Study Business and Management
Management at RMIT: Professor Peter Sheldrake
At first glance, it would seem not. Australian universities offer courses that may to be similar to those found in leading universities in many other countries of the world - MBAs and MBUs, DBAs and Bachelor's degrees. The subjects are familiar: management development, organisational theory, strategy, marketing, corporate law, finance, and so on. The structures of these courses have a familiarity about them too, in terminology, the sequence of subjects, and even the broad areas of emphasis for focus and attention. This is not just a matter of similarity - there is also a concern for quality deriving from the UK sources of the university system in Australia. A degree from a leading Australian university is as good as a degree from a leading university anywhere in the world, and international criteria are central to our measures of quality and outcome.
However, if you look more closely, you will find there is a difference between courses in Australia and those in the UK… and an important one. This is not because Australia is a land of beaches, barbecues, beautiful sunshine, and fine wines, although it is all of these things! Rather it is because Australia is uniquely placed, both geographically and historically, to be at the confluence of three different approaches to management and management education. It sits at the intersection of the European tradition (especially the UK university approach), the American tradition, and the Asian tradition. Our courses and students draw on these three rich traditions, and are forced to confront both their commonalties and their differences.
In part, this is made clear by the Australian attitude to management. If the primary models of management and management education are inherited from the UK, so the influence of the American way of doing business - and the 'case study' approach - are equally evident. However, we also draw on a quite different tradition, one built around Asian business and family companies, extensive networks and inter-connectedness. It makes for a heady brew - ideas that jostle against each other to create something distinctive and exciting - in a way, rather like the better Australian beers!
Indeed, this is not just an intellectual issue. Australian universities draw students from around the world, but many in particular from South-East Asia; some take a further step, and include study and work placements in this region as an optional part of their courses.
Australians see and talk about the practice of leadership in a variety of cultural contexts, observe and participate in the management of a truly multicultural workforce, and confront the ethical and practical dilemmas of undertaking business in developed and developing countries, as well as in Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian and Shinto cultures. Finally, as a country small in population and large in area on the edge of the world's largest concentration of people, Australians confront the dilemmas of markets, logistics and risk in ways that are hard to appreciate in the European environment.
Study at an Australian university is an opportunity to learn in an environment with a 'life course' in diversity and difference. You will sit alongside students from every imaginable culture, whose values, concerns and priorities are often radically different from your own. Your own teachers may have studied and worked on several different continents. You will also simultaneously be learning about management, leadership and the successful operation of business in a framework that emphasises alternative approaches and cultural sensitivity. It is an approach to management that is well worth considering carefully.
Of course, I don't want to suggest that studying management in Australia is all about multiculturalism and the Asian approach (as if there were 'one' Asian approach!). It is also an opportunity to develop the same rigour and understanding that you would get out of similar courses anywhere in the world. You still learn the fundamentals of reading a balance sheet and constructing a discounted cash flow, how to construct a marketing plan, and the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary approaches to performance management; and you still study the esoteric world of strategic intent, core competencies and business positioning.
On top of all this, you have the opportunity to live and study in Western Australia, a land of everlasting sunshine and beaches: the Northern Territory or Queensland, characterised by sub-tropical climates and rain forests, or the Eastern seaboard, containing the arch rivals of Melbourne and Sydney (both of whom are at pains to point out there is no rivalry at all, but that's because they secretly consider that they are clearly better than the other). Perhaps I should rephrase the question: 'Why wouldn't you want to study management in Australia?'. I can't think of a convincing argument……
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