MBS-FEC Merger: Consultation Period Extended

Quick update: The MBS Board met at an Extraordinary General Meeting on Wednesday to discuss the proposed merger between Melbourne Business School and the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Economics and Commerce (see previous post for details).

They decided to postpone their decision for six weeks so a more detailed consultation with constituents could be carried out. The MBS donors (i.e. the constituents of the Board) will now vote on the proposed merger and change of constitution on 7 October.

MBS-FEC Merger Announced

UPDATE (1-Oct-09): This merger will no longer proceed. Details here. Also read Joshua Gans' post on this.

The last time I talked about the merger between Melbourne Business School and the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Economics and Commerce (FEC) the two schools had:

  • agreed in principle that were going to merge

  • started a consultation process to figure out how that would happen.

Since then, they have agreed on the proposed merger and are now waiting on approval from the Members of MBS Ltd – which is the not-for-profit organization that governs Melbourne Business School – before they can go on.

Announcements and News Reporting

This was announced by both MBS and Melbourne Uni:

And has also been discussed in the media:

Yes, the jobs angle was a funny one for The Age to take but I presume they did that because the timing of the merger announcement was unfortunate: Melbourne Uni had only just announced that they were going to cut 220 jobs because of the financial shortfall brought about by the global financial crisis.

Communicating the Plan

In order to give us stakeholders a chance to find out first-hand what was going on with the merger, MBS invited students and alumni for a Questions & Answers session with Acting Dean Jennifer George and Professor Richard Speed.

It was hugely encouraging to know that a session like this had been planned. Mergers are difficult times for both organizations and, during this period, it’s crucial to have this kind of stakeholder communication and engagement. And by ‘stakeholder’ I mean everyone involved in the organization so that includes employees, students, alumni, prospective students, faculty, academia, industry, government, accreditation organizations, suppliers, employers, partners, the media, and so on.

Further, this communication and engagement needs to be:

  • frequent

  • take place at all levels of the organization, and

  • discuss the issue to varying levels of depth depending on who you’re talking to and what’s important to that group of people.

Fortunately, that’s exactly what MBS is doing and this session was an excellent first step.

What was also good was the kind of session that Jenny and Richard ran: it was completely open, honest, and we could ask them anything we liked. They didn’t, of course, know the answers to all our questions – there are still numerous details to be worked out – but they did manage to cover all the important points.

What I liked most about the session, though, was the sense of excitement and realistic optimism that everyone seemed to have. This merger is an exciting opportunity and, though everyone knows it will be difficult and complicated to pull off, we are looking forward having a crack at it.

Details About the Merger

So what have we learnt so far about the proposed merger?

  • The organizational structure of the merged entity, called the Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE), has been finalized:

MBS - Uni Melb Merger Org Chart

  • The main merging is taking place in the graduate space because undergraduate and executive degrees and courses will probably not change very much post-merger. How exactly the graduate space (i.e. degrees, courses, schedules, fees, classes, faculty, research, etc.) will change has yet to be finalized. Indeed, that space may continue to change and evolve over the next 2-3 years as things get tweaked and improved.

  • Academic oversight over all courses, subjects, and degrees offered by the FBE remains, of course, with the University of Melbourne.

  • The management of the FBE goes to MBS Ltd. In exchange, the University of Melbourne increases its stake in MBS Ltd from 45% to 70%.

  • MBS Ltd’s Board gets increased to thirteen members: eight nominated members (to be voted in), two university-appointed directors, one staff director, one alumni director, and one executive director.

  • The current Chair of the MBS Board, Ron McNeilly, continues in his role. The current Dean of the FEC, Professor Margaret Abernethy, becomes the inaugural Executive Dean of the new FBE.

  • Mt. Eliza Executive Education becomes Melbourne Executive Education. However, this is run by a wholly owned subsidiary of MBS Ltd (which I refer to in the chart as Melbourne Executive Education Ltd because I don’t know what it will be called). So, even though this is part of the FBE, it will be managed reasonably independently.

  • The new graduate program will be split into two streams. The pre-experience stream will be for students fresh out of an undergraduate degree (or with limited work experience). The post-experience stream will be for students with some work experience. The existing MBS MBA degree will come under the post-experience stream while some of the FEC’s existing masters degrees will come under the pre-experience stream.

  • Assuming the MBS Board approves this proposal, the FBE will officially come into being on 1 October 2009 with an aim for “full integration” by 1 January 2010.

As you can imagine, most of the synergies of this merger will occur in the graduate area where there are numerous win-win scenarios. For example, MBS students will get access to a wider range of electives while FEC students will get access to the specialist electives that only MBS offers.

What Next?

