Business school injects real life into MBAs

What is the most common criticism of MBA graduates? It is probably that they learned a great deal about the abstract world, but little about the real world. If that is true, what's the point of going to business school?

Business school injects real life into MBAs

Hult, a business school with campuses in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai, thinks it has the answer.

The institution divides its students up into groups of five and each group is given a real problem faced by a leading multinational company. Their task is to find a solution under the guidance of a management consultant or senior executive in the relevant industry.

Companies that have given Hult students actual problems to solve include Verizon Communications, the largest cell phone provider in the US, printing and copy giant Xerox and the Financial Times, one of the world’s leading newspapers.

Some of the problems would tax even the brainiest business mind. Verizon offered the students a real dilemma. The prices of its products, such as making a long-distance call or sending a megabyte of data, keep falling every year because of rapid technological progress.

To counter this, what new markets could the company enter that would bring large and long-term revenue growth?

Pfizer, the US pharmaceutical conglomerate, told Hult students of a very different problem. Its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor was the goose that laid the golden eggs – cooked the low-fat way through boiling. However, the patent for the drug, which accounts for a massive proportion of its revenues, expires in 2011.

Pfizer had worked out a broad solution – to expand its presence in high-growth emerging economies outside the West. Which countries offered the best opportunities? Students worked for six weeks on a commercially confidential solution.

Hult’s theory is that other business schools concentrate too much on theory and not enough on practice. By setting its students real-life examples, known as Action Projects, it tackles this flaw.

Hult has even taken its Action Projects to the broader elite of students among other top business schools, launching an annual competition for them to find the best business solution to a problem faced by a leading charity.

This year, the chosen charity is, the non-profit co-founded by Hollywood star Matt Damon to provide clean water in the developing world. The chosen champions win $1 million from Hult, which the non-profit can use to implement their ideas. The exact problem will be revealed on March 5th.

A business school would not be a business school without a clever acronym and Hult is no exception. These case studies put the AP into its LEAP method: conventional Learning in the classroom, the valuable Experience of visits to companies and talks given by business leaders and finally, the Action Projects.

Hult’s aim for its students to get practical business experience during their graduate program before they jump back into a job in the business world – to LEAP before they look.

About Hult International Business School

Hult International Business School (formerly known as the Arthur D. Little School of Management) is the first global business school with campuses in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai. The School offers a range of business-focused programs including MBA, Master and Undergraduate degrees. Hult’s one-year MBA program is ranked in the top 30 in the world by The Economist and amongst the top 100 by the Financial Times.

Please contact Carolin Bachmann, PR Manager for media enquiries at [email protected] or call +44 (798) 534-0179.

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Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year

It is looking increasingly unlikely that 'högskoleprovet' – an exam used by thousands of students every year as a way to enter Swedish university will go ahead – despite a government U-turn.

Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year
In a normal year, 100,000 students sit what is known as the SweSAT or 'högskoleprovet'. Photo: Malin Hoelstad/SvD/SCANPIX

The Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (SweSAT, or högskoleprovet) is normally held twice a year, but was cancelled in spring and then later in autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic. But after pressure from opposition parties, the government last week said it would pave the way for the test to take place on its usual date in October in a limited format, open only to people who had not previously sat it.

Usually around 100,000 people sit the exam each year, around 40 percent of them doing so for the first time. The exam is not compulsory, but many people use its results to get into university, and it is seen as a crucial second chance for those who are not able to get accepted based on grades alone.

But any hope lit by the government's announcement last week was quickly extinguished this week, when university principals said it would still not be possible to organise a coronavirus-safe sitting. In the end it is up to the exam organisers to decide whether or not to hold it, so the government holds limited sway.

“They [the university principals] do not want to take responsibility for conducting the exam during the autumn, but would rather spend time and resources on conducting two tests as safely as possible in spring,” Karin Röding, director-general of the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

“I have no reason to have another opinion,” she added.

“It appears to be the case that you are going to have to wait another few months before an exam can be carried out in an infection-safe way,” confirmed Sweden's Minister of Higher Education, Matilda Ernkrans.

Meanwhile the political pressure eased on the Social Democrat-Green coalition government to ensure the test could be held before the deadline for applying to the spring semester of university, when the Liberal party joined the centre-left in voting no to pushing for an autumn sitting. Last week there was a majority for a yes vote on the Swedish parliament's education committee, consisting of right-wing parties Moderates, Christian Democrats, Sweden Democrats and the Liberals, but after the latter switched sides the committee voted no.

The Mdoerates blamed the government for not acting sooner to help the exam go ahead, by for example allocating more money and investigating the possibility of using more venues.

“There is one person who is to blame. That's Matilda Ernkrans,” said the party's education spokesperson Kristina Axén Olin. “The government has handled it really poorly and now it is thought to be too late and impossible.”

Ernkrans argued that she and the government had done everything they could, including making sure that test results from previous years will be valid for eight years rather than the usual five, as well as allocating extra funding to make it possible to hold more than one exam next spring.

Swedish vocabulary

cancel – ställa in

test/exam – (ett) prov

second chance – (en) andra chans

government – (en) regering

semester – (en) termin (note the false friend – the Swedish word semester means holiday)