In recent years, you have been the Dean of Specialist Postgraduate Programmes at the University. Has the Executive MBA programme changed in the meantime?
During the Covid period we intensively developed the Executive MBA programme. We tried to rethink the whole concept and approach in such a way that we were not influenced by the past of the programme, but rather by what is needed in the market. So we’ve been talking to our graduates, to major employers, to our students and to our lecturers about how we can make the programme more practical.
It was also a challenge to align the programme with Maastricht University from a professional and regulatory point of view. Today, graduates receive degrees from both universities, all while gaining international experience as well. Our students go to Maastricht for two weeks after the first year and study there, and there are also foreign lecturers in the programme here in Budapest. Not only are the lecturers from the partner university international, but we also bring in lecturers from abroad. It is a local programme that is at the same time global. I think this is particularly important at regional level, because we can provide the international background and studies locally for which you would otherwise have to travel somewhere else.
You mentioned that the programme was renewed a few years ago. What new elements have been added in response to market needs?
There were three major areas that we reinforced. One of them is a very conscious executive development, which is now taking place throughout all four semesters. In the Executive MBA programme, we take executives to the next level. Knowing more does not make a better executive , the key is to fulfil the executive role better. This means skills development, increased self-awareness and executive skills. In addition to the subjects that are taught, we also focus on how they achieve their own goals, how well they can set them, how well they stick to them, how well they can communicate them. They follow a journey during the two-year programme, which we call the “leadership journey” in the programme. The programme is long enough to give them serious support to move forward in their executive careers. We use different tools to achieve this, including assigning experienced senior executive mentors to each participant.
The way we approach change has also evolved. Previously, the subject “Change management” was taught in the last semester. It was an integrative subject with the aim of putting into practice what they had learned so far. However, we recognise that today it’s all about change, so we’ve built in a challenge every semester that pushes students out of their comfort zone. A good example of this is our Social Entrepreneurship subject, where students can try their hand in a field they are not familiar with, or our Disruptive Development Project, where they have to solve unstructured problems. We develop their ability to adapt to any new situation that arises in the life of a person or a company. We can no longer wait for the world to return to “normal”, because there is no such thing. We can’t make excuses and say, for example, that there’s a war on, so we are not going to perform. Despite the circumstances, or rather in the midst of them, we must find ways to succeed. I think we need to equip the executives of the future with resources by demonstrating these current challenges in all fields of expertise. This kind of approach also helps participants to acquire an entrepreneurial mindset.
One of the main challenges is rapid technological development. What is the course “Digital Transformation and Process Management” that you teach in the programme about?
This is a rather nerdy subject on digital disruption. We look at what the technology trends are, but we always end up looking at their implications for business. We always ask ourselves what we can use the new technology for, for example, how it will increase efficiency or profit. This year’s hot topic was artificial intelligence. We held a full-day workshop with an external expert, Róbert Nagy, to understand how the AI-based solutions we use every day work and then figure out how to make a business of them. Every participant in the MBA programme brings with them a massive amount of work experience, so a lot of great ideas emerged from the small group work when we started to turn the latest tools into business models.
So, is it typical for students to cooperate with each other?
This is the basis of our approach to education. We take different topics and then usually work on them in groups, and we change the composition of the groups from time to time. We try to organise the groups in such a way that membersare not from the same company, but have a mix of work experience and industrial background. In this way, we try to promote networking and knowledge sharing as much as possible during classes, which then continues throughout lunch and breaks.
Will the student community continue to exist remain after the programme? Is there organised alumni life?
It’s basically up to them to keep in touch, but the university also organises alumni events. I think that we will always have a responsibility at the MBA level in keeping together. We had an alumni series where each session was based on a different theme and we selected the participants from the alumni. Someone who has actually worked in the field talked about it. We also work with the SEED Executive School on the Executive MBA programme. Our joint MBA programme is also the pinnacle of this professional cooperation. They also have a very good series of events that reach out to executives who are in and who graduated from the programme.
After your position as Dean, you became Vice President of International Relations at Corvinus in 2022. In recent years, the university has gained several prestigious international accreditations, and the Executive MBA programme has three, making it the only triple crown EMBA in Hungary. Why are these accreditations important?
An accreditation gives you two important things. On the one hand, the programme, the institution will have international recognition. On the other hand, accreditation makes you part of the community. So international good practices are not only embraced to comply with the regulations, but they also emanate from the professional community. We have very good relations with other universities that also offer high-quality MBA programmes. Everybody is developing their programme, and we have a lot of similar problems, and similar challenges – we can discuss them with each other. It is a great opportunity to be part of such international communities.
Accreditation also means international quality assurance. From the university side, this can bring great visibility. For example, there are rankings that will only feature you if you are accredited, or there are certain things you can only do as an accredited institution. So it’s a bit like a club membership, which allows us to work with high quality universities like Maastricht University.
We have two MBA-only accreditations. The AMBA accreditation applies to both our MBA programmes and will be renewed this year. We haven’t got the results yet, but I’m very optimistic, the process has gone well so far. We have a specific EFMD accreditation for the Executive MBA programme, which we renewed last year. It is important to know that we are the only university in Hungary with international accreditations for the MBA programme.
Written by: Tünde Taxner