The next important date for the merger is 26 August, which is when Members of MBS Ltd will meet in an Extraordinary General Meeting to vote on the merger proposal. There is no real reason for the proposal to not be accepted but that is the last formal step that needs to be taken. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Over the next few months, I hope to write more about this merger in particular and about mergers, cultural change, and stakeholder engagement in general. Stay tuned.

Web Strategy Jobs in Australia

In order to get what can loosely be called a 'web strategy job' in Australia I did quite a bit of research and analysis on how different companies hire for that position and I thought it might be useful to share what I've learnt. This serves two purposes:

  • Others who are looking for jobs in the same area might find my analysis useful.

  • Those who know more about this area than I do can improve my understanding of it.

Here's hoping this blog post accomplishes a bit of both.

What Do You Mean by 'Web Strategy Job'?

So what exactly does a 'web strategist' do? Well, it depends on the industry and company that job is in. In general, though, a web strategist is someone who takes care of everything a company does online. This includes:

  • managing the company's online presence (website, intranet, social media presence, etc.)

  • figuring out what the company should be doing in the online space over the next few years; i.e. creating a web strategy and making sure it is aligned with the company's business, marketing, and communications strategies

  • implementing that strategy

This job can be in different departments and at different levels of seniority within a particular company. To explain this further I have come up with the How Companies Build Their Online Presence table (below). The columns on this table represent company size and the rows divide companies into those that consider their online presence to be strategic and those that don't (yes, this is an artificial, binary division while, in reality, there is a range here). [1]

The text in the cells describes the solutions that these companies implement in order to build and maintain their online presence (yes, I am generalizing here). The jobs that I spent the last few months looking for are the manager-level web strategist/online manager positions described or implied in the green coloured cells.

How Companies Build Their Online Presence

Interestingly, over the last year, I have worked in companies in all three of those green-coloured areas:

  • Shell is a very large company that uses its online presence strategically (both internally and externally)

  • Melbourne Business School is a medium-sized company that uses of its online presence strategically (and increasingly so)

  • Linfox is a large company that doesn't use its website strategically but makes very good use of its intranet

Melbourne Water sits in the strategic row and is a large company.

Where the Web Strategist Fits in All This

As mentioned earlier, the web strategist jobs in those green-shaded boxes exist at different levels within different companies. That is why, over the last few months, I applied for jobs that spanned a range of tasks, skills, and seniority levels. In some small companies, for example, the primary driver of the web strategy is the specialist consultant hired on a 3-6 month contract. In some larger ones, the strategy is driven by a small group of people who are, in turn, led by the web/online manager.

There are pros and cons to being in each of those positions. For example, a short-term specialist-level consultant may not have the time, influence, or opportunity to have a major impact on a company's overall web strategy. That said, this consultant sits outside the internal politics of that company and can be more blunt and direct about what that company needs to do without having to worry too much about what people think of him. A full-time online manager in a large company, meanwhile, many find corporate inertia working against her for the first six months but, once things get moving, will benefit from it. And because this manager knows the inner working of the company, she may get things done more quickly and more effectively.

The sweet spot for me was to get a middle management position in a good-sized company that made good, strategic use of its online space. There is huge potential (and lots of fun to be had) in this role because companies in this position are often quick to move and are willing to make a real impact online. Fortunately for me, this is exactly where Melbourne Water sits.

What About the State of the Job Market?

Of course, all this analysis is useless if it doesn't help you get a job - particularly if no one is hiring for the position you really want to get. Because of that, I was also looking for less-than-perfect jobs or jobs on the periphery of where I wanted to be. The idea was that I would work towards the role I really wanted.

Speaking more generally: One good thing about this type of job is that every organization needs a website regardless of how the economy is doing (and Australia's isn't doing that badly). As a result, web strategists, website managers, and specialist online consultants are still getting hired. And though there are very few perfect jobs out there (and many companies are hiring less senior people to do the same job that more senior people were doing last year) I did come across a whole bunch that were great places to start. Read my previous blog post for more on that.

Further Research

So that is a summary of what I have learnt about web strategist jobs in Australia over the last couple of years. I encourage you to do your own research on this topic. To do that, I recommend the following three things:

  • Subscribe to online job feeds from Seek, MyCareer, CareerOne, and SixFigures. This will teach you a great deal about the state of the job market and will help you adopt the lingo that hiring managers and recruitment firms use to match candidates to open positions.

  • Talk to people who are in the industry and find out more from them. This is particularly useful if you are targeting a narrower segment in the market (e.g. web strategy jobs in the education sector). Also read their blogs, interact with them online, and get in touch with them through LinkedIn or your own networks (then meet up with them for a coffee or something).

  • Talk to recruitment agents who recruit in this area. I mentioned three firms and three recruitment agents in my previous post but there are many others - you just need to find the ones that work best with you.

And when you learn stuff, blog about it so all of us can learn from your experiences.

