|Case Study Materials for MBA in HE Management|
|Monday, 26 September 2005|
This is a proposal for work within WLE Centre to develop case study material for use on the MBA in higher education management, and other Institute programmes where appropriate. It is particularly appropriate to centre’s aim of supporting the learning of educational professionals.
Use of case materials
The MBA in higher education management, as with most MBA programmes, places emphasis on syndicate group work. This offers the well-known learning benefits of small group work (which is contrasted on the programme by whole-class sessions, so making for a varied learning environment) and helps build group cohesion with the benefits that offers for progress and retention. MBA participants are middle to senior university and college managers, from both academic and administrative backgrounds. The quality of the syndicate group work depends, though, on the appropriateness of the task presented: it must be challenging both intellectually and in volume terms, but not impossibly complex or obscure.
Most MBA programmes rely heavily on the use of case studies in teaching: it is the classical method developed by the Harvard Business School, for instance, and is particularly suited to small group work. Usually, the cases are selected to make a particular learning point or points. Our own approach has been rather different and (I would argue) more sophisticated, accepting that the complex reality of a large organisation cannot be neatly delineated in a short case study, from which “right” answers can be drawn. Nevertheless, the case study approach has many benefits, and we have developed and used a number of very effective cases in various of our modules. Data have been presented from which participants have been required to draw their own conclusions, working creatively with the material to hand.
Need for case study development in higher education
Generic MBA programmes are able to draw on a vast range of case studies, such as those provided through ECCH (the European case clearing house), operated by Cranfield University. But these are based entirely on business models: while these may be helpful in highlighting contrasts with university situations, they fail to engage with the distinctive realities of managing in higher education.
What are needed are detailed case studies of key situations of change in higher education which can be used to support learning in our MBA modules. So, a case based on an institutional merger would be used to support the strategy module; a case based on a university financial crisis would be used to support the finance module; and so on. For syndicate group work, they should allow a question to be posed along the lines of, “what should the institution’s management do now?” These cases could be used repeatedly, both by the MBA programme and other Institute programmes such as short courses.
As with most business cases, the higher education cases should be of named institutions, thereby adding to the sense of engaging with the reality of management which we consider to be an important part of the MBA experience. In some instances, it may be possible to create the case from materials in the public domain; in other cases, the cooperation of the institution may be needed.
Project for WLE - Centre for Excellence
Producing good-quality cases is a labour-intensive process, as we know from the limited number of cases that we have so far developed. Both empirical data and contextual material need to be collected and blended into an integrated whole, which attempts to capture at least something of the reality of the particular situation under examination. Our hope would be that the case would lend itself to multiple interpretations and choices – as is invariably the case in actual management.
In 2005/06, the intention would be to develop three high-quality cases, which could be used for the MBA programme. Some additional input may be needed to assist in their preparation.