Как развивается бизнес-образование и что готовит будущее российским бизнес-школам

Changes can take place quickly in Russia and Business Schools must be ready to adapt. Fortunately, Moscow’s Plekhanov Business School Integral (PBSI) is able to draw on some enviable expertise and partnerships from across the network of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics (PRUE), of which it is a part.

PRUE has approximately 60,000 students and a number of campus branches both within Russia and in countries such as Mongolia and Uzbekistan. To fi nd out more about PBSI, its realtionship to PRUE, and the outlook for MBA and related programmes in Russia, AMBITION caught up with Irina Skorobogatykh, Academic Director at PBSI. In the following interview, Skorobogatykh says that there is great value to be found in ‘coopetition’, or cooperation with competitors, and that this can bring tangible benefi ts to faculty and an individual School’s MBA teaching process. She also discusses the importance, for Business Schools, of understanding how business models and consumer culture are changing in the digital era, and how companies will need to accommodate these changes.

Can you tell me a bit about PBSI’s relationship with the wider university and the benefi ts of belonging to a large university?

Since September 2018, PBSI has been part of the Faculty of Business and Additional Educational Programmes at PRUE. PBSI has quite close links and partnerships with different departments and chairs from the university as a whole, and at the same time, the School has a high level of independence and autonomy in making decisions on strategic planning, marketing and sales, student admission, and implementation of programmes.

In addition, PBSI is responsible for selecting faculty with the relevant academic, research, teaching and practical experience.

PRUE has affi liated branches in different regions and in other countries, which gives PBSI the opportunity to offer business education and research programmes to corporations and individuals from these regions. In addition, we invite professors from our affi liates to participate as teachers, guest lecturers and tutors on some specifi c courses of the MBA programme (for instance, the course, ‘Specifi cs of the Volga region economic system development’ can be taught by a professor from PRUE’s affi liate in Saratov, a city and major port on the Volga River). Strong links and cooperation with branches of PRUE give PBSI the chance to improve its quality of teaching. The regional and international branch offi ces of PRUE, where demand for business education can appear, also give PBSI a competitive advantage. 

Has the demand for MBA programmes in Russia changed over the past fi ve or 10 years? If so, how has it changed and what do you expect to see in the next 10 years?

Demand for MBA programmes has been fl uctuating between high and low levels, whether that’s for programmes aimed at corporate clients or tailor-made ones for individuals. These shifts show that demand remains, but there are some specifi c features which should be taken into account by Business Schools. 

New and changing technologies, which can be used by educators in Business Schools, also mean that demand can be met by Schools, through online courses, webinars and other new teaching methods in the MBA programme syllabus. 

In 2017, the number of top-level and mid-level managers wishing to study an MBA abroad at a leading Business School decreased and was at about 70% of the equivalent proportion seen in 2009, due to the economic crisis and decline of prospective students’ income. This has partly infl uenced the increase in the demand for national MBA programmes, according to a 2017 survey from Russian media group, RosBusinessConsulting (RBC). 

Prospective students would therefore consider enrolment in programmes provided by the leading Business Schools in Moscow or Saint Petersburg. As a result, regional providers have been changing their portfolio of programmes and offering either short-term courses or cooperating with leading Business Schools in MBA delivery. Here, it is also important to note that the level of trust for joint programmes is now much higher. 

How can market potential in Russia for MBA and related business programmes be evaluated?

The potential of the business education market in Russia is based on an evaluation of the number of sustainable companies. According to SPARK database, there are approximately 2 million companies in Russia, a number which can be seen as stable and growing. An MBA programme is targeted at top-level managers, such as General, Commercial, Financial, HR and Marketing Directors, as well as Heads of the Departments. Therefore, the potential of the market for business education as a whole and for MBA programmes in particular can be estimated at about 8-10 million prospective students. 

Are there any new MBA courses, teaching methods or initiatives that you are particularly enthusiastic about? 

PRUE has an accredited study centre of the CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing). Several Professors (including myself) are accredited tutors of marketing courses on different CIM educational programmes. Taking into account our experience with these programmes, we decided to include the elective course, ‘Creating and delivering customer value through marketing’ in the MBA programme, and in a bilingual format. 

We use terms in both English and Russian because our students are working in companies with international operations. In addition, we use case studies of Russian and international companies, which are linked to their strategic and operational marketing decisions. 

This initiative has been welcomed and is valued by our students. A similar approach was adopted for the following elective courses: ‘Marketing planning and measuring plan outcomes’ and ‘Driving innovation’, implemented in the same format with Professors using bilingual vocabulary and case studies from both international and Russian companies. 

Why are responsible management and sustainability essential topics for Business Schools and how have you adapted them into your MBA programmes?