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[1] The words 'strategy' and 'strategic' are used very loosely in everyday speech while, in actual fact, they mean something very specific. Let me clarify that here: when you say something is 'strategic' you necessarily mean that it is relative to your competitors. Take your website's 'Contact Us' page. If, along with your office address, you were to give your office's Melways Map reference, this would not be considered 'strategic' because this is common practice. If, instead, you embedded a Google map that showed your office's location exactly (assuming, of course, that your customers found this useful and that it helped your business) this would be a 'strategic' move since few companies tend to do that and this gives you an advantage over your competitors. Note, however, that if you had decided to include that Google map without considering your competition, it would simply have been a 'plan'. A 'strategy', on the other hand, is action taken specifically with your competition in mind (i.e. in order to gain an advantage over them).

My Job Search: Stats & Lessons

My perseverance has paid off: after applying for 33 jobs over an 8 month period, I am now the new Websites Manager at Melbourne Water. I'll write more about this job in a later blog post but right now I want to present the stats I accumulated and the lessons I learnt during this process.

Active Job-Search Period

The 8-month period during which I was looking for a job featured the following non-hiring periods:

  • the global economic downturn - 2 months, from mid-October to mid-December

  • the Christmas holidays - 1.5 months, from early December to mid-January

  • my trip to Pakistan - 1 month, from early February to early March

So, for all practical purposes, I was unemployed and actively looking for jobs for about 4-5 out of those 8 months before I got hired.

Types & Levels of Jobs

The 33 jobs I applied for during this period were of these types:

  • By management-level jobs (13) I mean those that involved project management, stakeholder liaison, team management, and strategic planning.

  • By specialist, consultant, and business analyst jobs (15) I mean those that involved working as a knowledge or domain specialist within a larger team. The specialized skills required for these jobs included SEO techniques; web writing and online production skills; social media awareness; requirements-gathering experience; a consulting background; and general website/intranet redevelopment experience. Naturally, all of these skills were also required for the management-level jobs that I applied for.

  • By junior-level jobs (5) I mean those that I turned out to be overqualified for. In most cases this happened because the company in question didn't think the online channel was of strategic value to them and was therefore looking for a relatively junior person to create their web strategy and maintain their website and intranet. In most of these cases I withdrew my application once I found out more about the job.

I very nearly got one of those specialist-level jobs but the company I was interviewing with instated a hiring freeze (due to a newly-announced restructuring plan) the day after my final interview. The interview had gone really well, though, and I was confident that I would had been selected.

Also, those 13 management-level job applications include my successful application to Melbourne Water.

Reasons for Rejection

The reasons I was given for not getting 32 of those jobs included:

  • By too little experience (3) I mean the job was too senior for me. In one case, for example, I was told I didn't have experience in working with ad agencies on large multi-channel marketing campaigns.

  • By experience mismatch (3) I mean I had enough overall experience but the company was looking for someone with a slightly different set of skills. For example, they were looking for more sales/marketing oriented people than technical or communications oriented ones.

  • By cultural mismatch (4) I mean I had the right experience and skills but I wasn't the right person for that particular job, team, or company.

  • By too much experience (5) I mean I was overqualified for the job. I usually discovered this during the preliminary phone discussion with the recruiter at which point I would withdraw my application.

  • By job already filled (3) I mean that, by the time I applied for the job, the company had already hired a candidate (either on its own or via another recruitment firm).

  • By no answer (8) I mean I simply didn't get a response for the company (2 cases) or the recruitment agent (6 cases) to whom I had applied. In some cases I got no answer even after telephoning them a number of times and leaving messages asking for a call-back.

  • By no good reason given (3) I mean I got a generic and completely useless reason for my application being rejected. For example: "Thank you for your recent application for the above position; we have now had an opportunity to consider all applications. Very careful consideration has been given to your application and whilst you have many relevant attributes, unfortunately, on this occasion your application has not been successful." In some of these cases I asked for further detail but I almost never got any.

  • By too many candidates (1) I mean the recruitment firm had already filled its quota of interviews for that particular job.

  • By hiring freeze (1) I mean the company stopped its hiring process before making an offer of employment because senior management instated a hiring freeze.

Finally, I interviewed for seven of these jobs:

  • Twice I got rejected after a single interview

  • Five times I got rejected after multiple (usually two) interviews

One of the experience mismatch jobs and three of the cultural mismatch jobs were the ones that I went through multiple interviews for. The fifth was the hiring freeze one.

How this Fits with my Job Application Philosophy

In my opinion, these are fairly decent statistics. I say this because they reflect my job application philosophy which includes the following heuristics:

  • Only apply to those jobs you think you have a good chance of getting. This is, of course, based on the job ad, an optional detailed position description, or simply a verbal description of the role.

  • If, while writing the cover letter, you find that you're not convincing even yourself that you can or really want to do this job, abandon the application.

