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Edith Cowan the top-ranked business school for quality

Julie HareEducation editor

Edith Cowan University has taken out the top position in the quality category in the inaugural AFR BOSS Best Business Schools list.

The business programs of the university, which is headquartered in Joondalup in suburban Perth, earned high regard from students.

Students rate the overall experience at Edith Cowan University very highly.  

“The ECU Business School has a long tradition of excellence in teaching and learning and student experience,” says Maryam Omari, ECU’s executive dean of business.

More than 80 per cent of postgraduate students in business and management programs say they are happy with the overall experience compared with 71.7 per cent nationally, and 90.7 per cent are happy with the facilities and resources compared with a national figure of 74.9 per cent.

The business schools ranking replaces the AFR BOSS ranking of domestic MBA and EMBA programs.

University of New South Wales is crowned the AFR BOSS Best Business School overall, while The University of Melbourne is the best-ranked business school for reputation. UNSW is the top-ranked school for career impact.

Using a methodology that draws exclusively from credible, verified and publicly available sources, the AFR BOSS Best Business Schools ranking of Australia’s postgraduate course providers is built around three pillars — reputation, quality and employment and salary prospects, or “career impact”. Each category has its own ranking, in addition to an overall ranking which combines the three components.

The quality ranking uses a mix of accreditation and performance factors. It takes into account those schools which have elected to go through a rigorous process for accreditation, as well as scores on publicly available research quality and student satisfaction scorecards.

Alongside Edith Cowan University, the top five rank-holders in the business schools in the quality category are The University of Western Australia, Deakin University, University of the Sunshine Coast and Bond University.

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Omari says the overwhelmingly positive response to Edith Cowan’s educational delivery is related, in part, to the individualised experience, including one-on-one help in areas such as research skills and academic writing.

“Academic and professional staff work closely with students to ensure their academic progress and wellbeing,” says Omari.

The MBA program is also responsive to current trends and industry needs, delivering specialisations for specific sectors. These include engineering management, environmental management, healthcare leadership and management, and management in occupational health and safety.

Omari says while location is largely irrelevant in the modern globalised world, it does colour some of the courses on offer.

“In a large state with a big mining industry, we offer programs such as project management, and supply chains and logistics. Our highly regarded tourism and hospitality management courses have been designed to meet growing needs in WA but also in recognition of our proximity to Asia,” she says.

“We have adopted a continuous improvement approach to everything we do. Our programs undergo regular reviews and updates and we listen to our industry partners on our school advisory board and eight course consultative committees to anticipate and meet industry needs.”

“We have adopted a continuous improvement approach to everything we do,” says Maryam Omari, executive dean of business at Edith Cowan University. 

Indeed, the prestigious AACSB International accreditation agency for business schools noted that Omari’s leadership “had led to the creation of an inspired, motivated, collegial and high-performing team of faculty and staff”.

As Omari herself puts it: “We never sit still.”

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Maybe there is a good reason for that because across the way, the University of Western Australia is nipping at ECU’s heels, coming in at second place for quality.

Peter Robertson, dean of the UWA Business School, says the state’s vast geography, small population and natural riches – both mineral and scenic – shape the school’s offerings.

“Our particular business skills are quite strongly influenced by the corporate sector in Perth which gives it a very special flavour,” Robertson says.

The university was established so students didn’t have to go to Sydney or Melbourne or overseas to get an education. It is part of our DNA.

Peter Robertson, dean of UWA Business School

“As you can imagine that is especially true for the resources sector.”

Indeed, the business school’s advisory board is a who’s who of corporate Perth. Chaired by business heavyweight Diane Smith-Gander, it also includes representatives from the Reserve Bank, Woodside Energy, National Australia Bank, Rio Tinto and Wesfarmers, among others.

“They are interested in the school as community members and for its role in educating the next generation of corporate leaders. But they also look at it from a recruitment perspective,” Robertson says.

“Our mission is to produce graduates for UWA. The university was established so students didn’t have to go to Sydney or Melbourne or overseas to get an education. It is part of our DNA.”

The school’s quality ranking derives largely from its on-campus delivery. And the UWA campus is something to behold.

“It’s a beautiful campus. It’s very special. I suspect a lot of students don’t quite appreciate what they’ve got,” Robertson says.

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Online delivery is kept to a minimum with face-to-face teaching the norm.

