They say the Business School is an institution of fluff, where undergraduates immerse in superficial assignments and meaningless lessons (cosy seminars or sectionals, as the administration terms markets them). Is “business” even an academic discipline that can be taught or learnt? Critics posit, there is absolutely no need to “study” business to “do” business in the future; for instance, how many times has one heard of entrepreneurs who have graduated from the School of Hard Knocks, or of multi-millionaires who have carved out successful careers despite dropping out. The scorn poured, it would appear, is well-justified.
The most straightforward defence would be the direct and genuine applicability of the school modules offered, in contemporary corporate settings: business analytics, accountancy, and human resource management et cetera. Generally speaking, these graduates would be extremely employable: they can design spread-sheets and optimisation programmes to maximise work productivity; they can do up the accounts and finances competently and responsibly; and they would be well-versed in marketing and management decisions. Things you could probably get from reading, without the collective experience, professorial expertise, and intensity.
Yet, perhaps the greatest shortcoming in the Business School is the incessant pressure to conform, to do reasonably well so that you can embark on certain well-defined pathways. Pathways that have been tried and tested for decades; pathways that thousands before you have treaded upon; and pathways that guarantee desired monetary and career success.
The Business School will take the opportunity to promote two propositions: first, that its students are well-rounded, holistic (this word, for some reason, gets on my nerves) individuals; and second, that it has produced outstanding graduates who have gone on to pursue unconventional endeavours (we all know these examples are far from representative). Malarkey. If we were sincere about making a difference in the lives of students and others, maybe Career Services should stop harping on meaningless statistics, “of 50% of students going into the Finance industry, and the rest…”, or telling the young ones – constantly – the importance of laying out four-year plans, attending networking sessions, getting internships, and participating in enrichment workshops. Shouldn’t university be a place for active learning and personal engagement, and not just “what should I do to get the dream job”, “how can I look presentable to prospective employers”, or “how to emulate the success of another”?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Definitely looks great for potential freshmen and their parents, but we are simply perpetuating a culture of pedantic conventionality.
Sure, who are we to judge? There will be those who are genuinely interested in entering certain business fields, and there is – ostensibly – nothing wrong with these career decisions. But it has got me thinking: if we were prepared to take a leap of faith (and with a little encouragement), to explore unchartered territories, we would probably realise that there is so much more that can be done if these business skills and knowledge (which are actually effective and useful) were employed in dissimilar domains.
Meanwhile, as mind-sets slowly shift, we need to take charge of our own lives.
And I think the question that should be asked (of ourselves), is: packed with these abilities and information, what can we do to make this world a better place? Horribly clichéd, I know, but damn – amidst all the petty competition and mugging – do we need to remind ourselves.