  • Don't apply to too many 'reach' jobs that might be just out of your skills and experience range. You'd only apply to these types of jobs if you though you could grow into the role quite rapidly.

  • Don't apply to too many 'backup' jobs for which you are qualified but from which you won't gain anything other than a little more experience and line on your CV. You'd only apply to these types of jobs if the hiring company had a great brand, was one you really wanted to get into, or was one in which you could see yourself getting promoted through relatively quickly. For example, if Google offered me a junior-ish job I'd jump at it!

  • Take the time to tailor both your resume and cover letter to match the requirements of the job at hand. Assuming, of course, you fit the basic requirements in first place.

  • Do your research on the company and make sure that (a) you can do the job, (b) you want to do the job, and (c) you would work well in that company.

What Have I Learnt From All This?

Aside from the obvious "it's no fun to be looking for a job during an economic downturn" I have learnt that perseverance, smart application techniques, and patience all pay off in the end. I have also learnt that it's crucial to look for cultural fit between you and your potential employer and that it's important to identify both good and bad recruitment consultants and recruitment firms.

The perseverance bit is important because I've learnt that lesson the hard way. This is now the third difficult hiring period I've been through in my life. The first was back in 1998 when Pakistan and India tested nuclear weapons because of which the number of overseas work and study visas awarded to Pakistanis was slashed considerably. The economic sanctions that were subsequently imposed on Pakistan didn't help the local job market either. The second was when the dot-com bubble burst in the US in 2001. I was working for the Pakistan branch of a Silicon Valley consulting firm at the time and had just received my US work permit visa. My plan had been to go join that company in Silicon Valley but, instead, I quit my job and started working for a Pakistani firm instead. This actually turned out to be a fortuitous occurrence because that Pakistani company was the one that got me into creating web strategies and developing and using Content Management Systems.

Having patience is also important because in the past I have made one or two hasty career decisions that, in hindsight, I wish I hadn't made. I don't actually regret having made those decisions because I love where I am in my life and in my career. It's just that I could have been further along my career path had I not gone with the first option that came my way.

I have also learnt that cultural fit between employer and candidate plays a key role in the hiring process. I already knew this in theory, of course, but it's good to see it being played out in practice as well. I am really happy, for example, to have received a few specific rejections because I realized that, even though I could have done the jobs themselves, I wouldn't have had fun doing them. This is also why I rarely get disappointed or upset when I don't get a job that I've applied for. This is particularly true if I've had a couple of interviews with that company and, as a result, know quite a bit about my manager, my team, and the company in general. Also, I generally interview well and am honest about who I am during the the recruitment process. So, if after multiple interviews the company decides they don't like what they see then they're probably right in not hiring me because I wouldn't fit in there.

On a more practical note, I have learnt that it is important to quickly identify ineffective or bad recruitment consultants and recruitment firms and then stay away from them. This is easier said than done, of course - especially if those recruitment firms keep advertising good jobs! The flip side of this is that it's important to identify good recruitment consultants and recruitment firms and then stick with them. For example, I had excellent experiences with Michael Page (specifically with Angela Van Hazel), Hudson (specifically with Sarah Blaney), and RDBMS Resource Solutions (specifically with Jessica Burns) and I would highly recommend these firms and those recruitment consultants to anyone who is looking for a job.

What Now?

So the current job search phase in my life has ended. My contract with Melbourne Water is for 13 months, however, so I'll be back to looking for a job within the year...but that's okay. The more time I spend in the industry - getting to know companies and building networks of contacts - the easier it will be for me to get my next job.

Meanwhile, though, I'm going to work hard, do a good job, and have a lot of fun. I've been at Melbourne Water for just over a week but I already love the place and the people who work there (cultural fit rocks!). The future looks bright.

New MBS Blogger: Ed Cook

Ed Cook, who is both an MBA student and a Career Consultant at Melbourne Business School, has recently starting his own professional blog.

He’s only posted three entries so far but they’re all interesting and I’m sure that, over time, his blog will become a useful resource and place of discussion. It will be particularly useful for MBA students and graduates from Australian business schools.

I’ve also added Ed to my list of MBS Bloggers.

[Note: If you’re an MBS MBA student or alumnus, Ed’s entries are cross-posted on the internal Career Services blog as well so you can also choose to conduct your discussions – should you want to keep them semi-private – there instead.]

New MBS Leadercasts

Four new MBS Leadercasts have been published recently and they’re all worth a watch:

The MBS Deans’ Blog

Melbourne Business School continues to impress me with the way it is building its online presence because, last month, they started an internal Deans’ Blog.

