Melbourne Business School alumni reunion 2019

One of the highlights of my year is the annual Melbourne Business School alumni reunion – which is, essentially, a two-day seminar and networking event.

Here’s our Dean, Professor Ian Harper, giving us an update on how the school is doing.

Professor Ian Harper, Dean of Melbourne Business School gives alumni an update on how the school is doing.

This year I attended sessions on:

  • creating career roadmaps (with speakers from act3 Planning)

  • data-oriented businesses

  • areas of marketing debate

  • ethics for companies that collect data, and

  • managing sustainability.

All of which were excellent, as usual.

Melbourne Business School MBA ranked #9 by BloombergBusinessweek

Melbourne Business School (MBS) has one of the best MBA programs in the world but, for whatever reason, it hasn't always gotten as much recognition as it deserves.

That's changed this year because MBS is at #9 in BloombergBusinessweek's 2016 International MBA rankings

It's also the only Australian B-school to be ranked by BloombergBusinessweek.

Students love it, too, because MBS achieved the #3 position in the student survey rank: 

This is excellent news for MBS and it makes me super happy to see how well they're doing. 

(For more on this, also check out Professor Mark Ritson's write-up: 'Melbourne Business School rated in International Top 10 for MBA for 2016'.)

Economist Ranks MBS MBA Regional #1 and Global #32

Economist + Which MBA logoThe Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked the Melbourne Business School full-time MBA at #1 in Asia and Australasia and #32 globally in its 2011 full-time MBA rankings.

MBS is already ranked #1 in Australia by AFR BOSS and #46 globally by Times Higher Education.

Drilling down to the detailed profile for MBS, you get some interesting results.

Missed Networking Opportunities

For example, the school ranks well for networking:

  • Potential to network: #5
  • Breadth of alumni network (i.e. ratio of registered alumni to current students): #2

But ranks poorly in the use and perception of its alumni network:

  • Alumni effectiveness (i.e. student assessment of alumni network): #89

I’m not sure why this might be the case. I can make a few guesses, though. For example, international students might find that, while there are tonnes of MBS alumni that they can network with in Asia and Australasia, there aren’t enough of them around the rest of the world. There might also be some missed opportunities in the students’ use of the alumni network. Or of recent alumni themselves not networking much with each other.

Career Services is Improving

MBS also ranks really well for its careers service:

  • Jobs found through the careers service (i.e. percentage of graduates finding jobs through careers service): #2

But students and alumni don’t seem to give it enough credit:

  • Student assessment of careers service (i.e. did the careers service meet expectations and needs?): #98

This suggests that, while the MBS Career Centre is doing a good job, it suffers from some perception problems. This might be because perception change among alumni who no longer need or use the careers service lags the reality of the careers service having improved in recent years. I do know that the MBS Career Centre in 2008-09 had a challenging time placing graduates from my full-time MBA batch because we were the first group to come out of the new September intake. This meant the Career Centre had to find jobs for twice as many students (many of whom were international) right at the beginning of the GFC. And, since the EUI’s ranking has memory – i.e. it’s a weighted average of results from 2011 (50%), 2010 (30%), and 2009 (20%) – this alumni perception would still have an impact on perception scores.


Overall, though, this is a good result and I’m glad that MBS continues to improve its quality, reputation, and ranking.

MBS MBA Again Ranked Number 1 by AFR BOSS

afrboss_red_logo_smallThe Australian Financial Review’s (AFR) BOSS magazine has, once again, ranked the Melbourne Business School MBA at number one in Australia.

According to these rankings, the top five MBAs in Australia are from these business schools:

  1. Melbourne Business School
  2. University of Queensland – Business School
  3. Monash University – Department of Management
  4. QUT Graduate School of Business (Queensland University of Technology)
  5. Australian School of Business – AGSM

BOSS conducts this research every other year and its results are based on two components: an alumni survey (weighted 55%) and data supplied by schools (weighted 45%). 21 business schools participated this time and 19 of these made it into the rankings (two didn’t, due to insufficient alumni responses). 1,600 b-school alumni from the graduating classes of 2008-2010 (inclusive) took part in the survey.

