Managing student expectations – again…

I have written before about the importance of managing student expectations and here’s another installment.

All do the MBA for some reason and I am yet to hear of someone who wants to do an MBA because they have a time and money to spare.  Therefore a key issue in this is of course having a focus THROUGHOUT the programme on the end objective – of what the student want to achieve with their MBA.  This is not something you can talk about in a ‘personal development weekend’ early on in the programme and then leave it at that.  It is essential to discuss with the students that need this how to reach their objective through the MBA, and also, gently, let those down that aim for what they are not suited for.  Although disappointing someone in their aspirations is one of the more difficult parts of my job, I also feel that it is a VERY essential part of my job. 

Most choices that are made during your MBA studies will have some impact on your end objective: the courses you take, the societies you join, the networking events you attend and your final project, if you are to write one in your programme.  Increasing your employability is closely related to this and a good adviser, be it a programme director or a careers adviser or whatever the job title may be, should help you identify the components of your MBA that points in the right direction.

Another important element of managing student expectations is for schools to be up-front about their culture and learning styles. Can you expect a highly competitive ‘last-man-standing’ environment or is the style more towards sharing knowledge for positive synergy? The latter is the case here at the University of Edinburgh. 

And who will teach the programme?  The school you are considering may be associated with a number of ‘gurus’ but do you actually get to meet these in the classroom?

Graduation Day

Today we gathered in our Graduation Hall, McEwan Hall (see pic) to celebrate another class of MBAs.  Some of our graduates today were from our MBA in International Business and I’m always amazed but also very, very pleased that so many decide to attend the ceremony despite the fact that they are well underway in their careers again.  Today we had graduates coming from as far away as China and Myanmar for the ceremony.  It is also a great opportunity to meet their family – this for me always makes it an even happier occasion.

Later today we will greet the class for 2003 for their 5 year Reunion – will be exciting to see how many faces I recognise… 

One of the new things to talk to them about is our re-branding as the University of Edinburgh Business School.  You will probably have noticed that my banner refers to the School as such.  This all becomes public on 1st July – more about this Tuesday.

HBoS got the go-ahead

I have written before about the rights issue at HBoS and we saw yesterday that it went ahead.  This has come amid a 5.5% drop in the share price part of which was suspected to be based on a “shorting” raid.  No evidence has been found for that.  The successful rights issue might give some basis for optimism in HBoS at a time when the Head of their Fund Management section has decided to leave.  At the same time Barclay’s in their hunt for a capital boost have opted for a different approach – not to issue the new shares at a big discount.  Might this have to do with the fact that Middle-East investors take centre stage?

Graduation time

These days are Graduation days at the University of Edinburgh and outside my window I can see happy soon-to-be graduates and their families head for our beautiful graduation hall, McEwan Hall.  In fact, our summer Graduations began on 13 June, when Neil Armstrong was awarded an Honorary degree in Washington. You can watch the award of the degree here: http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2008/june/armstrong

On Friday another group of MBAs will line up for their degrees. You can watch the ceremonies via webcast here: http://www.registry.ed.ac.uk/  It’s a happy occasion but also somewhat sad to see another class leave.  The good thing is that we have a very strong MBA alumni network and we often see our alumni back here in Edinburgh, just for visits or for reunions.  In fact, we have a reunion on Friday as well and it will be great to meet them all again.

New appointments

I’m pleased to let you know about some new appointments.

Bill Rees (currently Dean at Amsterdam Business School) will join the School to take up a Chair in Financial Analysis and Pauline Weetman (currently Professor of Accounting at Glasgow) will take up a Chair in Accounting.  Special interests for Professor Rees include financial analysis, international accounting and company valuation whereas Professor Weetman has a focus on corporate communications and comparative international reporting.  So strong additions to our Accounting and Finance group. 

We have a new Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship coming on board as well.  Sarah Cooper will join us from Strathclyde and her interests in entrepreneurship and new venture creation will be of interest to all MBAs wanting to set up their own company.  Sarah will join the Entrepreneurship and Innovation group.

Finally Brad MacKay, currently at St Andrews, will be joining us as a Senior Lecturer in Strategy and his focus on strategic foresight and competitive strategy will provide a basis for interesting discussions in the MBA class room.  Brad will join the Strategy and International Business Group.

Sir Philip Green and email

I read recently about Sir Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia Group and Bhs, in the BA Businesslife Magazine on my way to Lisbon.  In this article he is quoted as saying that he doesn’t use email.  His argument is that he has enough paperwork as it is and he doesn’t want to encourage necessary stuff.  I probably picked this up as it is an opinion close to my own heart.  There really is a proliferation of (unnecessary?) emails.  It has become so easy to send everything to everybody that we do it.  More and more mailing lists are created every day and your name is added to it routinely.  The outcome is that our in-boxes are overflowing all the time.  Maybe it is symptomatic that I more and more often get asked: “Did you receive my email?”  Another issue to consider is that the attitude often is “I emailed so they ought to know”. Isn’t that shunting the responsibility for your own communication?

Another item I picked up from the article is that Sir Philip Green likes to give prospective employees real tests.  If he’s interviewing for senior buyers he is likely to give them a wad of cash and ask them to go and buy what they think is missing.  This is a test of whether they do actually know what they are doing. It’s not all about theory.  You have to know how to apply it as well and, even more importantly, know what to do when you can’t find a supporting framework.  This is probably where the MBA comes into the fore – a good MBA should be about both theory and application.

Rights issue

‘Rights issue’ seem to be on the agenda in the current climate.  One of the bigger players RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) was successful in persuading its shareholders to back a £12 billion rights issue – the uptake is reported to be about 95%.  At the same time another Scottish player HBoS (Halifax – Bank of Scotland) is looking into a £4 billion rights issue.  Will they be successful as well?

Analysts suggest that this may not be straight forward and the answer to this has to be found in the composition of shareholder for the two.  Many of RBS’s shareholders are big institutions whereas HBOS has a large proportion of private shareholders.  Analysts explain that the RBS shareholder body will have much better access to additional funds than the private shareholder of HBoS.  At the same time, the private investor of HBoS will risk that the value of their shares are diluted if the rights issue go ahead and they do not/cannot take advantage of their rights.

This is probably where my colleague, Prof Taffler will get all excited and talk about behavioural finance (when psychology drives an investor’s decisions) and more recently emotional fiance (when emotions drive the decisions).

Can? Can’t?  A difficult time for all.