Education is Key
June 3, 2014
Prof. Witold Orłowski, director of the Warsaw University of Technology Business School and a member of a special team of economic advisers to the prime minister, talks to the Voice.
What impact have MBA programs in Poland had on the country’s economic development over the past 25 years? How big a role do efficient managers play in shaping the economy?
Enhanced professional skills and the improved level of education in Poland, particularly as far as managers are concerned, have without a doubt been an important factor contributing to Poland’s economic success over the last 25 years. Some may have forgotten this, but when economic reforms began after 1989, the lack of know-how about corporate management in a free-market economy was a tremendous challenge for the Polish economy. Most Polish managers, who just two years earlier had been able to fix just about any deal in return for supplying scarce goods produced at the factories they managed, turned out to be incapable of doing their jobs effectively in a post-communist world.
New entrepreneurs, in turn, knew how to set up small businesses of questionable legal status, but they lacked the basic tools needed to manage larger groups of people. That was a huge challenge, because when a country lacks its own managerial staff, it’s hard for a competitive economy to develop.
One remedy for this problem were MBA programs. The first of these were created in the early 1990s, a time when the demand for modern managerial expertise was many times higher than what Poland had to offer. Schools had to rely on foreign models, foreign lecturers and foreign syllabuses. Collaboration with institutions abroad and concerted efforts by people and institutions here in Poland have resulted in programs of which the best are up there with good programs in Western Europe. We now have well-educated Polish lecturers and can also hire foreign lecturers. Students today also have opportunities to pursue MBA programs abroad. Poland has without a doubt been successful in this segment of the education market. Though it may appear to be a paradox, we owe this success in part to the fact that MBA programs were never subsidized by the government. That caused an education market to quickly emerge in Poland, bringing a variety of programs. The level of quality varied. A market like that gave students a choice.
Most importantly, Polish MBA programs have produced thousands of well-educated and ambitious managers. Without them and without their skills and knowledge, Polish companies would probably not have been able to achieve as much as they have. At the end of the day, economic development is determined by people and their qualifications, and MBA programs have evidently played a very important role in enhancing the quality of Poland’s human capital. They have also made modern management methods more widely available.