Digging Deeper

Looking more closely at the results:

  • The AGSM and MBS MBAs have the highest tuition fee ($64,800 and $64,000, respectively) followed by Monash and Macquarie ($57,260 and $56,000, respectively). The rest of the MBAs have tuition fees under $50k.
  • 96% of MBS alumni reported that their MBA provided them value for money.
  • MBS, AGSM, and Macquarie MBAs have the greatest number of class contact hours over the entire degree (720, 686, and 640 hours, respectively). As it happens, these are also three of the four most expensive degrees. The others all have fewer than 600 class contact hours. 
  • MBS was ranked 3rd for satisfaction, 5th for value for money, and 1st for research.
  • When survey respondents were asked which school they would attend if money and location were not an issue, MBS came out on top again.

International Rankings

The two most notable international rankings of business schools come from the Financial Times and the Economist. In their latest rankings:

  • The Financial Times ranks AGSM at #35 and MBS at #53
  • The Economist ranks MBS at #44, Monash at #58, MGSM at #64, Curtin at #76, UoQ at #81

FT will be kicking off research for its 2012 b-school rankings later this month.

Diversity in MBA Programs

Matt Symonds recently wrote a good article on the importance of diversity in MBA programs: schools seek to encourage not only more women and ethnic minorities to do an MBA, but also those with more diverse backgrounds including media, military, not-for-profits and entrepreneurship


But is it important for business schools to also strive for professional diversity? Many academics, administrators and students would say so. In fact, it’s been argued that restricting the MBA course participants to a limited range of experience means that traditionally accepted patterns of thought go unchallenged. They argue that a wide-ranging group of students helps to put business decision-making into a wider perspective, and thereby reduce the risk of a herd mentality that leads to ill-informed decisions. Perhaps Wall Street should take note?

Diversity in the student body - particularly a good mix of international students - is one of the main reasons I applied to Melbourne Business School for my MBA; and I was certainly not disappointed. In my intake (the full-time MBA intake of  September 2006) we had about 65  students, only seven of which were from Australia (the rest were from about 35 countries) and a quarter of which were women (for MBA programs, this is better than most).

MBS also goes out of its way to acquire diversity through its various scholarship programs. In my case, I was awarded (what is now called) the Dean's International Management Scholarship. Every year, that adds about three financially-limited international students to a mix of people who are fortunate enough to have other means to paying for their studies. I, for one, will be forever grateful to MBS for giving me that opportunity.

Profile on Upcoming MBS Dean Zeger Degraeve

I didn’t blog about this at the time but Melbourne Business School is getting a new Dean: Professor Zeger Degraeve, who is currently at London Business School, will be taking over from current Dean, Professor Jennifer George, in September.

From MBS’ news item on the appointment:
Prof. Zeger Degraeve at a glance:

  • Inaugural chair, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Chair for Innovation, London Business School

  • Founder and faculty director Dubai-London programs, London Business School in Dubai, UAE

  • Former deputy dean, London Business School.

  • Visiting professorships at Columbia University, Tuck School of Business

  • PhD, Business Administration, The University of Chicago

  • MSc in Engineering and MBA, Universities of Ghent and Leuven, Belgium

Today, The Independent published a profile on Degraeve which is worth a read because, in it, he talks about his plans for MBS:
“Business schools are big ships to turn,” comments Professor Zeger Degraeve. “Often it is a dean's successor who will enjoy the realisation of his or her long-term strategy.” Professor Degraeve, who will take up his initial four-year term as dean of Australia's Melbourne Business School (MBS) in September, is undaunted by the prospect that many benefits of his tenure will only mature after he has gone.

“My long-term strategies include fundraising, raising the profile of the school and ensuring that it achieves prominence on the global scene. Short-term I plan to re-think the MBA curriculum and develop the executive education programme.”

