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Are MBAs An Unethical Bunch?

Should the MBA program change to have a biased towards ethics?

Mon Mar 29 2010

Business schools have received a battering from the media for causing the economic downturn with their loose interpretation of business ethics. Students have fought back – check the fanfare surrounding Harvard’s MBA Oath – but a report by higher education specialists CarringtonCrisp suggests that ethics might indeed not be a priority for all students.

The study, which analyzes the opinions of future MBAs on topics ranging from the MBA curriculum to their expectations of the program, was conceived amid the Credit Crunch and the rise of the MBA oath.

From a list of 30 options, 723 respondents were asked to identify the five most valuable pieces of content in an MBA program.

More than a third of all students said that strategic management; managing people and organizations, leadership and international business were “the most valuable part of their MBA studies.”

Relegated to the bottom of the list were taxation, logistics, and outsourcing and ethics, which were selected by less than 5 per cent of all respondents.

This could imply a number of things. It may be that the subject was badly taught, or that the students surveyed didn’t feel they had much more to learn.

Andrew Crisp, the director of CarringtonCrisp, offers another conclusion.

“Although ethics was placed in the bottom five I'm not sure it means that ethics is not valuable,” says Crisp. “I think the point about the findings is not that people don't want ethics, but that they expect it to be embedded in everything they learn rather than as a stand alone course.”

As a direct result of the recession, some business schools are going back to the drawing board and readdressing how ethics is taught in their programs.

Students are also taking business ethics into their own hands. To limit the damage done to their image, Harvard b-school students have created the MBA oath- a kind of Hippocratic oath for business - which now has chapters stretching from Australia to Vietnam.

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