The Benefits of Heterogeneous Participant Profiles
The MAS in Business Administration at the ZHAW School of Management and Law is aimed at specialists as well as junior managers and executives who have developed strengths in their specialist fields but have not yet completed a general business management program. More than 1,000 participants have already completed this particular continuing education program.
From Continuing Education in Engineering to Continuing Education in Management
This continuing education program began in 1998 as a postgraduate course entitled “Business Administration and Management for Engineers.” Participants had a technical background and, frequently, an engineering diploma from a technical college or university. In 2006, the program became the “Master of Advanced Studies (MAS),” and the “MAS in Business Administration” has been awarded ever since. As a result of this name change and a general increase in interest from non-technical sectors, the participant profile altered as more people from different educational backgrounds joined the program.
Reasons for Participating in Continuing Education Programs
The “Microcensus on Education and Continuing Education 2011” revealed that 76 percent of the permanent resident population aged 25-64 had participated in one or more education or continuing education programs in the previous 12 months.
The reasons given for attending continuing education programs varied greatly.1 Switzerland's 2018 Education Report2 lists three reasons for the need for continuing education:
- Persons without a further education can compensate for educational deficits through continuing education programs
- knowledge retention and the ability to develop skills and competencies recedes over time
- technological changes must drive ongoing employee development3
Surveys covering the MAS in Business Administration show that the motivation to participate in continuing education programs is mostly personal, which also supports the three reasons given above. Younger participants cited, in particular, preparation for a management position as a reason for starting a continuing education program, as well as the desire for a change in career path, especially between different sectors or roles. Older participants cited professional changes, reorientation, or preparation for assuming a higher management function or board mandate.
The average age of an MAS in Business Administration participant is 33, with ages ranging from 25-54. The majority of participants (57.9 %) are between 30 and 40 years of age at the start of their continuing education programs. 30.5% are under 30, and 11.6% are over 40.
Diversity in Continuing Education as an Opportunity
The diversity of participants - whether due to age or sector background - enables a broad transfer of knowledge and exchange within the program. Practical examples from a range of industries can be discussed and analyzed in class. This allows participants to view problems from different perspectives and to derive solutions from experiences in other companies and industrial sectors. The study program network is useful during and outside classroom sessions because similar challenges have to be overcome in a range of different companies, fellow students are customers or suppliers, or, possibly, because they are a potential future employer. Continuing education is not merely the sterile acquisition of knowledge, but a dynamic environment in which lecturers can communicate the course materials in a practically oriented way, and a diverse group of students can contribute to the increased skills set of all participants.
1 Swiss Federal Statistical Office. Lebenslanges Lernen in der Schweiz. Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus Aus- und Weiterbildung 2011
2 Swiss Coordination Office for Educational Research. Bildungsbericht Schweiz 2018
3 See Swiss Coordination Office for Educational Research. Bildungsbericht Schweiz 2018, pp. 286-288