Record number of M.B.A. students speaks for itself

  • 2003-05-29
  • Aleksei Gunter

Regardless of trends in the U.S.A., where the once dominant M.B.A. as a key to six-digit salaries has been declining in importance, in Estonia the degree's popularity in on the rise.

Better still, an M.B.A. from an Estonian university is much cheaper than in many European institutions.

Roul Tutt, a 28-year-old student at Tallinn Technical University, is about to receive his M.B.A. this year.

"In my opinion the level of Estonian education is high enough to find a job both in Estonia and abroad. In some cases the quality of education may vary depending upon the specialty," said Tutt, who previously earned a bachelor of art degree in international business administration from Concordia International University.

Tutt added that the more internationally important subjects Estonian M.B.A. programs feature, the more competitive Estonian graduates will be.

In Estonia there are four universities where one can receive an M.B.A.

Tartu University and Tallinn Technical University - both public – have full approval for their M.B.A. programs, while programs at Concordia (see story on Page 1) and the Estonian Business School are still under review.

Currently M.B.A. programs based in Estonia can be approved fully or conditionally by the Ministry of Education and Science. Both private M.B.A. programs have been approved conditionally - i.e. for a trial period of two years during which the program must be improved.

However, the number of state-issued grants to business school students is set to decrease as the Ministry of Education and Science has decided to reduce the number in favor of those specialists that the government needs.

According to Heli Aru, head of the higher education department at the ministry, the ministry wants to gain more specialists in areas designated as strategic for Estonia over the upcoming years.

"The state priority now is to have more IT specialists, engineers, environment protection experts and biologists," said Aru.

"As people going for an M.B.A. are also ready to pay for it, the state order for economists naturally decreases. However, the state is not going to cut free M.B.A. studies to zero because it needs new teaching staff," she explained.

Aru said that although the M.B.A. program at the Estonian Business School is conditionally approved, the local media have repeatedly hailed the program as being well-planned and suitable for future employers.

"Approved programs are accepted by Estonia and by other countries in Europe. The value of an approved program is that a student can continue studies abroad, and his previous education will count there," Aru said.

The three plus two plan recently carried out by all Estonian universities has basically cut the time needed to acquire a master's degree from six to five years. Two years ago it would had taken 4 - 5 years to get a bachelor's degree and another one or two years to have it upgraded to a master's.

In Aru's opinion, this shift will increase the number of M.B.A. programs available in Estonia.

"People who already hold a bachelor's degree will have more options for getting the master's degree. Perhaps most of them will go for an M.B.A. after receiving technical or other special training," she said.

Karen Voolaid, M.B.A. program developer at the Estonian Business School, says that according to surveys carried out by EBS among Estonian businessmen, the importance of M.B.A.s will increase in the near future.

"While large companies think the three plu two plan will devalue higher education, universities think a four-year master's degree will be more useful for the labor market than a four-year B.A. program," said Voolaid.

"Estonian top managers value an M.B.A. more if they hold one themselves, and in Estonia the number of M.B.A. students has grown," she said, adding that in 2003 a record number of M.B.A. students – 106 – will graduate from EBS.

"International competition is getting tougher, and for middle and top managers an M.B.A. diploma is a must when doing business with Western Europe and the United States. It helps achieve higher trust and respect," said Voolaid.

Voolaid said she was sure a specialist with an Estonian diploma was competitive abroad as well.

"An M.B.A. diploma speaks for itself," she said.