Kennedy Ogollah, John Githii Kimani


ABSTRACT Management research has been accused of a lack of relevance to managerial
practice and of too narrow a discipline base. Its focus is the nature of knowledge created by
research at the interface between business and academia in the context of major changes likely
to affect the nature of demand for such knowledge. To this extend most business schools have
developed research as a foundation of the MBA programs that they offer. A significant aspect of
an MBA which distinguishes it from its competitors is the content of its program – the nature of
its curriculum and how it meets the needs of business life. The main objective of this paper was
to present the results of an empirical study which establishes the thematic trends and industry
relevance of MBA projects in the school of business at the University of Nairobi. The study used
secondary data which was collected from the report books at the University of Nairobi. Data was
analyzed using content analysis and time series. Cohorts of 10 years were employed, with a total
of 7,100 projects undertaken between 1974 and 2013 taken as the study population. The report
examines the conditions giving rise to this criticism in Kenya and identifies an important
strategic need to increase the stake holding of users in various aspects of the research,
knowledge creation and dissemination process. Results indicated that there was a positive trend
in thematic research with social, economic and political aspects that impact on business
management. However, while the rise in the thematic areas corresponded with the needs of the
industry, the Kenyan business landscape seems to make less use of the findings and conclusions
advanced by MBA reports. This observation was arrived at after noting that business
malpractice, poor business performance, business fraud, declining accountability of board
members, declining employee engagement rose during the same time that increased academic
attention was given to the issues that keep CEO’s and business managers awake at night. The
situation sheds doubt as to the practical application of the recommendations given by MBA
reports. The findings also cast doubt as to industry awareness of the kind of research that is
being conducted by MBA students. Implications from a theoretical standpoint are that the study
advances new knowledge on industry-university academic linkages and questions the
applicability of content and pedagogical orientation that is supposed to inform competence in
MBA students. Consequently, this paper provides a fertile ground of arguing for and against
competence theories and how competencies which are of value to industry are acquired. From a
practical standpoint, principals and deans in academia need to question the relevance of the
MBA projects from a practical standpoint. This may call for a more rigorous process which is
multidisciplinary in nature to assess the link between MBA projects and industry needs. From a
policy point of view, the Commission of Higher Education and the Federation of Kenyan
Employers need to emphasize the need for organizations to fund the MBA academic projects so
that they are oriented to real life industry needs.
Keywords: Management Research, MBA, Thematic trends, Industry relevance

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