A short history of the MBA

Posted by MMU on 02-Jun-2016 10:00:00

Since the first MBA was introduced by Harvard University in 1908, it has undergone many changes. here, we chart its journey to the present day.


These days, the MBA is a firm fixture at many universities, and is used by many professionals as a stepping stone in their business career. However, the MBA itself is a relatively new concept that took around 50 years to reach the UK after it was first introduced.

Along the way, it has come in for its fair share of criticism. As you’re about to see, this has served to ensure universities continually update their programmes to ensure the offer a learning experience that will benefit graduates in today’s business landscape.

Let’s take a look at the MBA’s intriguing journey.

Who were the first adopters of the MBA? 

The first university to offer an MBA was Harvard, which accepted 80 students into its first programme in 1908. The world’s first Executive MBA programme was introduced at Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 1943.

It was around this time that other countries began to show interest in this American model, with Canada’s University of Western Ontario awarding the first non-US MBA in 1950. South Africa’s University of Pretoria (1951) and Pakistan’s University of Karachi (1955) led the way in introducing the MBA to new continents, and in 1957 the French business school INSEAD brought the idea to European shores for the first time.

UK universities soon followed suit, with London and Manchester the first two cities to get involved. However, early British adopters were criticised for adhering so closely to the US model, with many suggesting the programme was focused on solving American problems and had not been tailored to meet the needs of UK business professionals.

In 2002, Manchester Met introduced its first MBA programme.

How has the programme changed?

While today’s MBA requires students to have acquired at least some business experience before joining, initially people were enrolling as soon as they completed their undergraduate degree. The ‘core’ subjects such as accounting, business strategy and finance, which today would make up just a small part of the first year of your programme, were pretty much all you needed to be awarded an MBA.

For this reason, many business people dismissed the MBA as irrelevant and inadequate preparation for the realities of a career in business. There was little taught about management, communication and other key skills needed to be successful in a business environment.

By the 1950s and 60s, the criticism became too big for the universities to ignore. They quickly increased teaching standards, tightened entry criteria and amended their course structure.

Courses became more comprehensive, and universities brought in a system of core introductory models followed by more advanced learning. This structure endures today, albeit the content of these models has shifted slightly.

This can partly be attributed to a fresh round of criticism in the 1990s, when many businesses expressed doubts about the MBA’s relevance to modern business. The feeling was that MBAs had become too focused on theory and academia, with not enough time given to learning the practical skills needed.

Once again, universities were quick to address their concerns, and now the vast majority of programmes include modules related to concepts such as leadership, business ethics, human resources and IT systems.

Manchester Met follows a similar structure to the one brought in by many business schools at this time. The first year is set aside for compulsory core modules, while the second and third years allow students to choose elective models that best match their career aspirations.

Looking to the future

Universities are keener than ever to stay ahead of the curve and ensure MBA programmes continue to provide a relevant, up-to-date learning experience that will satisfy the business community. Manchester Met is no different.

This year, we have introduced specialist MBAs in fields such as digital management, financial services and strategic health and social care.

Our entry requirements ensure only those most suited to our programme are accepted, while our scholarships ensure that the most impressive applicants are rewarded for their efforts. If all this sounds like it would be the ideal next step in your business career, apply today and start your journey with Manchester Met.


Topics: MBA