By Ian Grayson for CNN

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 Posted: 0015 GMT (0815 HKT)

【(CNN) -- As companies throughout the world strive to improve performance

and boost growth, attention is focusing on the potential economic benefits

of professional executive education.】

With the pace of global business increasing, senior managers find themselves

needing to make complex decisions quickly. As commercial conditions change,

they must quickly assess new opportunities and put in place the strategies

necessary to take advantage of them.

Key forces, such as globalization and the rise of information technology as

a business tool, require senior executives to maintain a state of constant

learning. It is no longer sufficient to supplement an early university education

with on-the-job experience. Increasingly, companies are recognizing their most

valued employees need more.

The classic form of executive education, the Master of Business Administration (MBA),

was devised in the early 1900s as a vehicle to foster strong senior management within

large US-based companies.

This original format involves graduates undertaking two years of full-time study in

which they are schooled in fundamentals of business -- economics, accounting, business

strategy and management skills.

By the 1960s, the MBA was a global phenomenon with universities across the world

offering their versions of what had become a "must-have" business degree.

But during the next two decades, the rigid format of the MBA course came under

pressure. Companies wanted to have graduates entering the workforce rather than

spending another two years in a classroom. Universities responded by changing

course structures to allow for part-time, external and even Internet-based study.

Adding such flexibility allows far greater numbers of students to undertake MBA

studies. There are now more than 2600 MBA courses being offered by around 1400

universities across some 125 countries.

Classic MBA offerings have also been augmented by a range of so-called Executive

MBAs, designed for managers who already have a considerable amount of work

experience. These courses encourage participants to share their knowledge and

discuss real-world challenges within the academic framework.

An example is the EMBA offered by the Richard Ivey School of Business at its

campus in Hong Kong. The course is structured so that virtually all class work

is completed outside normal working hours. The 22-month course costs $67,500,

and the 2005 class has 49 participants.

Managing director of the U.S.-based Executive MBA Council, Maury Kalnitz, says

growing demand is leading to a rapid increase in the number of business schools

offering EMBA courses.

《'Tremendous growth'》

"There is tremendous growth both in the U.S. and international markets," he

says. "People want to build on their strengths and realize that, if they are

going to progress in their careers, they will need more skills."

For executives with less time or looking for training in more specific areas,

an increasing number of academic institutions are offering intensive short

courses. This format allows participants and their companies to choose material

that is directly relevant to their industry sector and future business plans.

One example is a course offered by European-based business school INSEAD at its

campus in Singapore. Called the Asian International Executive Program, the two-week

course covers a blend of international business, marketing, corporate strategy and

human resource issues. Designed for executives with at least eight years' working

experience, the course costs $11,000 and is offered four times each year.

INSEAD offers a range of other short-course programs including the Young Managers

Program. This three-week course, held in both Europe and Singapore, is designed to

improve executive communications and managerial skills. It costs $19,600.

Another trend in executive education being led by a number of academic institutions

is the provision of tailored content for individual organizations. Working closely

with a company, an institution will devise a course or series of courses specifically

for the company's executives.

An example is U.S.-based Duke Corporate Education, owned by Duke University. It works

with organizations throughout the world to train their executives. DCE staff analyze

a particular company's requirements and then develop a customized course designed

to increase employee skills in particular areas.

Vice president of business development at Duke Corporate Education, David Miller,

says it is this area which is showing the fastest growth for business schools.

"Ours are growing at around 25 per cent a year at the moment," he says. "And there

is no sign of things slowing."

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