Sounds exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing how things at MBS change and get even better over the next few years.

AFR MBA Survey 2011 is Open for Alumni Input

BOSS Magazine LogoEvery two years the Australian Financial Review ranks Australia’s “top MBA programs” based on a survey of recent business school alumni and data from a questionnaire that’s filled out by the schools themselves.

They publish this ranking in BOSS Magazine and, in 2009, Melbourne Business School was ranked #1.

This year’s alumni survey is now open for input from business school graduates who completed their degrees within the last three years (i.e. 2008, 2009, and 2010 grads only). If you fit that category, please fill out the survey so that this year’s results reflect the most accurate opinions of recent Australian b-school grads.

The 2011 survey results will be published in the September issue of BOSS. Of course, I’ll blog about them when they come out, as well.

FYI: If you’re an MBS alumni and have any questions about the survey, get in touch with David Mitchell who is the alumni and community relations manager at MBS.

Melbourne at #45 in Global University Rankings by Reputation

Times Higher Education (THE) recently published their ‘2010-2011 World University Rankings’ and, in it, they have a new rankings based perceived reputation.

To build this Reputation Rankings they surveyed an invite-only list of over 13,000 academics from around the world. The opinion of those academics suggests that six universities (or ‘super brands’, as they are being called) have, by far, the best reputation. These are:

  1. Harvard University – 100.0%
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – 85.0%
  3. University of Cambridge – 80.7%
  4. University of California Berkeley – 74.7%
  5. Stanford University – 71.5%
  6. University of Oxford – 68.6%

The rest received a score of under 40%.

The University of Melbourne is the highest ranked Australian university (yaay!) and it comes in at a joint number 45 (along with the University of Edinburgh) with 6.5%.

Reputation matters quite a bit in academics but these rankings don’t come as a surprise (certainly not for the top 20 or so). Though, really, once you go below #9 or #12 on this list (both of which are followed by noticeable drops in percentage points) it doesn’t matter as much which university you are associated with. Unless you’re looking for rankings by subject or region, of course, in which case the picture might change a bit.

You can read more about these new reputation rankings here:

Things Looking Up for MBAs in Australia

I’ve been really busy at work these last few months which is why I haven’t blogged here much. Unfortunately, it’ll probably stay that way till early next year.

What’s prompted me to write today, however, is Penny McLeod who wrote in The Australian an article called ‘A Degree You Can Bank On: MBA’ – that says:

Australian companies are knocking down the doors of leading business schools to secure the best master of business administration graduates.

The article goes on to explain how demand for MBAs has increased in Australia this year. Further, this demand isn’t coming just from the financial sector but from other sectors as well (including, for example, utilities and not-for-profit organizations).

That’s great news because, in my opinion, the MBA is undervalued in Australia and I’m glad to see that perception change.

Courses at MBS - Core & Elective

Scott Arbeitman, who is nearing the end of his MBA at Melbourne Business School, has started writing a series of blog posts in which he’s reviewing his time there.

Last week he wrote about the core (i.e. mandatory) and elective (i.e. optional) courses offered during the MBA:

FYI: What I call ‘courses’ are called ‘subjects’ at MBS.

His posts make a great read for anyone who is doing, or thinking of doing, an MBA because the issues he’s talked about are relevant to pretty much all b-schools degrees out there.

(By the way, I wrote my end-of-MBA post almost two years ago. I didn’t realize it had been that long!)

Symonds on Creative MBA Programs

Matt Symonds recently wrote an article in Forbes called ‘How Creative MBA Programs are Overcoming Bad Times’ and, in it, he talks about Melbourne Business School (MBS):

If there is one thing the less well-known schools where M.B.A. applications are holding up have in common, it is an ability to offer something different.

