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An Executive MBA Evolution

Bath University’s London/Bath/Silicon Valley-based EMBA aims to leverage Apprenticeship Levy funding to build leadership capability


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As the business environment that executives have to operate in evolves at a dizzying pace, it is necessary that the programs that help develop them do so too. Velocity of change is probably the most significant shift between business today and even a decade ago – let alone at the turn of the century when the MBA was at its peak of popularity and prominence – and so the MBA has had to adapt too.

The Executive MBA still retains an enormous pull though. In an era when people change job roles, companies and careers frequently – and where the demands of jobs are consistent only in their changeability – a structured exploration of the main areas of business competence prepares managers to deal with emerging issues and the variety of challenges that all this change inevitably brings.

The School of Management at the University of Bath is launching a London-based Executive MBA in April 2019, which will take the participants 22 months to complete and a monthly commitment of a Thursday, Friday and Saturday in London. (A second EMBA intake based in Bath will commence later in 2019 – dates to be confirmed). So much is fairly familiar, but as Jan Stiles head of executive education at the school explains the design of the program is very different to previous such programs.


Click here to learn more about the Executive MBA run from London or Bath by the School of Management at the University of Bath


The 22-months pivot around two week-long residential sessions, the first in Bath itself, which focuses on leadership and the second, more adventurously is a study tour to Silicon Valley towards the end of the first year, where the participants will visit technology businesses at the cutting-edge of change. The study tour is increasingly used in executive education as it combines many critical elements for adult learning.

A challenge for any program design is how much traditional teaching can be compressed into intensive programs – and still be retained after the program ends. Anything we have experienced is vastly more likely to be retained and understood than concepts that have merely been explained and worked through in a case study. It is not just the experience itself however, but the post-experience facilitated discussion which embeds the learning. Thus, from a program design perspective, having covered the theory first opens up the mind to absorb and explore the details and impact of any experience that follows.

The Bath EMBA Silicon Valley week builds on the first year’s exploration of innovation and disruptive technology, and provides the opportunity to bed in this learning and gain insights through experiencing how it is practiced on-the-ground. By visiting a variety of different businesses, practicing different disruptive approaches provides a variety of perspectives that the participants can bring back to analyse together – sharing their common experience and applying it to their own organizational situations.

The University of Bath expects to have the EMBA accredited for the Level 7 Apprenticeship Levy funding by Autumn 2019 (NB. Not in time for the April, London based program). Once applicable the levy will cover 50% of the program cost for eligible organizations, so bringing it into the budget of many people and organizations that previously may have been cautious of such a substantial investment. Interestingly, there are private study tour providers charging more than the whole EMBA fee for just a week’s visit to Silicon Valley.

The Apprenticeship Levy is however not merely about reducing cost – it is a more fundamental shift in adult education structure than that. It provides an impetus from government for academic development to be moved from the traditional front-loading of all formal education happening by your mid-20s, to a more natural and realistic spreading of learning over whole careers. This is even more important, as noted, with the work landscape evolving ever more quickly, and once vital skills becoming redundant or outmoded potentially several times across a career.

Executive Masters, of which the EMBA is the leading product, are consequently increasingly in vogue as they fit with organizational needs for new skills, they work for people already immersed in their careers, and they work pedagogically, drawing on the exchange and facilitation of participant experience and knowledge – and also build on that with new experiences, insights, and thinking.

It is vital that the executive development sector continues to evolve as fast as the business environment it seeks to serve. The flexibility and innovation that Bath is offering is very much in line with this goal.

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