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History of MBA Schools in Canada

The history of the establishment of MBA schools in Canada.

Establishment of the Canadian MBA Degree Program

Following the recommendations made by Canada's foremost Corporate Executive Officers (CEOs) and presidents regarding the desirability and feasibility of founding graduate-level business management education, the MBA degree was established in Canada in September of 1948.

Prior to 1948, management education in Canada consisted of individual and Continuing Education courses and non-degree programs. As the structure of the corporation became more complex, in large part due to the introduction of new business and labour management practices, and as the global economy became stabilized following World War II, Canada's business community increasingly required highly specialized, well-educated managers capable of operating in this new environment. Thus, there was growing belief among Business in the desirability for training programs that could turn out the type of business administrators, executives, and managers that were needed in and by the corporate world. Believing that Business should specialize in business and schools should focus on education, the corporate world logically, in its view, saw these new programs as something that should be within the domain of institutions of higher learning. Therefore, in 1948, at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), a meeting of Canada's 100 premier CEOs and presidents convened to discuss if and how business education could be expanded and enhanced particularly through the founding of MBA, executive, and doctorate programs. As a result of the conclusions reached at this meeting, Canada's first executive, the Management Training Course, and MBA programs were officially launched in 1948 at UWO, and the first MBA degree was awarded two years later. Following the success of the MBA program, Canada's fist doctorate program in business administration commenced in 1961, also at UWO. Based on the UWO model, MBA programs began to be established in post-secondary institutions across Canada; by the late 1970s, every major provincial urban centre in Canada had at least one institution with an MBA degree offering.

Originally, MBA programs were 2 years in duration with the first year devoted to the teaching of a core of business fundamentals and the second year focussing on education in either general management or in an area of concentration as chosen by the student. However, by the late 1970s to early 1980s, there was increasing dissatisfaction, especially on the part of the business community, with two aspects of the MBA programs being offered. Firstly, there was objection to the tendency to educate students in the theoretical knowledge of business while ignoring the teaching of its practical applications; that is, the curriculum was divorced from reality. Secondly, business education was criticized as being crude and amateurish because it was individuals with little or no direct experience and/or formal education in business who were primarily teaching it. Thus, beginning in the late 1970s, graduate business education increasingly blended theoretical with practical knowledge, including, in rare cases, the introduction of cooperative learning. Moreover, the standards of business education were improved by requiring future instructors to have at least an extensive, formal business education, with preference awarded to those with direct business experience. As a result of the latter, it is common today for post-secondary business educators to be former business people and entrepreneurs who not only teach the required curriculum but also divulge personal knowledge and advice accrued during their respective careers. As the business world has continued to change, so to has the form and content of MBA programs. For example, while the traditional 2-year MBA program still exists at the dawn of the 21st century, since the mid-1990s industry- and sector-specific MBA degrees have been offered, and programs have moved beyond simply teaching business fundamentals and disciplines and into developing students' "soft" skills such as analytical, communication, leadership, broadly defined, interpersonal, networking, and teamwork abilities.

Established in 1948, the MBA degree exists not only to provide individuals with the qualifications to advance their respective careers but also to help meet the needs of Business for specialized individuals well-versed in the abilities to manage in the modern business world. In addition, the introduction of the MBA program has provided the impetus for greater integration between schools and the business world. In fact, not only are former business people increasingly teaching business education but most schools have ongoing, direct dialogue with Business to develop new courses and programs and transform and/or expand existing ones to ensure they are relevant to the needs of the Business. For the latter's purpose, some educational institutions, like Simon Fraser University, have even formed permanent school-corporate committees.

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