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Otago Business School celebrates international success

Monday, 15 May 2017 7:15pm

The Otago Business School is boasting some significant successes – with international rankings placing it firmly among the world’s best. And it seems that passionate and dedicated staff are behind this success as the Otago Bulletin Board discovered.

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Celebrating success ... Otago Business School Dean Professor Robin Gauld (left), Executive Programmes Director Ian Lafferty and Executive Programmes Web Marketing Manager Hester Cheong. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Established just two years ago, Otago’s online MBA is already punching above its weight internationally.

London-based CEO Magazine recently ranked it the fourth best in the world, while the QS Online MBA chart put it at number 24.

These are incredible achievements which thrill, but don’t surprise, those involved.

Executive Programmes Web Marketing Manager Hester Cheong says the team set out to create a quality online MBA programme that ensured a great learning experience – and has achieved it.

“On both QS' and CEO Magazine's methodologies, there are measures on the quality of the online programmes. Our high student engagement, high lecturer to student ratio, highly qualified team of lecturers, diversity of the class, regular class attendance, programme accreditations, high growth, opportunities for group work and interaction, professional development and physical meet-up all contributed favourably to our rankings,” she says.

A global student body

The programme is the only one of its kind offered in New Zealand. Students study exactly the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, submit similar assignments and sit similar examinations. They also go through the same entry requirements and selection process.

However, they come from across the globe.

Executive Programmes Director Ian Lafferty says about 130 students are currently enrolled in the online programme, and are based in 40 town and cities, including locations in New Zealand, Australia, The Philippines, Singapore, Dubai and New Caledonia.

“They have a range of different work experience and come from different professional and cultural backgrounds, with an average of 17 years' work experience.”

He says the real beauty of the programme is that students can study from wherever they are while enjoying the same level of engagement available in traditional classroom-style education.

“All they need is a good internet connection.”

Sharing in the success

The first cohort of students will graduate this year – and for them the international recognition of the programme backs up what they already believe: this is a fantastic course.

Karen Harvey-Vallee says: “We already knew the lecturers are the best but it's great to have that information out there demonstrating not only the value that the MBA (and all that hard work) can add to our knowledge but also as an extra selling-point in the job market.”

A student from cohort four, Dhiren Dunraj, agrees.

“Otago is already highly reputable as a university but to see the exact course that I am studying ranked amongst the best in the world in CEO Magazine was fantastic and adds great credibility since the online format is relatively new.”

Dedication behind the scenes

For staff the rankings are a recognition of long hours, often stretching well beyond the call of duty and certainly beyond their original job descriptions, Ms Cheong says.

“All the efforts that go into preparing, launching, organising, communicating and student selection have been well recognised.

“Lecturers are specially selected for their teaching ability as well as their strong background in practical experiences and academic excellence. We have even set up our own IT team to train and help the students and lecturers on the technology used, and make sure that lectures are run smoothly. Every aspect is just very well organised and executed.”

Success breeds success

The implications for the Business School, and for the University of Otago are huge.

“As an education institution we can do a great job regardless of the size of our programmes or our location in a small city at the bottom of the globe, and achieve the international recognition we deserve,” Ms Cheong says. “As a small programme, the Otago MBA has punched above its weight to be ranked very favourably on international rankings.

“For the Business School and University of Otago, the new rankings are a fantastic achievement which everyone is enormously proud of. They show that we are firmly amongst the best.”

Business School, Tourism and Entrepreneurship ranking well

The online MBA isn’t the only success coming out of the Otago Business School. In the last round of Eduniversal worldwide rankings announced in March, the School’s Tourism programme ranked 17th worldwide, while Entrepreneurship ranked 45th. On QS’ ranking, the School itself came in the top 101 to 150 business schools.

New Dean, Professor Robin Gauld, says this is only the beginning – and the School is getting ready for more great things to come.

“The Business School has been very focused on high performance in recent years; the focus on performance improvement is the legacy that Professor George Benwell, former Dean, has left.

“Our aspiration now is to take our performance to a new level. The MBA, Tourism and Entrepreneurship Masters degrees show what is possible and provide a very real boost; the next step is to ensure that all our degrees are ranked amongst the best internationally, and that the School continues to move up the rankings.”

A view to the future

Professor Gauld says he is really excited for the future, heading a School that is “most definitely on a strong path of improvement and excellence in everything we do.”

“We are presently in the process of developing a strategy for the future of the Otago Business School. This will sharpen our focus and escalate our activities in various areas. Given the global challenges we presently face, business education is an increasingly important player in how the business and broader community responds,” he says.

“We have a key role in facilitating learning around responsible and ethical leadership, partnering with students and the business community in this, and influencing policy with cutting-edge research. This, of course, will inform how and what we teach and ensure the growing reputation of the Otago Business School and its various degrees.”