Melbourne Business School, one of the leading institutions in the Asia-Pacific region, has also seen its latest M.B.A. class grow. Dean Jenny George seems to share Antal-Mokos' view that the secret may not be location, ranking or history but a unique underlying structural model. "We have the luxury of being what I'd term 'quasi-independent,'" she says. "We have a strong link to our local university, but at the same time as a corporate body we have free rein to do what we think is best. That means we have the credibility to attract really good faculty but can hire people who don't always fit the traditional, conventional picture of an academic. And that in turn means we can put together a learning experience that pulls in the very best students."

It’s a good article and I recommend you read it.

More about Symonds:

Microsoft Case Study on Melbourne Business School

Microsoft have a good case study on how their technology helps Melbourne Business School with their information management and stakeholder management needs. With the tagline of "Business School Enhances Reputation Through Improved Constituent Service" the executive summary reads:
Melbourne Business School (MBS) was founded in 1954 through the University of Melbourne, and its graduate degrees have been ranked in the Financial Times’ list of Top 100 Global MBAs since 2005. The school wanted to strategically align its brand positioning message, ‘Global. Business. Leaders.’, to every facet of its business. Its well intentioned but departmental approach to managing data on students (called ‘constituents’) hampered efforts to deliver services and develop relationships to a standard that was commensurate with its brand. In 2007 MBS began a comprehensive process of organisational change. It introduced a customer relationship management (CRM) system based on Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 4.0 and Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007. By introducing a common platform for data management and taking a life-cycle view of constituents, MBS improved communications with applicants, students, participants and alumni and projected a more professional image.

You can read or download the case study from the Microsoft Case Studies website.

I know this project well because I worked on it as a Content & Governance Consultant on the MBS Direct (i.e. web portal) side. It's good to see that the project has been written up really nicely.

MBS's CIO, Ric Lamont (who is quoted in the study) was one of my MBA classmates and a lot of credit goes to him and to Carl Joseph (Manager, Information Services) for pulling this off so succesfully.

(FYI: I read this case study when it was published last year but remembered today that I'd forgotten to link to it back then. If you're wondering why I remembered it now that's because it came up in my "melbourne business school" Google Alert this morning; presumably because its web page was tweaked or republished in a new format.)

Marketing 101: Overview of the Marketing Process

I took a number of marketing courses in my MBA at Melbourne Business School (MBS) and it was during my Consumer Behaviour course with Brian Gibbs that we got the best, single-page overview of the marketing process.

Framework for Marketing Management

Gibbs called this the ‘Framework for Marketing Management’ and it’s an excellent summary of how marketing is done:

Framework for Marketing Management

[Note: The diagram above is one that I made based on my notes from the course.]

It works like this:

  • The marketing concept says you begin by looking at your customers, company, and competition – these are the three Cs. Let’s say your company makes pens:
    • Ask yourself what it is that your customers need. How can you satisfy that need? In real life a lot of research would go into answering questions like these. Then consider what your customers do to satisfy those needs. What factors contribute to their decision making process? Again, more research would be done.
    • Also look at your company. Can you make the pens your customers want? Do those types of pens fit with your company’s corporate objectives? For example, if you’re Montblanc, you won’t be making cheap plastic pens anytime soon even if some your customers say that’s what they want in a writing instrument.
    • Don’t forget to analyze your competition as well. How will your competitors respond to your product (say, when you introduce a new version)? Also ask yourself who else satisfies the needs of your customers. For example, should you be looking at companies that make markers and pencils as competition?
  • Once you’ve done that, you segment your customers according to primary bases, such as their identified needs. For example, Group A wants cheap plastic ballpoint pens, Group B wants fancy liquid ink pens, and so on. You also segment by secondary bases, which are often things like demographics. You keep slicing and dicing using a combination of bases till you get useful segments; i.e. those you can target properly. For example, you could further segment Group B by age bracket and annual income.
  • Next, you decide which specific segments you’re going to target (and why). For example, Montblanc may be targeting only, say, richer and older people from Group B. They know they can communicate well with these people, they can defend this segment from the competition, and ultimately that’s the area of the market they want their company to operate in.
  • That sets you up with the positioning of your product. Getting your positioning right is incredibly important because it’s the key to your entire plan. So, for example, Montblanc may position themselves in the luxury space as a company that sells excellent writing instruments that have the highest level of craftsmanship. In effect, their pens are high-end gifts, much like hand-crafted jewellery. They would then position themselves appropriately in the luxury gift jewellery markets, but not in the broader writing instruments market.
  • Once you’ve got your positioning done, you figure out how you’re going to to create, capture, communicate, and deliver value to your customer. This value is created by the existence of your product, captured by its price, communicated through your promotion, and delivered by where you place (or how you distribute) your product – these are the four Ps.
  • Finally, as the market grows and develops, you will need to tweak these four Ps to maintain your positioning. Then, at regular intervals, you will need to re-do your three Cs because the market will change and you will need to change with it. Repeat ad infinitum…well, at least as long as your company continues to exist.