The blog has three contributing authors:

  1. John Seybolt, Dean & Director
  2. Jennifer George, Associate Dean of Academic Programs
  3. Richard Speed, Associate Dean for Faculty Resources

And is hosted on the MBS intranet (so it’s not available to the public). The Deans write about things that MBS students, alumni, staff, and faculty are interested in, such as school-related news and events; commentary on current events; and discussions on things like school resources, exchange programs, alumni chapters, new faculty members, and so on.

Some of the posts are information dissemination type posts while others are more discussion oriented. Presumably, there is a communications strategy in place that will guide the blog’s growth over the next few months and, most likely, the intention is to continue publishing both kinds of posts: the kind that provide management-level information to the whole school (but don’t generate much of a discussion) and the kind that seed discussion among the blog’s readers (including the “what do you think?” type of posts that you see on many blogs).

All in all, this is an exciting new addition to MBS’ online presence. Hopefully, once this blog becomes a regular feature its authors will start itching to write an external blog as well – maybe even one like the long-running Dean Bruner’s Blog at the Darden School of Business – but that’ll probably take time. Writing an external blog is hard work and you really have to commit to the idea before getting into it. Which is why an internal blog such as this one is a great way to start.

Here’s hoping the blog grows really well and that both the authors and readers enjoy participating in it (I know I will).

Core Economics Becomes a Multi-Author Blog

Speaking of MBS blogs, Joshua Gans’ Core Economics blog has also gone multi-author with four of its nine authors hailing from Melbourne Business School. So, if you want to see what MBS professors are blogging about, take a look at that. They write on a lot of interesting topics and they have a really good readership as well.

Of course, no discussion of MBS professors who publish their work online would be complete without mentioning Paul Kerin who writes a regular business column for The Australian.

FT 2009 Rankings: MBS 52nd in the World

The 2009 Financial Times global business school rankings are in and Melbourne Business School has jumped 23 places to be ranked 52nd in the world (details on this page).

MBS’ Dean John Seybolt discusses this and a presents a more detailed analysis of the results on the MBS website while Andrew Trounson discusses the effects of regional competition among Asian and Australian business schools in The Australian’s Higher Education section.

More on the MBS-UniMelb Integration

More details have emerged regarding the proposed integration of Melbourne Business School (MBS) and the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Economics and Commerce (FEC).

According to Christina Buckridge, writing in the MUSSE newsletter, the integration has already been agreed upon in principle and the University Council is now establishing a due diligence committee that will carry out an “intensive consultation process” on the integration proposal. In other words: Now that they’ve decided that they’re going to integrate, they’re going to sit down and decide how they’re going to integrate.

The consultation process that Buckridge refers to works as follows:

  • A consultation committee is established. This consists of representatives from the relevant parties (i.e. staff and faculty from MBS and the FEC), most likely someone from UniMelb administration, and other experts or advisors (as required).
  • Committee members come up with ideas for the integration and they ask everyone involved (or affected) to submit ideas, advice, and opinion as well. They put all that together and come up with a draft plan that is made public.
  • Everyone then gets an opportunity to comment on the draft. Those comments are taken on board and a final plan is written up.
  • The final plan then gets approved by the University Council after which it comes into effect. (In this case, it’ll probably be an agreement that will get signed by all the parties involved.)

The proposed structure of the resulting integrated entity is what we thought it would be: a new Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) under which all graduate degrees will be offered by MBS and all undergraduate degrees will be offered by the School of Economics and Commerce. It is still unclear how Mt Eliza is going to fit into this new structure.

The most interesting thing in that post, however, is the last paragraph which states:

A Heads of Agreement is under negotiation which, with the results of due diligence enquiries, will inform a Coordination and Management Agreement, with a view to integration by the end of March 2009.

If I’m reading that correctly, once the due diligence is done and the integration agreement is written and signed, they’re hoping to complete the actual integration by the end of March 2009. That’s a lot quicker than I expected but it makes sense that they’d want everything done as soon as possible.

So what now? Well, we first see what committee gets formed and we then wait for the consultation process to begin. I’m not sure whether this will happen before the Christmas break of after…but considering the speed at which they’re already going, it’ll probably happen very soon.

The Problem with Bad Arguments

Here are three informal fallacies that people use when making arguments. And while these fallacies might sound impressive, they actually make for bad argumentation:

  • An ad hominem argument in one in which, instead of attacking someone’s actual argument, you attack them personally (i.e. you attack some aspect about them in an attempt to either change the subject or to somehow ‘weaken’ their argument).
  • Cherry picking is when you point out individual cases or data that confirm your position while ignoring others that may contradict that position.
  • An association fallacy (sometimes called guilt by association argument) is one in which you make a hasty generalization about something or someone based on an irrelevant association. (This is similar to stereotyping.)

How These Fallacies Get Used

Telstra’s Rod Bruem recently published a blog post called ‘Professor Gives Business School a Bad Name’ in which he uses all three of these fallacies to make his point.

