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Business schools are an essential component of market economies, and optimizing their competitiveness, importance and performance is of the utmost importance on at least two crucial dimensions. First, raising the level of education in management and management-related disciplines allows organizations to function better, and thereby improve the level of economic growth in the sphere of influence - national, international, private, public, or not-for-profit. Secondly, since business schools are training a part of the "cream of the crop" in society, because not everyone gets an opportunity to pursue an MBA degree and complete it. We should address the burning issue of the crisis of legitimacy decision makers are currently facing to create a vision more oriented towards responsibility, ethics and stakeholder value.
Figure 1- The Basic Framework Strategy: the Link between the Business School & its Environment
Here we will be discussing 3 things:
Industry of Fordham Graduate School of Business
Analysis of Fordham and its structure
Disconnect, if any, between the industry and its structure.
Analyzing the Industry
There are a number of pressing issues facing business schools. They include: The effects of privatization globalization and liberalization on business education and how to respond to this phenomenon; the shortage of highly qualified faculty and what to do to make up for the shortfall; the need to introduce softer skills into the curriculum while preserving the more analytical and concept-based courses; the effects of information and communication technologies on teaching and learning methods; the need to achieve financial balance and whether current or alternative funding models are sustainable; the need to adopt more effective governance structures and to make the appropriate strategic choices that will allow the school to better cope with competitive pressures; and the need to strengthen reputation and build up the school brand in order to secure its long term competitive position. These problems can be better analyzed by the Porter's Five Forces of Competition:
Figure 2- Porter's Five Forces of Competition Framework (includes the 6th force used by the author)
Rivalry among existing firms:
Even though Fordham enjoys the benefit of being in the heart of the world's financial center, New York City, it still has to fight for the best applicants with some of the best universities located in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston and Pennsylvania.
Leading academics gurus such as Michael Porter at Harvard, Vijay Govindarajan at Tuck School of Business and Gary Hamel at LBS have become synonymous as competitors and almost industries in themselves. Often companies view such management gurus as key strategic resources and approach them to provide training & consulting services which might otherwise be provided by leading schools through executive training.
Strategic alliance is very important in today's world to give you the edge and best of both the worlds. Programs such as the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program and the Queens-Cornell MBA offer the better of two MBA programs, and thus attempt to enhance the career prospects of students. The aim in such alliances is typically to enhance the perceived reputation and global brand image of each school in the alliance and strengthen its competitive positioning.
There is also been a demand for universities, offering distance learning education programs off-campus generally using online resources. The largest of these, the Apollo Group (traded on NASDAQ), which owns the University of Phoenix, caters for 40,000 MBA students according to the Financial Times survey of distance learning education (Financial Times, 2006).
The threat when coming to potential entrants would be lower considering the notion that older and more established Business school find it more easier to place its student upon graduation. Nevertheless, if an established university (for e.g. ISB, INSEAD) decides to open up a satellite location, then it can create some problems to the school, considering the fact that Fordham Graduate School of Business is still young. But the threat could be considered low for now.
The substitutes here would be a University like Stern School of Business that not only offers part-time MBA but also a great Executive MBA degree. Fordham itself offers both the degree to its students and are much better ranked by US News and Forbes, in that matter. Apart from these, many companies like IBM and PWC through corporate universities, offer courses via podcast which can also be considered as a competition.
Many companies like E&Y, Thomson Reuters, Goldman Sachs have programs with Fordham Graduate School of business where employees showing exemplary leadership qualities and seen as future leaders, are given an opportunity to brush up on their management and it's all paid by the company. This could definitely create a stir while deciding on the power of the individual.
Recruiting top faculty is a major challenge for both newer schools and established institutions. Even though the demand for business education has been growing steadily over the last decade, the production of PhD-trained faculty has not risen to satisfy that demand. On the contrary, it has been declining, making it increasingly difficult for business schools to increase their faculty to meet the demand for business program.