It All Comes Down to Positioning

As you may have gathered, a good way of remembering the entire marketing process is to think of the just the three Cs and four Ps. However, if you want to distil it further, you can bring it all down to positioning.

Positioning is a summary of the first part (analysis & strategy: the three Cs) and a guide for the second part (planning & implementation: the four Ps).

From the consumer behaviour point of view, it is also the psychological epicentre of the marketing process. That’s because positioning – with the help of the four Ps – is what translates the ‘actual product’ into the ‘perceived product’ within the consumer’s mind (they are often not the same).

So while a Montblanc pen is in essence just a writing instrument, in the mind of the consumer, it is much more than just that. And it is the pen’s positioning that will determine what qualities above its ability to put ink on paper set it apart from its competitors.

Thanks for Sharing, But What Was the Point?

This one-page overview of the marketing process is useful in many ways:

  • It provides a great sanity check for what you’re doing in your job. For example, the Web & New Media Strategy that Melbourne Water developed over the last year followed pretty much this process. That strategy now forms the basis of my day-to-day work. So, if we hadn’t done the three Cs right, for example, I would have had a hard time getting the four Ps done properly.
  • It’s a great way to analyze the marketing, branding, and product positioning that’s going on around you all the time.
  • It brings good overall project management and business strategy rigour to whatever it is that you’re doing.

Oh, and if you’re a job seeker, it’s particularly useful because it provides a good framework for when you get asked questions about the company’s products or services.

Jenny George Appointed Dean of MBS

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks at Melbourne Business School. Fortunately, the more recent recent news has been all good.

The latest of this is the excellent news that Acting Dean Professor Jennifer George has now been appointed Dean of MBS. Congratulations to her and I look forward to seeing what direction she steers MBS towards; particularly now that there’s no merger to think about. We should have exciting times ahead.

Gans on MBS-FEC Merger

Joshua Gans has written an excellent post on the proposed merger between Melbourne Business School (MBS) and the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Economics and Commerce (FEC) that didn't go through.

In it, he lists some of the factors that contributed to the merger being blocked; such as the differences in organizational culture, teaching culture, and industry engagement between the two schools.

He isn't as concerned about competition from the FEC as I am (more on this some other time) but, like me, he is very optimistic about MBS's future and place in Australia and the Australian education industry.

MBS-FEC Proposed Merger Will Not Proceed

In an interesting turn of events, Melbourne Business School (MBS) announced today that its proposed merger with the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Economics and Commerce (FEC) will not proceed. (Go here for background.)

Indeed, this won't even been put to vote at the 7 October Extraordinary General Meeting of MBS Ltd's members (read: shareholders) because the resolution is bound to fail. That's because enough members have already told the Board they will vote against the merger so there's no way the Board will get the majority needed to proceed.

Why Will Some Members Vote Against the Merger?

I'm not exactly sure because they haven't said.

