nature of those changes might be.

Note.  Reviews of the literature were attempted, twice.  Nothing was found on either of the following topics:
    a)  Asking MBA students views regarding what they should be learning.
    b)  Explanation for low levels of satisfaction of graduating MBA students.

Note.  For a copy of the questionnaire in MS Excel format, go to and click on the fourth item


This Page was last update: Monday, February 20, 2006 at 5:51:27 PM
This page was originally posted: 9/27/2005; 5:19:19 PM.
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