The buyer, in this case, student definitely has some power while deciding on the Business School he wants to join. Fordham Business School, even though has some great degree to offer, still is pretty expensive when compared to some of the state colleges. So this gives an opportunity to the students to exercise his choice.
A compliment at Fordham Graduate School of Business would be its location. Since it's located next to head quarters of companies like IBM, Bloomberg, E&Y, etc, you often have the influx of student's joining these organizations, post completing the graduate degree.
Liaisons with some of the big organizations like NSHMBAA, BHMBAA, which benefits students with great events and harboring a place to network.
Key Success factors in business education:
Accreditation and rankings helps develop an idea on the parameters a school is tested and it's a great tool to find out more about the business school. The other factor that would be deemed successful in proclaiming a business education useful would be its students. The caliber of students, the understanding and expertise in the area of profession, would matter. Career services and its capacity too gets it students placed with companies also plays a big role. Recently, faculty like Michael Porter has also turned hit amongst student and definitely faculty defines the success factor in biz-education. The capacity of school to connect with alumnus, getting them on campus and giving more exposure with current students, is also a great factor for success. Some of the metrics that should also be considered are: Postgraduate work experience (months) for the entering class, Base salary of entering students and salary increase post graduation, GMAT scores accepted, Full time faculty(tenured/non-tenured), teaching methods, etc.
Analyzing Fordham Graduate School of Business
Fordham Graduate School of Business, founded in 1969, combines academic rigor with program flexibility and business experience, empowering our students to succeed by developing a unique career through relevant practical expertise. Fordham Graduate School of Business is a very young and vibrant university and offers prospective MBA students the unique opportunity to get a head start on their education by offering Pre-MBA courses while student completes the application process. It's a 2 way process where school gets the flavor of the student joining and, at the same time, student also get an opportunity to gauge an understanding of the school and its faculty. The common themes in the courses taught at Fordham GBA are: Business in the Global Political Economy, Business in a Money Center, Business and Media & the Societal Value of Business. [i]
With the Advent of new dean (Dean Gautchi), the whole focus of business school is now moved towards restoring integrity to manage an economy in constant flux, and address the so-called "black eye" faced by various businesses during recession. Some companies even now face the issues of delinquent assets and MBA degree has definitely taken some flogging from the market. The new Dean brings international perspective to this school where-in, in the future; graduate students would have opportunities to work/ study abroad in the markets that they desire. The whole strategy right now is to re-position itself as amongst the best school in New York emphasizing on the power of right communication.
GBA advisory council is also focusing a lot on improving the diversity in the school. Dean Gautchi is charged with supporting a culture where people can succeed regardless of their background, and can feel comfortable to share their views and opinions. In addition, studies have shown that when you bring a group of people together who have different experiences and different backgrounds that are comfortable to share their views, you get a better product. Diversity is an asset.
Off the 500 full time students that were accepted by Fordham Graduate School of Business in Fall of 2010, a total of roughly 60% of the students were male and 40% female. The numbers of international students accepted by the school for Fall semester 2010 were 100 coming from China, India, Korea, London, Canada, Australia and Jordan, etc. The school follows a tri semester system and the intakes happen in Fall, Summer and Spring. The average GMAT score accepted by the school ranges from 580-640. Financial aid is also provided, to those deserving and high performing students, to the tune of $21,000. Average student per class is 35 and the school also offers "Cohort" program where set of students are grouped and offered classes together for the first year. The school also offers E-MBA programs. The combination of a quality education, with real-life applications, flexibility of scheduling, accessibility to school facilities and services (the program starts at 6:00pm as compared to programs at NYU that start at 5:00pm for part-time students) and strong alumni network gives a Fordham Part-time MBA an enhanced value over its competitors. CEO Magazine (Spring 2010 Edition) has ranked Fordham in the Top Tier (Top 25) for the Executive MBA (EMBA) program in the North America / Global EMBA Rankings. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Fordham 25th in the nation for its executive MBA (EMBA) program and 23rd nationally for its graduate program in marketing. The school has 18 clubs on campus to cater to student needs.
Figure 3- Strategy Framework [ii]
The strategy map shown above is a framework applied at Fordham Graduate School of Business, both for thinking- about strategy and policy making and think on creative & strategic options. It helps the Advisory Council in mapping, thereby beginning an oscillating thinking/acting or strategizing process, which instills a momentum that brings other options out on the table. Each cycle in the above mentioned diagram covers a set of issues and, invites a specific queries from overarching direction (Positioning of a business school?) to measures of performance (business school performance to the set of goals?).
Even though the school is located in the heart of the New York City, the School has not done a good job in promoting its brand. Fordham Graduate School of Business has one of the best Accounting and Tax programs in the New York City and probably in the Northeastern region of the United States but apart from the Big Four accounting firms, none of the other major regional accounting firms know of these details. The professors at Fordham Graduate School of Business have done a very good job in upholding the brand of the school but sustaining it is still a long way out. The brand is the manifestation (captured by the school's name and logo) of that school's successful strategy, which allows it to distinguish itself from similar or competing schools in the mind of the general public and the subset of people and companies that have a relationship with the school (students, faculty, staff, alumni, corporate sponsors). Clearly, schools with a strong brand will attract and retain the best students, faculty, staff and corporate sponsors within their targeted market segment. The challenge is to go beyond delivering a degree. Fordham must deliver a life-changing experience to their students so that their alumni will say, for "I went to Fordham Graduate School of Business" and not "I have an MBA degree in Finance".
The important resource of funds and employment would be its alumnus. But Fordham Graduate School of Business has not done a great job with maintaining its connections with the alumnus. The database maintained with the career services at Fordham has been outdated and the resources used to capture the details have been obsolete. They only way an alumnus could get in touch with the school, is through school email which sadly, also expires within 6 months of a student graduating from school. So an alumnus has no way to contact with school, besides calling, which in this fast paced business world is too much to ask for. It is unlikely, that schools will be able to keep on relying on government support and/or a continuous increase in program demand and fees to fund their required investments in physical and intellectual capital.
Disconnect, if any, between the industry and its structure
As mentioned in the previous section, if schools want their alumni and potential corporate sponsors to make significant contributions to their operating budgets and to help them build up their endowments, they will have to involve them in the governance of the school on different levels (from the school board to its various advisory committees). This is because those who make significant investments in an institution want to protect their investment and make sure it is put to good use. A presence on the board and/or one of its key committees (MBA admission committee, endowment management committee, and audit and finance committee, to mention some) will provide the required comfort level.
There are a number of challenges that present themselves once we begin to shift our thinking away from the concept of the school as a location towards one where it becomes a lifelong learning network. Increasingly, the traditional face-to-face course on campus will be just the first step - an entry point into the learning network. But to be a genuine lifelong proposition, the business school of the future will have to find ways to keep its alumni in the network once they leave the physical campus, and to sustain that network by providing its members with the information, contacts, interactions, knowledge and learning that they need. Technology is the key facilitator; schools will have to build the infrastructure required to distribute knowledge continuously in time (over the active life of their members) and space (over multiple locations around the world) and to create a global online community for learning and experience sharing. Over time, the forces of globalization will further strengthen the learning network. This would help Fordham move towards a service-station model in the future.
The typical business school course (undergraduate, graduate and, to a lesser extent, executive education) is designed to impart a large dose of quantitative management skills and techniques. But employers, alumni and even students are increasingly demanding so-called softer skills of two types: behavioral and societal. Behavioral skills include the ability to work with others, to communicate effectively, to display multicultural awareness, and to exhibit some entrepreneurial and leadership qualities. Societal skills include ability to give something back to the society.
We also need to improve the alliance with some of the big companies and let them know what Fordham Graduate School of Business has to offer. These can also be accomplished by the student clubs and its initiation. And foremost, need to get their own space, stead of sharing building with 5 different schools. The campus definitely makes a differenence in how a Business School is perceived.
The road to success isn't easy but the young Fordham Graduate School of Business has tread along really well and it's a long way to go before it can match up to schools like Harvard and Wharton.