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Big Data Courses Lead B-Schools’ Efforts To Boost Digital Economy Careers

Programs on analytics, innovation, cyber security gain ground

By  Seb Murray

Wed Jan 6 2016

With hyperbole around big data and digital analytics surging through firms everywhere, any business school worth its salt is bringing these tech tools to their MBA students.

Kellogg School, Imperial College, and China’s CUHK have all moved in this direction.

Yet analytics masters are just one of a swelling number of degrees geared toward the digital economy. As tech pervades management careers from sectors consulting and finance to luxury and the supply chain, business schools are being forced to innovate.

“We’re placing a big bet on it here,” says Wharton Professor Peter Fader, co-director of the school’s Customer Analytics Initiative. “It’s not just that analytics will be a big part of Wharton, but all business schools are saying the same thing.”

Demand from both students and companies for more programs and electives on trendy topics such as entrepreneurship, innovation, and cyber security is altering the MBA landscape.

At Stanford 10 years ago, investment management was the most popular MBA course. In 2015, it was interpersonal dynamics and how to manage growing enterprises.

“Education now is not about old versus new skills, but about old and new skills — for example both traditional management skills, but also new data science ones,” says Professor Theos Evgeniou, academic director of INSEAD’s data analytics research hub, elab.

A love of big data drew Steve Munson to the Global MBA program at Hult, which delves into analytics in electives from marketing to entrepreneurship. At the time, he managed cloud data centers for EMC, the $63 billion cloud storage maker. “I have a passion for innovation and technology,” he says.

Business schools are responding to the market. “Clients ask for subjects…such as business model innovations, strategy and leadership, as well as topics which are currently in vogue, such as big data and digital transformation,” says Daphné Schalbetter, director of executive education at Mannheim Business School.

Such intrigue has led a welter of schools to introduce digital transformation MBAs. DeGroote School’s has been one of the most hyped. “Digital innovations like the cloud, social media, big data analytics and mobility fundamentally alter the traditional way of doing business,” says Michael Hartmann, director of the EMBA in Digital Transformation, developed with SAS and IBM.

Cambridge University’s Judge Business School setup the Digital Business Academy, a UK government-supported online learning platform, with Tech City UK.

Jaideep Prabhu, a professor at Cambridge Judge, says companies are under pressure over digital from competitors.

“Many firms in the ‘old economy’ are being threatened not only by their direct competitors….but competitors outside their sector, the so called GAFAs — Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple,” he says, which use big data to gain insight and leverage.  

With a shortage of digital-savvy executive talent, the prospect of lucrative careers at companies utilizing technology is further spurring the rise of digital degrees.

A survey of 600 companies by Accenture, the management consultancy, found that two-thirds recruited a senior figure to lead data management and analytics.

Mark Kennedy, director of the KPMG Centre for Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School, says those without the analytical skills sought by sectors like finance and consulting will be at a disadvantage.

“There will continue to be a need for people with the MBA who have some kind of technical background,” he says.

Student Reviews






One of a kind

I studied Bioinformatics at CUHK last year. It was the only Master's degree in Hong Kong in this field. This program developed my analytical skills and equipped me to be a Bioinformatician in a very practical way. I enjoyed my year here and met classmates from different parts of the world. If you are thinking to enhance your profile, this degree program would be a good option.




On Campus

general education courses, unique college system, large campus

The university facilitates multi-dimension and interdisciplinary learning. In social science faculty, we need to choose courses as our faculty package from other departments (architecture, psychology, sociology, etc.) to learn more than our major required courses. We are also required to finish general education courses, which aid our critical thinking and humanistic sensibilities. I do recommend the social science broad-based program, and the professors I met so far are all responsible and erudite.





The faculty of law is relatively new. You do not need to have a LLB to pursue a LLM, which is special. The taught programme is great for mature students who want to obtain legal knowledge. CUHK has good teaching staff too.




