Business-school boom: MBA programs in Colombia are seeing an uptick in enrollment as demand in the Andean nation for better trained professionals grows and as curricula are retooled to compete with world-class universities.

Author:Moloney, Anastasia
Position:SPECIAL REPORT: MBA
 
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Record levels of foreign investment and stable economic growth in Colombia have fueled the growth of MBA programs on offer across the Andean nation and brought a steady rise in enrollment at business schools in recent years. Spurred on by improved security around the nation, increasing numbers of multinationals from the banking sectors like Citibank and Spain's Santander, along with international mining and oil giants from Canada, India and Australia, are doing business in Colombia. This in turn has led to demand for a local workforce with well-honed management and administration skills.

LONG HISTORY

Among the institutions reaping the rewards is EAFIT University in Colombia's second-largest city, Medellin. EAFIT says it was the first private institution in the country to offer MBA programs, starting back in 1973.

"The number of MBA students continues to grow, for example from 305 students in 2006 to 400 this year. We expect a five to 10 percent growth in student enrollment over the next several years," said Angela Maria Montoya, coordinator of EAFIT's business school MBA program.

The majority of EAFIT's MBA students are engineers, lawyers and middle managers already employed by Colombia's leading firms, who are looking to improve their management and decision-making skills and gain a competitive edge in a tough job market, Montoya said.

Colombia's biggest and most prominent companies also have higher expectations for potential employees. Bancolombia, the country's largest bank, and the state-owned oil company, Ecopetrol, are known to seek potential hires that already have MBA educations.

"Colombian employers are increasingly looking for executives who are better trained and prepared. Also, having an MBA is becoming more of a requisite to secure senior-management posts and promotions," Montoya said.

Another segment of the MBA population at EAFIT: doctors and dentists. Some of the medical professionals are seeking managerial positions in big hospitals; others plan to open private clinics and are keen to learn how to make management decisions and have a better understanding of finance in general.

The MBA program at EAFIT is tailored to senior managers who are combining their studies with full-time employment. "The two-year program is part-time involving eight hours of study a week, with a flexible timetable offering classes in the evenings and on Saturday," Montoya said.

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