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DateLine Sunday, 17 August 2008

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MBA aimed at empowering students - Dr. Kodituwakku

Following is a response from Dr.Sarath S. Kodituwakku (Coordinator/MBA Program, and Chairman, Board of Study in Business Administration, Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture ,University of Peradeniya) to the article “Money spinner for ‘unscrupulous’ academics- which appeared in the Sunday Observer on August 10.

A Rising Star in Management Education in Sri Lanka

The University of Peradeniya has been a pioneer in carving out the intellectual traditions of Sri Lanka. The relatively new and rapidly developing Master of Business Administration (MBA) Programme offered by the Post Graduate Institute of Agriculture (PGIA) at Peradeniya— a premier postgraduate institute of Sri Lanka — is yet another landmark in its achievements.

MBA story:

The MBA programme is administered by the Board of Study in Business Administration of the Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture (PGIA), which was initiated under the Parliamentary Ordinance No.9 of 1979. The Board of Study in Business Administration was established on the recommendation of the Council of the University of Peradeniya and the University Grants Commission.

The MBA programme was initiated in 1998 with just 20 students. It was the first MBA Programme offered in Sri Lanka outside Colombo, and the third to be offered by a public university in the country. In its inception the programme was supported by the University of Stirling (U.K), with significant input in designing the curriculum.

It was also supported by the Higher Education Link programme of the British Council.

Presently, the MBA programme has an annual intake of approximately 50 students through a competitive admissions process (approximately 25% of applicants are admitted). Its graduates have been distributed globally across multiple sectors, and have proven their worth as competitors in the global market.

Despite its humble beginnings and relatively small size to date, the programme has been classified by independent reviewers as one of the top MBA programmes in the country.

Strength of the teaching panel and teaching methods: In an era of so called MBA programmes proliferating throughout the country, the qualifications, diversity and credibility of the teaching staff is a key determinant of the value of a programme.

In this respect the MBA programme at Peradeniya is unparalleled. Its faculty is blessed with a highly qualified teaching staff, both industry-leading professionals and academics, many of whom have obtained their academic and professional qualifications from leading institutions worldwide.

The programme employs a myriad of teaching methods ranging from lectures to case-based learning, while up-to-date teaching materials are sourced from leading publishers and institutions worldwide.

Team work is integral to most aspects of the programme and students are exposed to a rigorous and at times high-pressure environment which prepares them for high performance careers, post-graduation. The two and a half year curriculum involves 2 years of coursework followed by a dissertation.

The dissertation, a key quality assurance measure unique among MBA programmes offered in Sri Lanka, is intended to ground students and give them an opportunity to integrate their learnings in a specific real world application, or to pursue in-depth research in a subject area of interest.

MBA association:

One of the key innovations in the MBA programme is the student-led MBA Association (MBAA), which significantly empowers students to have far-reaching impact and influence over the programme.

While initially conceived as a means for students to present a united front, the MBAA has evolved into an instrument that enables the Peradeniya MBA programme to be highly competitive and responsive to both market and student needs, without the need to get mired in the rigid bureaucracy and financial constraints faced by many other programmes in the University.

Through the revenue generated from membership fees, the MBAA is able to spearhead and actively improve the programme by promoting its image externally, upgrading IT infrastructure, managing the procurement and distribution of textbooks and teaching materials, and organizing various seminars and workshops for students, among others.

The MBAA also tops up the minimal allowances paid to lecturers by the state university system to enable the institute to recruit and retain high quality teaching staff.

In one of its most recent endeavors, the MBAA is launching a student-led career planning and placement unit, which hopes to enhance the career prospects of its graduates-a service they hope to extend to other parts of the university as well over time.

This type of highly pro-active and empowered student organization is rare in Sri Lanka (and in the world), and has been cited by many who have reviewed the programme as one of the programme’s key assets. In essence, the MBAA gives students the power and the real world exposure to develop, fund, and manage initiatives that can truly transform the MBA programme, and their professional lives.

Cost of the program:

Many are surprised to note the cost of the MBA programme at University of Peradeniya. The overall student costs include a total course fee of Rs.80,000, a library services fee of Rs.15,000 and a membership fee for the MBA Association of Rs.20,000, plus approximately Rs.50,000 for text books spread over 2-1/2 years.

This total cost positions the Peradeniya MBA as the lowest cost MBA programme in the country. Course fees for MBA programmes based out of other universities in and around Colombo are well over Rs. 300,000. This cost is well within the reach of prospective students, who are themselves working professionals.

For future business leaders seeking a well-grounded, rigorous management education, that will truly give them the skill base to compete in the global economy, the Peradeniya MBA offers an unparalleled option, backed by one of the oldest and most respected academic institutions in the country. An exceptionally high return on investment is virtually guaranteed!

Challenges

The MBA programme, of course, is not without its challenges. As it is based in Kandy, the prospect of a commute to Kandy for weekend classes proves to be a challenge for some students (many of whom work in Colombo)-and a factor that discourages potential candidates from enrolling as well.

In order to overcome this challenge, the Programme is exploring the possibility of offering an accelerated full-time programme option, where students can unplug from their jobs, and immerse themselves completely in the programme for a shorter period of time.

Another key challenge has been the high-bar set by the programme in terms of quality.

The dissertation in particular has been a difficult hurdle for many students to pass-and has hindered the “graduation” of many students. In response, the MBA programme is currently in the process of finalizing a non-dissertation degree option (MBM) for students who are unable to complete the dissertation.

Future plans

The Peradeniya MBA programme is still in its infancy, and has ambitious growth plans-which will no doubt solidify its position as a premiere and much-sought-after MBA programme in Sri Lanka and the region.

The institute will be pursuing potential partnerships with leading global universities to further enhance the programme’s quality. The student intake will grow in the future, and the possibility of sub-specializations in marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, and real estate are being explored.

The soon-to-launched career center will give the market an effective avenue to source excellent management talent while increasing the reach and visibility of the MBA students.

The institution is also exploring opportunities to provide short-term intensive executive education programmes as well.

The Peradeniya MBA Programme is pursuing a path of continuous improvement to meet the ever changing demands of global business, and position its graduates to lead the nation forward. While any new endeavour will have many critics, the institute is confident of its future trajectory and will strive to offer the highest quality products to its target market.

The authors of the article are Dr. Sarath S. Kodithuwakku B.Sc. Agric. (Peradeniya) MBA (Stir.) PhD (Stir) and Mr. Nayana. N. Mawilmada B. Arch (Hampton), MCP (MIT), MBA (Harvard), both affiliated with the MBA Programme.

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