Ethics Education Gaining Ground in B-Schools


As you may have heard from our partners at MBAmission, HBS has announced its new dean: Nitin Nohria, a professor of business administration. As this Washington Post article points out, one especially interesting aspect of Harvard’s pick is that Nohria has long advocated administering a voluntary MBA oath to create responsibly and ethically. He’s at the forefront of a push to provide MBAs with a more solid background in ethics. Harvard President Drew Faust called Nohria’s appointment an important moment for the future of business. It certainly marks a turning point for business school curriculums.

For years, voices in academia have called for greater emphasis on ethical education for MBAs, but now they seem to be entering a new era of influence.  The Wall Street Journal reports that a recent survey of business-school administrators ranked ethics as currently the most important subject for students. An overwhelming majority of schools surveyed advocated a stakeholder approach to inculcate a sense of corporate responsibility. That growing consensus has translated into new courses and, in some cases, made a significant impact on the entire program. In building the curriculum for Johns Hopkins’ Carey Business School, dean Yash Gupta chose to weave ethics into many courses, rather than cordoning the subject off into a single semester. “We’ll teach students about decision making ” behavioral, rational, how the brain functions ” in the first year, but we’ll also give them chances to make decisions,” he says.

This isn’t simply an academic notion, either. Companies are looking explicitly for ethical qualities in their new hires. According to the Journal, Pascal Krupka, MBA director at France’s Rouen Business School, “Companies, when they used to come to the school, they used to start with ‘We want talented people,’ but now they start their speech with ‘We need people with very good ethics.’

Plus, as the USA Today suggests, the financial crisis has energized this movement in business management education. “If we don’t teach people to sort of look around and have greater peripheral vision, then we’ve just set ourselves up for the next crisis,” says Stephen Spinelli, president of Philadelphia University (and co-founder of the Jiffy Lube).

Whatever the impetus, look out for changes in MBA programs across the world.

  1. filmdevi December 4, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    yes you are!

  2. Stephen Bagasao January 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I applaud that the Business schools desire to focus more on ethics. The question I have is, who’s ethics? Ethics can be a very relativistic subject. Aside from that, you can teach ethics all you want, but unless a person has a moral foundation that was instilled in them by their parents, then it’s probably going in one ear and out the other.

  3. Bob Miller August 29, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I have a lot of respect for HBS’s new dean. He really seems to know what he talks about, in my opinion.
    -Bob from BMW for Sale

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