Increasingly, the school is looking to overseas, particularly the Indo-Pacific.

“Jakarta and Singapore are closer to us than Sydney,” Robertson says.

Diane Smith-Gander chairs the business advisory board of the University of Western Australia. Trevor Collens

“We have an online presence for some initiatives that reach out to the Asian region. We use online pathways to make it easier for students to start in their home country and then finish up here. But at the core of our DNA is face-to-face teaching, on-campus in Perth.”

In third place is Deakin University. Amanda Pyman, dean of Deakin Business School, says the school has four main pillars and quality sits across the top of all of them.

“Education and employability, research and innovation, international and partnerships and people and culture; it’s the mix of those four pillars that we look to deliver for students with a big focus on employability and skills, not just knowledge provision,” Pyman says.

Success, she says, is measured by being able to offer progressive programs and having them remain sustainable.

It’s a pretty competitive landscape for students, Pyman says, so Deakin’s success is its students’ success.

“Academic performance, retention and satisfaction are all important metrics. But we also build in work-integrated learning and looking at where our graduates go are important measures.”

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In fourth place is the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Lorelle Frazer, dean of the School of Business and creative industries professor, says USC’s programs “speak to the needs of our regions”.

“Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay are dominated by small-to-medium businesses, so we are educating many future entrepreneurs and independent thinkers,” Frazer says.

Small classes are better

As is so often the case when it comes to student satisfaction, size is important – the smaller the better. University of the Sunshine Coast students report some of the country’s highest satisfaction levels – rating it the best public university in Queensland, and the overall quality of educational experience 8 per cent higher than the national average.

“Small classes allow for a more personalised experience, enabling students to connect with their instructor and other students in a supportive peer learning environment,” says Frazer.

“We also offer flexibility in choice of learning mode, on campus, online or a blend of both, to suit busy lifestyles. Our MBA program has produced some extraordinary entrepreneurs who have developed or grown their businesses while studying. Courses are offered intensively over six-week cycles to enable students to focus on one or two courses at a time while developing their business plans in a supportive environment.”

A couple of hundred kilometres down the Queensland coast is Bond University, which came in fifth for quality.

In the recent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching Student Experience Survey, Bond University was overall in second place, just behind the newly minted Avondale University.

Unlike the other four, Bond is a small, private university with tiny cohorts and a deeply personalised experience.

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Barry Burgan, Bond Business School’s associate dean, says the MBA cohort is typically between 25 and 50 students, with a strong emphasis on international students.

“Our small size certainly has its advantages,” says Burgan. “There are high levels of personal attention and far greater interactions with the teaching staff.”

Bond has a strong Japanese focus, with a specialist MBA focused on the country, of which 80 per cent of the cohort are Japanese nationals with the remaining students spread around the globe from New York to China.

Location is one of Bond’s strongest selling points but so too is its extraordinary campus, which was designed by Pritzker prize-winning Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.

Accreditations are a sign of quality for a business school, says Andrew Crisp, co-founder of the UK-based business school insights consultancy CarringtonCrisp.

Bond, for example, is armed with two of the big hitters when it comes to accreditation acronyms: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD).

Accreditation is important, says Crisp, as it provides an independent verification of business school standards and helps prospective students judge the quality of their programs.

“The accreditation process, which can take years, proves universities are truly committed to self-improvement and it really pushes them on things like standards, quality and transparency,” Crisp says.

Accredited business programs also flag to employers that graduates come armed with a robust and rigorous degree. They also get reviewed every few years so they can’t let their standards slip.

More on the AFR BOSS Best Business Schools

Notes on the ranking

  1. Ranking is based on relevant postgraduate study areas regardless of departmental structures, eg University of Melbourne includes Melbourne Business School, UNSW includes Australian Graduate School of Management, etc
  2. Student numbers and % domestic based on DESE Completions for postgraduate Management and Commerce coursework for the most recent year available. Excludes Universities with < 40 Domestic Completions.
  3. AACSB = Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, EQUIS = European Quality Improvement System4. Research rating based on average of the most recent Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) results for relevant research areas5. Student satisfaction based on data from the most recent Student Experience Survey, as reported on the ComparED website.

Read More

  • Best Business Schools
  • MBA
  • AFR Lists
  • EMBA
  • AFR special
Julie HareEducation editorJulie Hare is the Education editor. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, journalist and editor. Connect with Julie on Twitter. Email Julie at [email protected]

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