Challenges faced by graduate business education in Southern Africa: perceptions of MBA participants
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited, www.emeraldinsight.com
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the degree of satisfaction and perceived relevance of the Graduate Business Education (GBE) programme at the University of Botswana. Design/methodology/approach – A self-administered questionnaire and face to face interviews were used to collect data from Master of Business Administration (MBA) participants on their reason for studying MBA, level of satisfaction, and the extent to which the skills and experiences obtained correlate with those required by the corporate world. The data were analyzed using simple descriptive statistics. Findings – The majority of the respondents are male adults attending part time MBA classes and working full time in administrative positions in the public and private sectors. The study found that improved managerial skills, career development and broader business insights are major reasons for joining the MBA programme, while employability and economic gains were ranked low as driving forces. Even though the overall satisfaction with the programme is mixed and inconclusive, the MBA programme has assisted participants to develop basic management and administration skills. However, the programme puts greater emphasis on conceptual, technical and analytical skills than on problem solving, innovation, communication and entrepreneurial skills which are perceived to be most needed by employers, implying a relevance gap. What the MBA participants learnt does not correlate with what they perceived to be most needed by employers. Research limitations/implications – Since the findings are based on perceptions of MBA participants, the conclusions drawn from these findings must be considered tentative and interpreted with care. Future research must include representative sample of all MBA stakeholders such as faculty, students, graduates, employers and administrators to get rich information about quality of inputs, processes and products of MBA programme. Practical implications – There is strong need for the MBA programme to integrate traditional management and administrative skills with experiences and skills relevant for today's world of work. Bridging the growing theory-practice gap requires attracting professors with practical business experience, revising staff recruitment policies and procedures, establishing formal partnership with external organization, and develop long-term strategies to reduce teaching load and staff turnover. Originality/value – Most of the studies on the relevance and quality of GBE programmes are conducted in western higher education institutions, very little has been done in African universities. This is the first of its kind in the context of Botswana, an important contribution to existing literature and foundation for further advanced studies in the area.