Do Companies Control The Future Of MBA Education?

TELUS is a major Canadian telecommunications company which approached the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria to create a customised corporate MBA.

As more and more businesses appreciate the value of employees gaining an MBA, some are taking the confidence to the next level with the development of their own internally-managed corporate MBA programs.

The corporate MBA concept involves a company partnering with a business school to craft a customised MBA specifically designed to provide an advanced business education to employees, tailor-made to suit their company’s values, purpose, and model of operating. The lessons learned in this style of MBA are then applied directly to the company’s business practices and the employee’s typical workflow.

The idea was first brought to life in 2015, when Canadian telecommunications company TELUS approached the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. After the details were finalised, TELUS formed a cohort of 20 employees to participate in their new MBA program, all of whom had significant management experience, scored highly on TELUS performance measures and met the university’s graduate admissions requirements.

TELUS’ 20-student MBA class was the first of its kind at the business school, participating in a two-year degree with specialisations in leadership and strategy.

The customised graduate degree offered a blend of course delivery methods from traditional classroom settings and video lectures on demand to virtual classrooms and an international learning experience. The course design allowed students to continue working full-time, with a partially reduced workload to accommodate learning.

Course content was modified for the TELUS context, incorporating telecommunications industry case studies, examples and guest speakers. There was also several TELUS-specific group and consulting projects interspersed throughout the program, including working with one of TELUS’s international operations.

After a promising result, the program expanded in 2016 to be offered to TELUS business customers, spreading the idea further that business professional may no longer look further than their own environment for a quality education.

“We are proud that TELUS chose the Sardul S. Gill Graduate School to deliver a Master’s program for their future leaders,” Gustavson School of Business Dean Saul Klein said in 2015.

“Universities need to continually explore innovative ways of delivering content and to ensure that their programs meet market needs.

“Our collaboration with TELUS also gives the business school a wonderful opportunity to work with a leading edge company.”

When news broke of TELUS’ innovative approach to business education, there were the inescapable opinions against such a concept. Many asked if it was a depraved ‘corporatisation’ of business academia, while curiosity arose regarding the legitimacy of an MBA education that centred solely on a single company. It raised the question, would a corporate MBA program restrict students from a larger and broader understanding of the business sector?

These question have not phased TELUS or Gustavson School of Business, who understood that the scope of business education was expanding and creating a specific customised MBA program was an elegant solution to maintain a company’s employee development up to date.

TELUS Director of Technology Strategy Moutie Wali.

Moutie Wali, Director of Technology Strategy for TELUS, was part of the first 20 to experience the MBA program in 2015. Even with an established career and more than 15 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, he quickly discovered the benefits to attending business classes and recently graduated with sharpened skills and an ability to  keep his company ahead of the competition.

“We focused on improving TELUS’ inventory management, and through this project were able to make recommendations that have saved the company $27 million to date,” he said.

“The learnings from our Operations course helped us identify the specific areas to work on, and enabled us to reach this high level of achievement.”

Due to the apparent success of the MBA program, TELUS will continue to invest in the partnership with the University of Victoria, and have planned for a new wave of cohorts to hit the books in 2019 and 2021.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (