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MBA Programs Focus More on Entrepreneurship

Postgraduate business schools are beefing up their efforts to prepare students to start and run their own business, new research shows.

The study by the MBA Roundtable, a global association of business schools, revealed that because interest in becoming an entrepreneur is projected to grow, more management education programs are using an increasingly wide variety of approaches to teach entrepreneurialism.

Specifically, the entrepreneurship programs studied use a mix of experience-based and traditional classroom learning. More than 90 percent of the programs use at least some experiential learning, while only 9 percent are exclusively classroom-based, the study found.

Additionally, the programs analyzed emphasize soft skills—such as communication, team building, and sales-pitch development/delivery—more than what is typical for most other MBA focus areas.

"Entrepreneurship education has become an engine for growth within MBA programs,” said Sarah Gardial, president of the MBA Roundtable and dean of the University of Iowa's Henry B. Tippie College of Business.

The research shows that entrepreneurship programs rely heavily on faculty and practicing entrepreneurs to mentor students in developing skill sets, such as opportunity recognition, market testing, iteration, and venture launch. They also engage in cross-university, multidisciplinary partnerships, especially in disciplines in which students may one day be involved in consulting or startup businesses, such as engineering, life sciences, law, and medicine.

The study discovered that the MBA programs are expanding their curriculum to reflect a wide range of situations that could benefit from entrepreneurship. Topics such as technology commercialization, intrapreneurship/corporate entrepreneurship, managing growth, and social entrepreneurship are included in more than 45 percent of the programs studied, which has led many grads to find work in executive positions in early-stage startup companies.

Overall, 60 percent of the entrepreneurship programs expect increased participation in the next three years. In order to support the growth, the programs studied plan to increase their use of incubators, add concentrations and/or new certificates, and expand their use of cross-disciplinary initiatives.

The study—sponsored, in part, by the University of Virginia Darden School of Business' Batten Institute, the University of Louisville's Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship, and the University of Texas at Austin's Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship—was based on surveys of 137 full-time, part-time, and executive MBA programs.


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