This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review, Monday, 21 September 2015 by Tim Dodd
An MBA needs applied learning, says Laureate CEO Linda Brown
A young, but very well-connected upstart, wants to appeal to MBA students
Torrens, the new private university based in Adelaide, wants to move quickly to becoming one of Australia’s major MBA providers.
Owned by Laureate, a global education company formed by US entrepreneur Doug Becker, Torrens scooped up the long-established Chifley Business School in July and aims to be a major player in the highly fragmented Australian MBA market.
Chifley, which was originally established by a professional organisation, the then Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA), was “created by industry for industry” said Laureate Australia CEO Linda Brown.
“They really valued industry professionals as much as traditional universities would value researchers,” she says.
Torrens University, only established in 2012, already has a modest-sized MBA program and this this will be merged with the Chifley MBA.
Torrens will plug the new MBA into a network of new, modern campuses it is establishing around Australia which have the vibe of Silicon Valley offices with flexible rooms, funky lounge areas, large open spaces and easily available coffee and snacks.
In these campuses, the MBA co-exists with the business-oriented bachelor degrees offered by Torrens and the vocational qualifications offered by Think Education, a private provider purchased outright by Laureate in 2013.
Until now the Chifley MBA has not had a teaching home. Students worked online, interspersed by sessions at hotels and the like. Now merged with Torrens, students will have the choice of continuing to study online, or use any of the Laureate campuses to touch base with each other and their instructors.
And they can use these facilities at any time.
“If people want to be creative at 2 o’clock in the morning we should be able to supply them with that service,” said Ms Brown.
“It’s important students have a home if they want to get a group together, they’ve got 24/7 access, you can pull people into a project team to do applied learning.”
She said being “hybrid”, rather than purely online, is important in education so students “physically meet other people, and do the networking and do the connections”.
“But if somebody wants to do it 100 per cent online and they are still participating in the forums using online tools, and they’ve still got the graduate attributes like teamwork and communication and presentation skills, then they can still pass their qualification,” she said.
Ms Brown said Laureate’s philosophy is to keep education close to industry. “We want every student who comes to any one of our organisations to go to work.”
And those who are already working as they study can use their work to enhance their study and count as credit toward their qualification.
“Applied learning is really critical for us. If they [students] don’t have any experience, one of our promises is to make that connection and make sure they have experience by the time they graduate.”
Laureate, a private company with revenue of a reported $4 billion or more, has the resources to be a heavyweight player in the Australian MBA market. It can source curriculums and teaching materials from its more than 80 universities world-wide.
For example, it recently launched an MBA in sports management in Australia in partnership with Real Madrid Graduate School Universidad Europea, an education institution which Laureate owns in Spain and which has the cachet of a close link to football team Real Madrid.
It also has a finely honed marketing strategy, using online advertising and call centres to reach potential students.
Mr Becker, who founded Laureate International Universities nearly 20 years ago and remains its chairman and chief executive, has built close links with powerful figures. Former US president Bill Clinton held the position of chancellor until this year when he resigned as his wife, Hillary, formally announced her campaign for president. One of his board members is Bob Zoellick, the former US Trade Representative and World Bank president.
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