Professor Doug Hyatt was at Henley Business School Africa in the first week of February with his 36-member executive global MBA class.
Henley was the penultimate stop in the six module 18-month executive global MBA programme run by the University of Toronto’s Rotman Business School. Designed for mid to senior level managers, it was originally a dual degree awarded by both Rotman and the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, catering for business professionals either looking for an expatriate corporate career or one in a multinational where having both a European and a North American business qualification would be an essential asset.
For the last couple of years though the executive global MBA has been offered by Rotman alone, with the next dual qualification, this time in tandem with Milan’s University of Bocconi, due to start up later this year.
The students begin with a two-week module in Toronto and then meet every quarter thereafter for a fortnight in a different continent, with a week in each country. This class has been to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Delhi, San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Budapest, Milan and now Johannesburg, with the final week in Dubai.
“The philosophy,” says Hyatt, “is that we wanted to be the most global of the global executive MBA programmes, we wanted to create a set of perspectives that aren’t just London, New York or Paris – although there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The students work between the modules, using technology to access on demand lessons or attend contemporaneous lectures via video link. As Hyatt explains: “before we get to the actual modules we try to open up blocks of time to allow for experiential learning in country, otherwise it just becomes a very long commute to the classroom. The students like to get out and see what people are doing.”
It’s a deep learning immersion experience much loved by Dean Jon Foster-Pedley at Henley Business School Africa, indeed it was Foster-Pedley who encouraged Hyatt to bring his students over to South Africa.
Hyatt met Foster-Pedley during one of his annual trips to Henley UK, where Rotman has enjoyed a 10-year partnership, dating back to the days when one of its MBA graduates wanted to study further and Henley’s DBA degree was the best fit. Hyatt played a major role in Rotman becoming a North American study provider for the Henley DBA programme.
“Henley was well established in the world, but not in North America, the problem was the typical one; not enough doctoral supervisors for too many students. We had both the capacity and the reputation as a top 20 institution – the programme and the partnership were a success from the very beginning and remain so to this day.”
The South African leg of the Rotman Global MBA began three years ago, with Johannesburg replacing Istanbul in Turkey due to geo-political issues, although student demand had been rising for Africa to be placed on the list. Hyatt’s original instinct had been to take the programme to Kenya where he first worked in the 1980s, but Foster-Pedley and Henley Business School Africa’s resources and facilities persuaded him otherwise.
“Our students are interested in sustainability and entrepreneurship,” he says, noting that the trip to Johannesburg has been particularly popular, with daily trips to businesses and NGOs in the city, as well as excursions to Soweto, with guest speakers being brought in to address the students.
This year though, Henley Business School Africa has not presented the international business course, as it has in the last two trips, only because of logistical reasons. This will resume when the next Rotman cohort returns next year.
The Johannesburg/Dubai module is special for Rotman and the students.
“This is the end of the programme; the students are seeing things through a far different lens. They’ve been through a lot together, they’ve seen the best and worst of each other over 18 months, coping with jet lag and different cultures and experiences. China is a perfect example, it’s literally night to Canada’s day being 12 hours ahead and exactly at the opposite ends of the earth.
“Now though the students are preparing for the end of their course and they’re talking among themselves about how to keep this fellowship going. They’re not excited about it almost being over, they’re actually a little frantic it’s about to end.
“That’s the kind of programme this global MBA has become,” he says.