In research conducted by educational consultancy CarringtonCrisp, prospective MBA students have made it known that whilst improved earnings continue to be their number one motivation for study, it’s also imperative that they’re able to select a program that aligns closely to their own values.
According to the authors of Tomorrow’s MBA, “Around seven out of 10 prospective MBAs want content in their degree that covers global challenges (72 per cent), responsible management (71 per cent), diversity, equality and inclusion (70 per cent) and ethical leadership (69 per cent).”
Griffith Business School believes it has the answer for the Australian market with its MBA – with its ranking as the number one program worldwide in the Corporate Knights Better World MBA for the last two years, adding credibility to their claim.
“Unlike many traditional MBAs, we’re really rethinking what the purpose of business is, and what the creation of value for business means,” says Associate Professor Stephanie Schleimer, the school’s MBA director. “Traditionally, it was a degree that was all about how to become more successful, increase your salary, maximise shareholder value… but we have really re-thought that and, in many ways, positively reimagined how to teach business and the role of business in society.”
At the heart of the Griffith MBA lie three core values: sustainable business practices, responsible leadership, and a focus on the Asia-Pacific region. These three values are all tied back to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Schleimer notes they underline every aspect of the curriculum design.
“We cover over 1000 SDG-related topics with our students throughout the program, and we ensure these values are deeply embedded across everything we practice, teach and assess. Every single course has at least one, and often all three, of the values embedded in a strategic way.”
The underlying ethos of the Griffith MBA is to teach students sustainable, responsible business strategy that will change how they shape the world, both personally and professionally.
Leadership is another focus. Griffith is the first university in Australia to partner with the Institute of Managers and Leaders, and one of the program’s core courses teaches students how to develop values-based leadership skills.
The core course “Accounting for Accountability” offers a window into this unique approach to business education. A standard accounting course in an MBA might teach students how to create balance sheets, analyse profit and loss statements and other technical skills. But Griffith takes a holistic, cross-disciplinary approach, with the business school co-designing the subject with the university’s International Water Institute. The result is a course that covers not just accountability in relation to financial and management accounting topics, but also the social, environmental and governance impacts of business activities.
“If we’re really thinking about business purpose and value creation, we must think beyond traditional ways of viewing business,” Schleimer explains. “So, we look at accounting for what you do, but also accounting for natural resources. How do you account for the resources you use as an organisation? How do you work that into your vision, your strategy and sustainability reports? It’s a very different way of attacking these traditional business topics.
“We still teach our students innovative business practices, but it’s important for us to go beyond a traditional business degree and rethink what we do, how and why we do it and how we can measure it.”
The degree is taught at the university’s South Bank campus, located on the banks of the Brisbane River, as well as at its Gold Coast campus, and online. The program attracts an incredibly diverse student cohort representing more than 70 different industries.
“It’s wonderful to have so many different industry experts coming together and creating that special cohort,” says Schleimer. “The peer-to-peer learning effect is huge, thanks to the diversity of sectors. Many of our students are learning this new value of business themselves so it’s often a transformational journey for students.”
The business school’s faculty have a mix of industry and academic experience and Schleimer notes the shift to a values-based approach began in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis.
“We really felt that business can play a core role in not just causing but solving the biggest problems in the world. It’s been a real drive from our academic staff, but then our students really drove demand for more of it. It’s been a beautiful marriage of our teachers, students and now alumni, who are having these impactful careers.”
Schleimer hopes, that as one of only two Australian universities in the Global Knights Top 50 rankings, Griffith is able to encourage other local business schools to follow suit so that “all MBAs are like ours so we can have an exponential, positive impact on the world.”