Pete the dog graduated from the “spurious” American University of London (AUOL), an online-based business masters platform offering qualifications based on previous experience. The whole charade has ignited a debate about the value of an MBA and the creditability of online MBA programs.
If a pet pug can get one, can’t anyone?
MBAs invest vast sums of cash hoping to enhance their business careers. A minimum of about a year’s study is expected at most b-schools, with many students taking up to two years out of industry. Top business schools, such as Harvard, will cost up to $56,175 in 2015. At London Business School, the number-one ranked MBA program in the UK, this year’s cohort spent up to £61,400 in tuition.
A BBC Newsnight investigation coaxed the online-based university into awarding an MBA to a fictitious person created by the programme. They sent a one-page fake CV for a management consultant, Peter Smith (Pete), which included 15 years of made-up work experience and a fake undergraduate degree from a UK university.
The real Pete was actually a dog living in South London. Newsnight sent the CV, along with an MBA application and £50 fee to AUOL.
Despite failing to provide photocopies of previous qualifications and a photograph, AUOL sent man’s best friend an e-mail, stating that his application for a degree had been successful, and that once the university had received the £4,500 fee, he would be registered as an MBA graduate in two weeks.
Many American-based universities have their MBA programs and lectures online. Wharton, one of the best b-schools in the world, has most of its first-year MBA courses online for free. MOOCs – massive online open courses – a recent development in distance learning, are on the rise. Top business schools in the UK, such as Aston, provide an online version of their MBA at a reduced cost.
MBAs might consider spurning the traditional MBA program in favour of reduced-priced or free programs. For one dog, his business masters cost a fraction of what you can expect to pay at most universities.
Do MBA applicants factor cost into their decision to attend b-school?
Zach Roberts, an American Software Sales Manager based in Texas, wants to attend b-school in Australia next fall. He graduated from the University of North Florida but wants to study an MBA in Australia.
For him, cost is a huge factor. Asked if the cost of attending b-school impacted on his decision, he said: “Yes, education is a business. They want to be profitable. At times, I believe individuals can read outside of their normal work, join local educated groups, attend networking events and be in a great place in life without necessarily completing an MBA.
“To the same point, I could see the price of education continuing to increase: so obtain it while you can.”
Zach said that one of the most important things that b-schools must offer applicants was a physical network. “Not one that looks to just receive money, but one (a b-school) that looks to truly further the knowledge base of the students that attend,” he added.
Another US-based MBA applicant, who has been in the US Navy for a number of years, doesn’t think cost is such an important factor. He declined to be named. Asked whether the rising costs of b-schools changed his choice of applications, he said: “Not a whole lot. I’m fortunate to have the Post-9/11 GI Bill from my military service which will defray a good portion of the cost.
“I’ve known for a number of years that I’d probably go to business school, so I’ve had plenty of time to save. With the companies I’m targeting for post-MBA employment, there aren’t many realistic options for entry other than getting an MBA from a top school.
"The opportunity cost of two years’ wages is pretty steep, but looking at the employment statistics at the schools I’m applying to, it should end up being a good investment.”
He thinks that networking opportunities are a huge draw. Criticisms of Online MBAs and MOOCs often point out the difficulties of utilizing cohort networks while behind a computer screen. “I’ll be able to network with my classmates, recruiters, and alumni to help me get a summer internship, and find that first job after graduation,” he added.
Despite being a dog, Pete is a registered MBA graduate. If applicants think cost is an important factor, there are now cheaper alternatives.
If a pile of cash can treat a dog to an MBA in just two weeks, what does that do to the value of your b-school degree?