For example, he claims that:

  • (A) Professor Paul Kerin hates Telstra and that he makes “silly” suggestions about what Telstra should do.
  • (B) Kerin is a “highly paid ‘Professorial Fellow’” at Melbourne Business School.


  • (C) Under no circumstances should anyone study at MBS because who knows “what on earth is being taught” there.

Here is where the fallacies come into play in Bruem’s blog post:

  • Instead of actually arguing against the points that Kerin makes in his articles, Bruem calls Kerin’s arguments silly and half-baked; says that Kerin hates Telstra; and then uses the poisoning the well tactic when he sarcastically calls Kerin an “esteemed academic” and then compares Kerin’s proposals to those that would be “acceptable in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela”. All of this is argument ad hominem.
  • Bruem has also cherry picked only those articles of Kerin’s that support his argument. Other articles Kerin has written (and there are many of them!) that might show Kerin to be an accomplished economist, strategist, and business thinker are ignored.
  • Finally, Bruem makes a hasty generalization that leads him to condemn, by association, all of Melbourne Business School for the opinions that Kerin has on the topic of Telstra. Apparently, because Kerin “publicly preaches such hollow views in the media” and is a Professorial Fellow at MBS, all of the professors at MBS must preach their own similarly hollow views in the classroom thereby making MBS a terrible place of learning.

(Funnily enough, Bruem’s association fallacy argument has the opposite effect on me because, instead of thinking: “Oh no! A professor at MBS has a strong opinion, I must therefore stay away from this business school”, I find myself thinking: “Cool. Having an opinionated professor means they probably have some awesome classroom discussions at MBS so I really should look into this place some more.”)

So what was the point of Bruem’s article? I think he really just wanted to vent about Kerin and couldn’t think of an angle to take. That’s when MBS came into the picture because it helped him frame his argument. Indeed, MBS is used only as a lead-in and lead-out for Bruem’s rant about Kerin.

Also, a headline like ‘Kerin is Clueless About Telstra’ would have made the blog post sound a lot less impressive.

Please Make Good Arguments

I have no issues with people ranting about someone whose ideas they believe to be wrong or even “silly” [1]. That said, rants are not meant to be taken seriously; indeed, they’re often mean to be funny. I don’t think Bruem’s post was meant to be funny and he didn’t intend it to be a rant. In that case, you have to analyze it as if it’s a proper argument – which it was not.

My point, then, is that if you’re going to make an argument, please address the topics you actually have issues with instead of arguing ad hominem. Also, don’t bring irrelevant points to the table because they just waste time.

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[1] I was almost tempted to call this blog post ‘Blogger Gives Telco a Bad Name’ and make this into a rant myself…but then we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere, would we?

MBS & Melbourne University: Deeper Integration

According to a news item in the most recent MBS Alumni Newsletter, Melbourne Business School (MBS) is in talks with the University of Melbourne to “explore the possibility of a deeper level of integration of MBS and the University”. And while that write-up didn’t go into the details of the proposed integration, an article by Andrew Trounson and Luke Slattery in today’s Australian did discuss some of its key points.

But before I talk about the article, let me give you a quick background on the current situation:

Melbourne Business School:

  • MBS is a non-profit organization jointly owned by the University of Melbourne (45%) and the business community (55%).
  • It’s run by an independent Board of Directors but is a proper School of the University of Melbourne so it has a Dean and all of its programs, courses, student administration, grading, and degree granting are done through Melbourne Uni.
  • It offers the MBA, EMBA, PhD, and some targeted diploma and masters degrees in the areas of Innovation and Marketing.

The University of Melbourne:

Though traditionally independent, MBS and the FEC have been working with each other quite a bit over the last year or so.

The Changes Made by the Melbourne Model:

  • In 2007, Melbourne Uni switched to the Melbourne Model of university education in which undergraduate-level study is general and graduate-level study is specialized. This is much like the North American university education model.
  • To support this increased specialization at the graduate-level, Melbourne Uni asked its independent Schools – which included MBS and the Victorian College of Arts (VCA) – to become more closely integrated with Melbourne Uni. The VCA accepted this offer and became a Faculty of the University but MBS declined and remained an independent School.
  • Because Melbourne Uni still needed a new graduate school in the business and management specialization areas, it created the Melbourne Graduate School of Management (MGSM) under the FEC to which the FEC then transferred all of its graduate and doctoral level degrees.
  • So now, if you’re studying business or management at Melbourne Uni, you do your undergrad in the FEC and your grad studies at the MGSM. The FEC and MGSM are actually the same Faculty, run by the same Dean, so this more of a logical division than an actual one. The MBS equivalent of this is the difference between MBS, which is where you do your MBA, and Mt. Eliza, which where you do your EMBA. Both have the same Dean, but separate Associate Deans, administrators, staff, faculty, students, buildings, facilities, etc.

