Where to begin?!?

That’s always the problem when you haven’t blogged for a while:

  • The Greek debt? (Still enormous)
  • The UK elections? (Confusing as ever and I’m not actually allowed to vote)
  • MBA news? (Always good)
  • The UK expenses row? (A continued disgrace)
  • The hefty losses faced by Morgan Stanley? ($5.4bn. Ouch!)

Well, there’s certainly enough to choose from.

During the last week or so Asian investors decided not to take up more of the bottomless Greek debt. This forced the Euro Zone to put their money where the mouth is and actually commit to something.  This they did on Sunday  and as a consequence investors are now treating Greek debt as the best thing since sliced bread. For the time being anyway. Whether or not this will continue will probably depend on whether an essential Greek treasury bill goes  through and whether Greece sends proper signs of economising where possible. An interesting side effect of this was reported in the Guardian yesterday when it reported a huge influx in Greeks purchasing expensive homes in the UK.

The UK elections, well it’s interesting to watch even if as a Dane I’m not actually allowed to vote. I’m allowed to pay my taxes, yes, but not to vote for those who will decide how to spend my taxes. The funny thing is that I’m allowed to vote for the Scottish Parliament because this is considered a local election.

On the MBA side things are hotting up again with the last stretch of courses and the MBA Consultancy project on the go. Come mid-May and after nine months of hard work the full-time MBAs will have completed all their courses. The MBAs on the International Business programme are away for their exchange in Singapore, China, France, Spain, Canada and USA.  They still have a bit to go because after the exchange they will move on to their internships.

The UK expenses row continues to astound those on the side-line. After investigations a few people are now facing fraud charges through bogus mortgage applications, invoices and rent claims. At first they attempted to claim parliamentary privilege. It is an immunity against prosecution that can be claimed by those in government protecting them from actions they have to carry out as a member of a legislating body.  (I don’t think one has to submit bogus expenses claims as a member of parliament, do you?) After denied this privilege they have now claimed and been granted legal aid which upsets many people but putting aside the fact that these people if they are found guilty have fiddled funds then, if they are not above the law (and they were told so) then they have the same rights as everyone else. Otherwise we undermine our own system because we have to obey the rules that we have set ourselves. Talks about means testing of legal aid are under way but until this has been implemented we cannot deny legal aid just because we are greatly affronted by these people’s actions.

If you picked up the WSJ this morning then you will have seen the story on the front page (in the Europe edition) about the losses faced by Morgan Stanley fund. The $8.8bn real estate fund may lose a substantial amount, about $5.4bn following from property investment that turned out to be, hmm, well, pretty awful.  Check Anton Troianovski and Lingling Wei’s story through the link below.

And now you’ll have to excuse me ’cause I’ll be off for a few days. Nice!

(If you are unfamiliar with the idioms used in this, in italics, then check this site: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com)

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Playing by the rules in the Euro Zone

Or not as the case may be!

The crisis in Greece has brought to light issues relating to the history behind the Euro Zone and especially that the rules so carefully outlined at the birth, a maximum debt of 60% of the GDP and a maximum deficit of 3%, have been flaunted repeatedly since day one. Well even before actually. Forelle and Fidler outline in  their piece about Europe’s Original Sin how the leader of Europe have ignored Greece’s soaring debt for years. Their piece also reveals that this might have to do with the fact that one should never be the one to throw the first stone when living in a house of glass. Although never as seriously in trouble as Greece, the rule rather than the exception has been that Euro Zone countries have not met their own target. And largely ignored this except in the very early stages when membership was to be secured. Read for yourself. It makes for interesting reading. In the meantime, the moves to save Greece continue amidst the prospect of strikes as a consequence of the Greek Government tightening the belt. Greece raised €5 billion in the planed bond sale but investors “gambling” on Greece being unable to pay their debts can never benefit the attempt to salvage the Greek economy. I shall refrain from entering the moral discussion of whether investment houses should be allowed to bring a country to its knees…  You may have a  view on that and I would be interested to see your comments pro/con.

So what about my MBA programme?  Well still going strong with the students having almost completed the second batch of courses. Amazing isn’t it?  It feels as if it was only yesterday that I announced the arrival of a new class. Students on the full-time programme have begun scratching the surface of their consultancy project, and some very interesting ones, while students on the MBA in International Business are thinking very careful about whether they need to pack all their textbooks for a three-month exchange in Singapore/China/France/Spain/USA/Canada.  The ability to multi-task is essential for any MBA students and even more so for the student on the MBA in International Business at the University of Edinburgh Business School.

