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JEROEN VAN DER VEER Chief executive, Royal Dutch Shell reached the top job in 2004 without a business degree to his name

Financial Times: Moot but advantageous

By Della Bradshaw
Published: April 7 2008 03:00 | Last updated: April 7 2008 03:00

It was on April 8 1908 that 33 aspiring managers gathered in Boston, Massachusetts, to begin a new type of degree, a masters in business administration. Eight – all men – finished the two-year course and became the Harvard MBA class of 1910. The other 25 may have lived to regret that they failed to join one of the business world’s most exclusive clubs.

The Harvard MBA has gone on to become one of the most coveted business qualifications in the world. It is the calling card for those who want to join the boards of corporate America – and the most prized qualification for Indian bachelors seeking a suitable bride.

The course pioneered by Harvard (see below) is now one of the world’s most prominent educational brands. Around 500,000 students will graduate with an MBA globally this year and demand from students for management education continues to grow. The latest figures on the GMAT, the entry test for quality business schools, shows a 7 per cent increase in test-takers in the US over last year and a rise of nearly 22 per cent elsewhere in the world.

MBAs: two who did …

INDRA NOOYI Chief executive, PepsiCo

One MBA was not enough for Ms Nooyi. On graduating from the Indian Institute of Management in 1976, she worked for two years in India before joining Yale school of management. “My whole summer job was done in a sari because I had no money to buy clothes,” she told the FT in 2004. “I was a poor Indian student.” Gaining a second MBA in 1980, she worked for Boston Consulting, Motorola and ABB before joining PepsiCo in 1994.

ANDY HORNBY Chief executive, HBOS

Only just 40, he is one of the youngest ever to head a UK bank. He took over in July 2006 after high-flying jobs at Blue Circle, Asda – the Wal-Mart subsidiary, where Mr Hornby worked with Archie Norman, a fellow Harvard MBA – and the Halifax, the mortgage lender that is now part of HBOS. One of the labels Mr Hornby has been unable to shake off is that he came top of his MBA class at Harvard.

. . and a couple who didn’t bother

JEROEN VAN DER VEER Chief executive, Royal Dutch Shell Amid Shell’s crisis over reserves accounting, he reached the top job in 2004 without a business degree to his name. He does have degrees in mechanical engineering from Delft University and in economics from Rotterdam University. A Shell man through and through, the 60-year-old joined in 1971, working in the the UK, US, the Netherlands and Curaçao among other jobs.

LARRY ELLISON Chief executive, Oracle A business legend and billionaire with few formal academic qualifications. He quit the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at the end of his second year without taking his final examinations and spent a brief spell at the University of Chicago where he first learnt about computer programming. He co-founded Oracle in 1977 with Bob Miner and Ed Oates and has run it since the start.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

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