The Confusion This Caused

While the MGSM doesn’t offer the MBA or EMBA (according to the MBS-Melbourne Uni agreement, only MBS is allowed to offer those degrees under the University of Melbourne name) it offers pretty much everything else and thus there are problems with this set-up.

For starters, the MGSM’s existence muddies the market for graduate-level business, management, and marketing education because students, clients, and customers may find it difficult to differentiate between the University’s “management school” and “business school”. For example, future students may find it hard to choose between the Master of Management (Marketing) degree offered by the MGSM and the Master of Marketing degree offered my MBS. (Until they look at their fee structures, of course, and notice that MBS charges about twice as much!)

The creation of the MGSM also causes some brand confusion issues. Right now, MBS is a sub-brand of the University of Melbourne. This is because, while the University of Melbourne brand has greater overall market recognition, MBS has excellent recognition as a business school both in Australia and around the world. The two brands put together, then, make for a powerful combination. That’s why MBS’s logo is the way it is:

MBS LogoThe problem occurs when, say, both MBS and MGSM send Company XYZ their brochure for the management training courses that they offer. Both brochures carry the University of Melbourne brand so all this ends up doing is further confusing Company XYZ and, more generally, the entire market for professional business education.

The Proposed Solution

This is why the new solution is, in theory at least, very welcome and has the potential to be quite awesome. Instead of MGSM and MBS working against each other, they will now work with each other. How exactly they will do that is not yet clear – and discussions are still continuing – but according to the Trounson-Slattery article:

  • A new, broader Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) will be created at the University (i.e. the Melbourne Uni Faculty model will be used) but it will be led by an Executive Dean and a Board of Directors (i.e. the MBS leadership model will be used).
  • I’m guessing the Executive Dean and the new executive-level Board will sit at the Faculty level, above any Schools, and will probably do coordination, inter-School liaison, and overall strategy work as opposed to actually running the institutions on a day-to-day basis. This will be like a corporate layer that sits over its component companies. [I’ll be writing more on the corporate strategy aspects of this integration in a later blog post.]
  • The article goes on to say that MBS will keep both its name and brand but doesn’t explain what will happen to the MGSM. All we know is that all current MGSM “faculty and [graduate and doctoral] operations” will be transferred to MBS. Does that mean that MBS is going to absorb the MGSM and will start running all the latter’s degrees? According to this article, that seems to be the case.
  • It’s still a unclear, however, how this arrangement will fit in the overall Melbourne Uni leadership system. Presumably, MBS and the FEC will retain their existing Deans, administration, staff, students, courses, degrees, buildings, etc. and will thus remain full Schools in their own right. However, MBS will move from being an independent School to one that’s part of this newly-created Faculty. So this new Faculty of Business and Economics will have two Schools: the FCE and MBS (with the MGSM having been absorbed by MBS).
  • The question then is: How will the new FBE operate? If it has its own Board – that too a proper one that it has to answer to – how will that work within a University system in which a Faculty is supposed to answe
    to the Provost (who runs the central, university-wide Academic Board) and Vice Chancellor? Or is that the deal Melbourne Uni offered MBS: “Come into our fold but, you know what, we’re going to make that fold a lot more independent”? And is this what the FCE wanted?

So, while the article is useful because it gives details of some of the integration ideas being thrown around, it also quotes both MBS Dean John Seybolt and FCE Dean Margaret Abernethy as saying that they are far from reaching an agreement and they themselves aren’t sure if any of the new proposed structures are workable. And since there are no publicly stated deadlines for any of these discussions, we have no idea when next we will hear more about this topic from either of them.

Further Implications

There are numerous further implications that I want to talk about – covering things like corporate strategy, branding, systems and operations, incentive systems, uses of buildings and staff, and so on – but I think it would be best to wait till we have more information about the proposed integration before I continue to speculate.

Right now, though, I’m both excited and concerned and I hope things work out well.

Article on the MBA Degree in The Age

The Age's Leon Gettler recently wrote a good article on MBA degrees in Australia and had good things to say about Melbourne Business School:
Melbourne Business School is the only Australian business school with an Executive MBA program to rank among the world's leading programs. The rankings were compiled by Britain's Financial Times, which recently released its 2008 ranking of the top 95 Executive MBA programs worldwide.

According to the FT index, the Melbourne Business School EMBA program came in at 45. That put it in the company of such prestigious institutions as London Business School, INSEAD and Wharton.

He also quotes Jenny George, the Associate Dean of Academic Programs at MBS, and talks about MBS's new Professional MBA program.

MBS's Online Presence

Speaking of Melbourne Business School, I've been very impressed with the way MBS has been building its online presence over the last few months. For example, I was immensely pleased when I found they'd uploaded audio clips of the talks given at the Dean's Circle launch event that I attended last month.

