Cross-Disciplinary Ethics Education in MBA Programs: Rhetoric or Reality?

    Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amle.2011.0016a

    This research-based essay offers a cross-disciplinary examination of ethics education in MBA programs. Based on data underlying the Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey we find: (1) that business schools doubled the number of ethics-related courses in different disciplines between 2005 and 2009; (2) that about 75% of all offered courses are electives; and (3) that integration of ethics varies considerably between disciplines with management-related courses exposing students more often to ethical questions. Further, we find that (2) and (3) hardly change over time. We argue that these results point toward a problem: Business schools increasingly risk creating a gap between their upbeat rhetoric around ethics education and their actual MBA curriculum. Such decoupling is likely to emerge because schools face a tension between increasing institutional pressures to legitimize their MBA programs and internal impediments to fully integrate ethics into the curriculum. We suggest that more effective ethics education requires structural changes to the curriculum, in particular more mandatory ethics courses and a stronger integration of ethics-related debates into disciplines such as finance and accounting.

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