Sustainability and responsible management are now essential concepts for the business community and for companies, and therefore cannot be ignored by Business Schools. 

Sustainability is very important to all functions of organisations: economic and fi nancial decisions, technology, research and development, marketing, sales, logistics, and HR. If we understand the importance of sustainability for the company and all of its elements (encompassing relationships between economic, social and ecological issues), we can think about how these issues can be included in courses. 

For instance, the concept of societal marketing is discussed in the course I mentioned in response to the last question, and this course currently uses an international case study on Starbucks in the areas of sustainability and responsible management. 

Another case study, prepared by my colleagues from the Department of Marketing, explains the strategy of the Russian company, Natura Siberica, a producer of natural cosmetic products from Siberian herbs. This company is implementing an expansion strategy to international markets that include the UK, US, France and others, and is undoubtedly facing very strong competition. 

To overcome this problem, Natura Siberica has positioned itself as a maker of organic cosmetic products that are produced in clean and cold Siberian conditions that are ecologically friendly. This idea is highly welcomed by international consumers. 

The concept of responsible management and associated ideas are not only included in the School’s HR courses, but also in management and marketing courses. In addition, as part of the fi nance course we include a session on fi nancial indicators, which can be used to evaluate a company’s fi nancial stability. 

For this, we use recommendations of the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), and students are tasked with fi nding statistics on these indicators, and calculating and analysing trends. 

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Business Schools in Russia and the surrounding region, in your opinion?

The most important challenges for Business Schools in Russia, as well as CIS countries and other countries in the surrounding areas of Eastern Europe and Asia, would be: the need to consider how to implement all the potential changes companies might need in the new digital era; how business models are changing; how customer culture is changing; and how companies should adopt these changes in their business models. If we, as academics, understand these issues, we can influence changes in Business Schools and business education. Technologies for teaching excellence, gamification, and the inclusion of masterclasses and presentations from business leaders in curricula can also help us keep pace with the changes taking place. 

Changes happen fast in Russia and other developing economies. Some changes are common, some unique, but the speed of change dictates that we must be ready to make improvements in our School, and in our programmes. 

How and why has your School been building links and collaborations with other Business Schools and employers? 

Relationships and strong cooperation with partners and stakeholders are so important for all businesses. One important element in this would be relationships with other Business Schools in Russia and abroad. 

Our relationships can be called ‘coopetition’, or cooperation with competitors – an important concept in relationship marketing and management practice. In 2018, we strengthened our cooperation with RABE (Russian Association of Business Schools) and we are in close cooperation with CEEMAN (the International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies). Conferences and meetings of the Board of RABE, for example, give us an opportunity to strengthen our position and relationships with other leading Business Schools in Russia. 

While we may be competitors in terms of student enrolment, we can be partners for research projects or organisation of conferences. One example of this cooperation: our colleagues participated in the international research project ‘Companies – Hidden Champions in Dynamic Societies’ which was initiated and supported by CEEMAN, EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and RABE, and in the research unit for Russia we have representatives of PRUE and PBSI, as well as those from the Institute of Business Studies (IBSMoscow) at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), and Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO. 

We teachers and academics often have the same values and beliefs, and this study of innovative Russian companies with a strong focus on international markets allowed us to share perspectives and improved our competencies, which we can take into the MBA teaching process. 

What are your hopes for the School in the next five years? 

I believe that PBSI has ways in which it can improve over the next five years: 

  • Programme portfolio development (meaning the inclusion of specialised MBA courses, which can act as an anchor to attract lower-level management staff initially, before being introduced at the top level. 
  • According to research, HR managers are increasing candidate requirements for job positions, especially for midand top-level positions. This is a good signal for Business Schools to further promote the benefits of MBA programmes. 
  • Expanding the reach of PBSI’s MBA and other business programmes to other regions and countries of the world (most likely by using the network business model and in collaboration with other partner Schools). 

What could Business Schools, both in Russia and elsewhere, be doing differently or better?

I think the recipe for the development and improvement of Business Schools in the future will be based on the development of partnerships with society, with colleagues from other Business Schools, and with universities that have an entrepreneurial vision as well as strong research ability and projects. In addition, Business Schools (in different parts of the world) cannot be conservative, and need technological changes in terms of equipment, and in pursuit of administrative and management excellence, as well as to ensure relevance to current and future changes in society, business and human relationships. Everything should be discussed and included in strategic decisions for future growth. 


Professor Irina Skorobogatykh is Academic Director of MBA programmes at Plekhanov Business School Integral (PBSI) and Head of the Department of Marketing at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics (PRUE). She has been published in academic Russian and international journals and has extensive experience in teaching marketing courses across different programmes.

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