I've already mentioned on this blog the SouRCe student newsletter that is now available online. Here, then, are two more things you can find on the MBS website:

  • MBS Leadercasts: These are videos of recorded presentations by MBS faculty members on the various topics of expertise that they possess.

  • MBS Today: This is the monthly newsletter that MBS publishes for "alumni, past faculty, and friends in the government, corporate, and community sectors".

Both are good though the MBS Leadercasts -- much like the University of Melbourne's Up Close Podcasts and Visions Video Podcasts and a little like TED talks -- are lots of fun to watch. I highly recommend them. (I was actually going to tell you my favourite three videos but I can't narrow it down to just three!)

MBS Employment Statistics for 2008 Graduates

Melbourne Business School recently published its employment statistics for the graduating class of 2008 (i.e. my class). 80% of the students responded to the survey which told us that:

  • Over 95% of graduates were either employed or had received an offer of employment within three months of completing their program
  • The average starting salary package for an MBS MBA grad is A$133,569, which is a 63% increase on the average pre-MBA salary

Awesome. You can read the full article and download a PDF of the results on the MBS website.

Meeting MBS Bloggers

It's happened twice now: I've gone to MBS for a presentation and someone's come up to me and said something like, "Hey, you're the blog guy!" -- referring to the list of MBS bloggers that I maintain and that they're one of the people on that list.

That specific quote is from Ronjon, who I met last week at an alumni event. A couple of weeks before that, I met Cynthia at a talk given by two of our professors. [Thanks for saying hello, both of you.]

It's fun when this happens and it's always great to meet current MBS students (who I met a lot of at the recent alumni event, by the way). Maybe one of these days I'll organize an MBS bloggers meet-up. Then again, if we keep bumping into each other at all these events, I might not have to.

Remember: If you know anyone who was or is at MBS -- whether student, staff, or faculty -- please let me know so I can add them to the list. Thanks.

Online Resources for New MBS Students

Every few weeks I get e-mailed a couple of questions from someone applying for admission to the Melbourne Business School (MBS) MBA program (or at least someone's who is researching the MBS MBA). I always reply to these e-mails though, depending on my workload at the time, it sometimes takes me a few days to do so.

Less frequently, I get e-mails from people -- usually international students -- who have already been admitted to the program and are now preparing to move to Melbourne. These new MBS students almost always ask me about life at MBS, in Melbourne, and, more generally, in Australia.

I, in turn, recommend the following three resources to them as good places to do preliminary research before asking me more specific questions:

1. University of Melbourne Website

The 'International Students' section of the University of Melbourne's Future Students website is a great place to start your online research. You can learn about everything from how to apply for your student visa all the way down to what your first year here will be like. The 'Preparing for Study' page is particularly useful.

2. UMPA's 360 Degree Guide

Every year, the University of Melbourne Postgraduate Association (UMPA) publishes its excellent 360 Degree Guide: The All-Round Guide for Graduates at the University of Melbourne. This tells you pretty much everything you need to know about university life (though, as you would expect, it focuses more on Melbourne Uni than on MBS) and postgraduate student life in Melbourne. It is an invaluable resource for new postgrads.

The best part about this is that all postgrads are entitled to a free copy of the 360 Degree Guide. If you haven't been mailed one along with your admissions pack, you can pick up the latest edition from the Student Services office at MBS or from the UMPA office itself. Alternatively, you can download it in PDF format from the UMPA website.

3. MBS Student Blogs

Finally, for the most in-depth information about life at MBS (and not just life at Melbourne Uni) you should read the blogs written by current MBS students. I maintain a list of those blogs -- along with a list of MBS alumni, staff, and faculty blogs -- on my 'MBS Bloggers' page.

Unfortunately, MBS hasn't formalized the student blogging process like, say, LBS, Darden, Berkeley, Ivey, Wharton, MIT, Sauder, Rutgers, and Cornell have...but I'm hoping they do so in the near future.

Any Others?

Have I missed any other useful resource? If so, let me know in the comments. Thanks.

EIU Ranks MBS' MBA at #26

The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2008 MBA rankings are in and there's good news: Melbourne Business School's MBA is now #26 in the world and still #1 in Australia.

This is quite an achievement because, when I joined MBS in 2006, it was ranked #88 in the world (though still #1 in Australia).

Read more about it in this MBS news article: MBS Ranking: Highest Ever for an Australian Business School.

MBS Video Content on Qantas A380s

Thanks to the Deloitte Leadership Academy, all passengers flying aboard Qantas' Airbus A380s will have free access to business courses -- ranging from five-minute videos to 40-minute lectures -- supplied by Melbourne Business School, Harvard Business School (including Harvard Business Review articles), Stanford Graduate School of Business, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, and the University of New South Wales.


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