The School of Hard Knocks

November 18, 2008

Every once and a while, the Financial Times runs a section called “business education.” Inevitably, the section is filled with advertisements for MBA programmes. Today though one ad in particular caught my attention. It asked “Crisis or opportunity?” And then had some text, which explained that the question referred to whether the crisis would generate opportunities for “the exceptional to see solutions.” But I understood something different: the crisis, i.e. the loss of your well-paid job in the financial sector, created an opportunity for you to pursue an MBA at the Imperial College London Business School. And I don’t think that my misunderstanding was an accident – the ad was written to suggest this.

There is in fact no hard evidence (that I could find anyway) that during periods of economic downturn applications to graduate school (including business programmes) goes up significantly. But that is surely the common wisdom amongst college campuses. Within my own department, the possibility for a particularly strong applicant pool and intake for next year’s post-graduate degrees has already been mentioned. There are at least two reasons to believe that academia is “counter-cyclical.” First, undergraduate students who during strong economies would finish their degrees and go seek jobs in the “real world” will be more likely to stick around campus to pursue a master’s degree. Secondly, out of work business people will go and get an MBA, or embark on something further afield that has long been a dormant interest (though I don’t quite believe the member of my department that suggested that these sort of people are likely to fall into PhDs – one needs a much stronger motivation to engage in years of painful unpaid research than unemployment!)

In any case, if there’s any truth to the idea that recession is good for academic business, it’s good news for our house, seeing as both of our two incomes come from the Ivory Tower. Maybe particularly good news in my case. Several years ago all of the students in my classes were interested in trade (trade and finance being the two sides of the discipline I teach in, International Political Economy). Now no one can get enough of finance. Paradoxically, financial crises are doubly good for my business.

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2 Responses to “The School of Hard Knocks”

  1. Lies Craeynest said

    I hope you will leave a thought for the poor and miserable bankers as you glumly celebrate your new fortunes!
    ;)

  2. […] not decreased it.  I find myself busier than ever, but maybe that’s because we work in a counter-cyclical industry, where student numbers and demand for consultancy tend to go up when crises hit.   Fortunately, […]

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