Amazing Campus and Great Educational Environment

Not only is CUHK's main campus breathtaking, it provides for a good educational environment for students. The university is well-equipped with modern and up-to-date facilities to help students with their study. We have 8 libraries in total around the campus; one for media, one for architectural studies, the medical library and the law library. The Professors are always helpful and are happy to talk to students when needed. Moreover, the college system within the university brings forth the uniqueness of CUHK. Each student belongs to a different college, and in that students are able to meet different peoples from different countries and students from different faculties. I think CUHK provides for a well-rounded university life for all students.





One of the most down to earth places in HK. A great opportunity to learn and embody the local culture. Also had one the most beautiful campus in Hong Kong up on the hillside. Glad to have graduated here.




Innovative and Supportive

My university provided me with all the support I needed, and encouraged me to be up to date with all the new developments in the world. They also provided me with the incentive to excel at what I do, and they take much pride in my achievements. I have had a very rewarding university experience.




Small, New But Friendly Law School

To being with, I think the campus of CUHK is the best and the biggest in Hong Kong, with fresh air and trees everywhere. I am an undergraduate Law student at CUHK and I think the teaching here is great, with very friendly and nice professors and the new Lee Shau Kee Building. In terms of the courses offered by CUHK, as one of the largest universities in Hong Kong, CUHK is an all-rounded university, offering a wide range of courses to students. Students may take the introductory courses of discipline other than their own major, or even declare a minor. For law electives, due to the small amount of intake, the variety of law electives are not that huge. However, the Faculty is offering some international programmes, which can be treated as law electives, but at the same time, provide us with an opportunity to travel and know more about the legal system of another country. The career support from the Faculty of Law is also amazing. The Faculty will organise CV Sessions and talks on how to get an internship from law firms or mini-pupillage from barrister's chambers. Each student will also have a Distinguished Professional Mentor, which is a current legal profession, providing us with practical advices and updates of the legal field. Finally, from my personal experience, I think the students in CUHK are friendly and genuine. As Law students, competition is inevitable for grades, GPAs, vacation schemes and training contract. However, I think the competition in CUHK Law School is a positive one, in a sense that help us grow together, instead of fighting with each other no matter what. That is the biggest reason why I am having a very good time here in CUHK Law School.




A place to explore your interests

As a law graduate from CUHK (both undergrad and post-grad), I realise that I had many opportunities to explore my areas of interests (legal and non-legal both). The faculty/university requires us to take a certain number of non-law electives, and offers a plethora of courses to choose from. Personally, I took 3 modules in Korean --I can't say it's made me highly proficient, but it's definitely given me a good foundation (I can walk into a Korean restaurant and confidently order food, at the very least). The fact that language courses are offered also provides students who are more financially constrained an opportunity to learn a language without having to shell out a premium for a decent language course. On top of that, we have a range of law electives as well. I know of classmates who have developed lasting interest in different areas of law because of the electives they took in school. The two electives that I would say have changed me is (i) mooting and (ii) family law. I think my experience in an international commercial arbitration moot competition has helped tremendously in formulating legal arguments and legal writing. On the other hand, taking a family law elective has made me very interested in the family law practice, especially in terms of child rights. For these experiences which I have gained, I'm grateful for the opportunities provided by the school. One main issue most students I know have is with the way our GPA is calculated and the lack of transparency in terms of how the honours system works. As our GPA is marked on a curve. it's highly unrepresentative of what we have achieved as individuals. Given that our GPA is the only criteria that is looked at when we apply for the compulsory post-graduate law course (mandatory should we want to practise law and/or be trainees in Hong Kong), it will put our own students at a distinct disadvantage when we compete for limited spaces with students from schools where GPA is not on a bell curve.




On Campus

Valuable time in CUHK

I like the learning environment and people at CUHK. Surrounded by hills and Tolo Harbour, CUHK provides a balance between nature and hustle. You can always escape from the busy study life and meet your friend around the big campus for different activities.