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Technology Management Soars And Entrepreneurship Falls In Study Of Most Valuable MBA Topics

A new study by education research company Carrington Crisp reveals that while leadership and strategy remain in the top spots, there was a worrying lack of interest in ethics among prospective MBAs

By  Samantha Wernham

Fri Sep 7 2018

Technology management has leapfrogged entrepreneurship and flown up the list of most valuable MBA topics, according to the Tomorrow’s MBA study by Carrington Crisp, in association with EFMD.

An awareness of technology management was valued as a priority by 17.9% of the 1,200 prospective students polled and made up a top three alongside strategy (17.9%) and leadership (26.7%)—which retained their top spots from last year.

Entrepreneurship (14.7%), which featured in the top three last year, dropped to eighth place in this year’s study, which had respondents from 39 countries around the globe. It highlights the globally changing mindset of prospective students who realize an understanding of technology is paramount in today’s business world.

The drop in the number of respondents who prioritize entrepreneurship, says Andrew Crisp, author of the study, is likely linked to the rise of technology management.

Andrew believes that some prospective students may be moving away from the idea of starting a new business and, in fact, be looking to start work with a small business or startup.

“To do this, understanding technology is a key component, because they will be managing projects where technology is at the forefront, as in most startups today,” he adds.

Yet, the importance of technology management is not only restricted to startups or small businesses.

“Technology is also a key part of the operation in big financial firms nowadays, be it Amazon or Barclays. Awareness and understanding of technology is absolutely key in day-to-day work and in career advancement,” confirms Andrew.

It is too early to decide if the drop in entrepreneurship will become a trend going forward, but Andrew thinks the decline may be due to students not wanting to start their own business immediately after their MBAs. Instead, it may be something they turn to up to five years after graduating.

The fact that leadership retains the top spot as the most valuable topic among prospective MBAs, having never fallen from top spot since the study was started nine years ago, is “unsurprising,” says Andrew.

“One of the key reasons for doing the MBA is that you’ve got to a certain point in your career and you want to advance further. That means taking a step up in terms of managing and leading teams and projects,” he adds.

“Essentially, an understanding, appreciation, and an ability to be a strong and successful leader is key for career progression. That’s why it will always be a key component of the MBA and will probably always top the rankings as most valuable.”

The top eight topics for prospective MBA students also include project management (16.3%), international business (15.5%), marketing (15.5%) and risk management (15.3%), according to the study.

The content areas deemed least valuable are ethics (4.4%), corporate governance (5.2%), managing luxury brands (5.2%), change management (5.4%) and private equity/venture capital (5.4%).

When asked why he thinks ethics is clearly not a priority topic for most students, Andrew highlights that “the application rather than the study of ethics is much more relevant.

“A student from a focus group once said, ‘there are very few jobs for ethicists, but there are lots of jobs for responsible managers,’” Andrew recalls.  

“Essentially, there’s very little benefit in studying ethics on its own, but there are lots of benefits of studying what ethics means in accounting, marketing, finance and sales.”

He explains that it should be a standard part of the MBA, but embedded in every subject that MBAs study, in order to mold them into all-round responsible managers.

However, with this year highlighting numerous high-profile ethical scandals within major tech companies, maybe it is time to take ethical awareness more seriously.

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, for example, exposed the misuse of personal information from over 87 million users of the social media platform. Google have also been under fire for breaking antitrust laws, and consequently fined $5 billion by the European Commission.

Meanwhile, Twitter are being questioned this week by US Congress regarding Russian misinformation online, and whether the site is biased regarding how it monitors online accounts.

“Business schools need to concentrate on how ethics is embedded in technology management courses for this very reason,” Andrew asserts.

“There has been negative publicity recently, especially within social media but also in other parts of the tech world, and there needs to be more transparency and greater clarity about how firms engage with the public and how their services are used.”