Alongside supporting this year’s class the new class is slowly but surely emerging from the large number of applications. I interview students daily and am lucky enough to get to talk to a number of intelligent people from all over the world. It is obvious that the crisis is still affecting people’s decision so it’s good that we have been able to add more scholarships this year. I hope to get a chance to speak to more when attending the MBA Fair in Rome Saturday next week. See you then?

Did you have snow as well?

Yes, as you see I’m back after a very nice Christmas break. Just as was the case for many other people my Christmas travels were upset by the snow but I made it. Some didn’t so I have to count myself lucky. But the UK is still feeling the brunt of icy cold climate streaming in from Scandinavia and Siberia: airports and schools have closed, trains and cars have stranded in the snow, and people stagger carefully along the icy pavements. The good thing is that Spring will be here eventually.

It is very quiet in the building this week with just a few students around. MBA classes begin on Monday next week and then we are off again with classes in Business Finance, International Business, Management Consultancy and many other subjects. Then it will also be my pleasure to welcome a number of exchange students into the programme from Schulich, ESSEC, EADA and Fisher in Ohio.

I saw in the news that two ex-cabinet ministers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon call for a ballot on Gordon Brown’s continued leadership of the UK Labour Party. Depending on what they want to achieve, I think it’s fair to question the timing of this call. Whatever your political colour this is not what a governing party needs in time of a deep crisis and just before an election.

And now it’s all over…

Well, this semester’s classes at least.  Yes, my not so new MBA class have now completed the classes this semester and are now busily preparing for the Integrative Project that takes places this week. Then it’s revision and exam time, and in a few more weeks and we will all be way for the Christmas break. Tempus fugit as a very dear friend of mine would always say. Next semester we will welcome a number of exchange students from EADA, Fisher College of Business, ESSEC Business School and Schulich School of Business. I’ll also welcome back Bidzina who’ll be taking the next stage of his Modular programme. So a lot of new inspiration into the programme.  I like this because it prevents the ‘group think’ that could otherwise easily emerge in a comparatively small MBA class.

This week also sees another graduation ceremony. A number of MBAs from the 2008 intake will present themselves for the traditional capping with the bonnet, allegedly made from the material from John Knox’s breeches. If true that of course makes it very old. A small item was added recently though. Piers Sellers (alumni, astronaut and ecologist) took a university emblem with him on one of his space jaunts and this emblem was later fashioned into the bonnet. You won’t find many bonnets like that! But as always it will be a happy and sad occasion. It’s good to be able to celebrate with the soon-to-be-alumni but also sad to say good-bye.  I do hope that I’ll get the chance to meet with many from the supporters’ team: the family and friends of our students.  That is always a great pleasure.

If you visit regularly you will have noticed that it has been some time since my last entry. I caught flu (no not the flu) at a busy time so couldn’t stay at home which is the best cure for flu. Therefore this has been lingering producing fatigue. I say I’m fine but I think only a good long Christmas break will mend this.

The run up to Copenhagen

Countries, organisations and individuals are preparing for the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December.  Hopes are high that real results will be reached but in that context it was interesting to see the list from the EU Commission of industries that because of competition restrictions should be pardoned from paying for carbon emissions the next five years. The list include industries such as coal mines and vineyards. Do we detect a pattern? The publication of the list is even more surprising given that  EU will be asking other major CO2 emitting countries such as the USA and China to get their act together at the upcoming conference. Although the EU seems to be prepared to drop the list if a proper international agreement can be reached in Copenhagen. Call me a cynic but I don’t think we will make real progress until the major Governments in the World find their parliaments two inches deep in water. And it is difficult because we don’t know how any of the changes that we want to make will affect the economy.  This is the most frequent explanation for not doing enough – we can’t afford it. I shall refrain from making the obvious rhetoric reply.

The MBA class is doing well.  We are in week eight of teaching. Next week is the last week of classes before our Integrative Project. After that it is time for revision and exams before we take the Christmas break. Next semester we move on to the Strategy courses and electives. We will welcome five exchange students from Essec Business School, Fisher College of Business and Schulich School of Business.