Academic transcripts mean little if business graduates don’t have real-world experience


Mat Jacobson, Founder, Ducere Global Business School

Traditional modes of education are failing to produce graduates with the competencies and real-world experience necessary to excel in today’s increasingly fast-paced and global business environment, according to Mat Jacobson, the founder of Ducere Global Business School.

Ducere partners with universities, both locally and internationally, to deliver a suite of MBAs and Bachelor degrees, with opportunities for students to engaged with – and learn from – the school’s Global Leaders faculty. This faculty consists of more than 150 members, including industry experts, Nobel Laureates, CEOs, Prime Ministers, Presidents, philanthropists and academics.  Being a social enterprise, the school’s profits are used to fund public educational programs in Africa.

The school is now accepting applications for its Global Game Changers program, which launches in February with 200 places available. Developed in partnership with the University of Canberra, the two-year course is an opportunity for students not just to attain either a Bachelor of Entrepreneurship or a Bachelor of Social Entrepreneurship, but to engage in adventure travel and obtain employment experience in Silicon Valley and China, where they’ll learn from and collaborate with leading business people.

The purpose, Jacobson told Dynamic Business, is to equip students with “global knowledge, experience and perspective” plus the transferable skills expected by employers such as digital literacy, problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. He shared his views on the state of business education in Australia and the value of complementing academic, lecture-style learning with opportunities for real-world experience.

‘Role-model diversity fuels innovation’

“Our Global Leaders faculty includes some of the most talented, inspiration and motivating leaders in the world and our students have opportunities to learn from them across a range of mediums, including online lessons and case studies as well as face-to-face workshops held at the premises of our industry partners.

“We select faculty members by first identifying competencies students would benefit from having and targeting the best people in the world to deliver those competencies. For example, negotiation is a critical component of our programs, so we’ve tapped incredibly successful negotiators including Australian transport tycoon Lindsay Fox. He’s someone who didn’t complete high school but he’s a self-made billionaire due to his success in business. Another negotiator with Ducere is Kate Koplovitz, founder of $5b cable television network, USA Network. She’s a highly-educated, very professional New Yorker and we selected her for the faculty because she was able to negotiate deals with every major sporting league in the US, including the NBA and NFL. We also have former Botswana President, Sir Ketumile Masire, who played a crucial role in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, with a view to ending conflict in the nation.

“As is apparent from these three examples, Ducere strives for diversity, including diversity of views and opinions, when selecting faculty members. Providing a diverse line up of role models helps promote equal opportunity for all people, regardless of gender and race, in circumstances where this is a moral imperative in our multi-cultural society. In addition, working in diverse teams on diverse projects and learning from diverse leaders ensures students are open-minded about innovation: there is no single ‘textbook’ approach to addressing problems.”

‘Learn by doing is the best education’

“At Ducere, we don’t put much stock in CVs and academic transcripts because they aren’t an entirely accurate gauge of a student’s capability. We prefer students to develop a portfolio of projects, demonstrating the real-world application of their skills and competencies. For example, ‘While working with organisation X in Darwin as part of my degree, I came up with and implemented a solution to this problem they were facing’. In a sense, we’re providing students with a proven track record, so when they’re going for a job, prospective employers can confidently make a hiring decision.

“Even if students want to apply for a job in the traditional sense, we believe getting real-world entrepreneurial experience, such as setting up their own business, offers the best schooling experience.  It’s not uncommon for young, strapped-for-cash university students who establish a small side business to generate some money to say, ‘I learned more from doing my little side business a few hours a week than I did from my entire university course’.”

‘Academic innovation lags industry change”

“Being responsive to changes in the business landscape is an ongoing challenge for traditional academic institutions, where courses are run by people with an academic background and focus. The average lifespan of academic material is said to be a decade, which means content isn’t necessarily industry-relevant or reflective of today’s fast-paced, digital and constantly disrupted world. Consequently, pure academic, lecture-style learning isn’t producing job-ready candidates with the competencies and transferable skills employers want. The pace of change in industry is incredibly fast, whereas the pace of academic innovation is very slow – there is a miss match. In fact, law firms and business commonly talk about graduates being of virtually no use, until they can educate them on the soft and technical skills they need to perform in the workplace.

“The model of work-integrated learning, which involves learning in real-world experiences supplemented by academic lectures and material, is undoubtedly the best method of learning. Research proves this. In fact, accrediting bodies like AACSB have clearly articulated the need for more work-integrated learning and greater industry collaboration. This begs the question: why does traditional education continue to operate the way it does? The answer is not because anyone genuinely believes spending three to four years in campus lectures and tutorials is the best method of education; rather, it is has everything to do with cost and logistics: getting tens of thousands of students into project-based learning requires enormous resources and support. Conversely, cramming 300 students into a lecture room where they sit quietly in rows is relatively simple and cost-effective. In order to produce graduates who are adaptable, innovative and ready to add value to a fast-paced, dynamic, digital economy, universities must change.

“At Ducere, we recognise the incredible value of formal, rigorous academic programs when complemented by opportunities for students to gain real-world entrepreneurial and business experience. To provide students with the best of both worlds, we partner and collaborate with universities – no institution in any sector can be a master of all areas, so collaboration with niche experts across the value chain is essential.”