I can speculate, though. Maybe they don't want to dilute MBS Ltd's focus (or brand) because, post merger, they would have had the added responsibility of managing the undergraduate economics and commerce programme. Maybe it's less about the lack of focus and more about sticking to what you know you're really good at (i.e. graduate-level teaching). Maybe they think the merger is good in theory but would be impossible to pull off in practice. Maybe it's lots of separate little issues that, collectively, become one big one. I don't know.

Regardless, the members are obviously not convinced that the merger is good idea and, since they have the deciding vote in the matter, it's been called off.

As MBS Chairman Ron McNeilly said:
"Ultimately the continued success of MBS depends on the support of its members, alumni, students, clients and the broader business community.  The Board has accepted that without the overwhelming support of these stakeholders, a merger at this time would not be in the best interests of the School."

Meanwhile, the University of Melbourne's Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis had this to say:
"Over time this will be judged a missed opportunity for the University and the MBS to create the strongest business school in our region."

That may be true and, who knows, the merger could still take place a year from now or three years from now. All we know is that it's not happening now.

What Next?

Both MBS and FEC will continue to operate they way they're operating now.

But, of course, they won't. They've just gone through a process in which they identified their gaps, overlaps, and opportunities for growth. Their conclusion was that they should work together and they went as far as to plan exactly how they'd do that. And now they've been told it's not going to happen. So, yeah, things won't go quite back to normal.

Meanwhile, the confusion in the market of whether you should do a masters in business from FEC or a masters in business administration from MBS will remain. Here's hoping they start by making things like that clearer because, if they don't sufficiently differentiate themselves from each other, the competition won't help anyone...least of all potential applicants to both institutions.

Editors are Useful

Melbourne Business School professor Joshua Gans has a funny post on his Core Economics blog about an attempted…er, criticism of his research.

What happened was that Gerard Henderson from The Sydney Institute decided to trawl through Gans’ blog in an attempt to cherry pick items that would question the credibility of Gans’ work.

Unfortunately for him, Henderson picked a humorous item in which Gans linked to a Randall Munroe blog post on ‘Urinal Protocol Vulnerability’. Munroe, for those of you who don’t know, is the author of the brilliant xkcd webcomic. For some inexplicable reason, Henderson believed this study to be (a) trivial and (b) carried out by Gans himself.

Henderson wrote in his Media Watch Dog article:
Here’s hoping that Mr Holmes and his Media Watch team will publish much more of Joshua Gans’ ground-breaking research in future editions of the program.  MWD is particularly impressed by his work on, er, male urinals.  Gans’ paper “Urinal protocol vulnerability” attempts to answer one of the key questions of our time. Namely:  “When a guy goes to the bathroom, which urinal does he pick?”  Good question, don’t you think?

Gans, in reply, suggests that maybe Henderson needs to brush up on his Internet researching skills:
Mr Henderson mis-attributes various amusing quotes written by Randal Monroe to me. He then invites Media Watch to take a closer look at “my research.” I’d invite them to take a closer look at Mr Henderson’s posts. How can someone purporting to watch the media not understand the point of hyperlinks? That said, his post doesn’t seem to contain any itself so this web-stuff might not be his thing.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Update: Check out Andrew Leigh's exchange with Gerard Henderson on this topic.

AFR BOSS Ranks MBS MBA at Number 1

The AFR’s BOSS magazine recently published the results of its biennial rankings of MBA schools in Australia:

I haven’t bought the magazine and read the detailed results myself yet but Manns’ article lists the top five schools as follows:

  1. Melbourne Business School (University of Melbourne)

  2. Monash University Graduate School of Business (Monash University)

  3. Macquarie Graduate School of Management (Macquarie University)

  4. Australian Graduate School of Management (University of New South Wales)

  5. University of Western Australia

The rest of the article was too painful to read online so I only skimmed through it and, therefore, have nothing further to say. Clearly they want us to go buy a copy of their magazine.

By the way, 22 business schools and 1,732 b-school alumni took part in the survey that these rankings are based on.