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After six years of admitting students in both January and September, Harvard Business School (HBS) announced last week that beginning in 2001, it will admit candidates for the MBA program in September only.
In the previous system, which HBS called the "two-cohort system," students who began school in January would study for four consecutive terms--including a three-month summer semester--and graduate a year and a half later.
Students admitted in September would take a summer break, finishing in two years.
September Cohort Chair and Professor of Business Ethics Joseph L. Badaracco said the old system will be replaced because it had already achieved its goals and its benefits no longer warranted the added cost to the school and its faculty.
The entire first-year program had to be run twice a year, he said, tying up resources.
"We basically had to juggle two balls instead of one," Badaracco said.
A business school committee, which included students, faculty and outside consultants, found that most of the innovation prompted by the system occurred during its initial years.
Also, they found that the September cohort was much more popular.
"It seems that the vast majority of students wanted a summer job," Badaracco said. "We thought students would take advantage of a faster way to get through the program, but with the economy so strong, students seemed to put more value in the opportunity to try something new during the summer."
HBS introduced the two-cohort system in 1994 for three primary reasons, according to Badaracco.
First, professors would have more opportunities to experiment with teaching methods.
"You could try something and see how it worked, and try again without having to wait a whole year," Badaracco said. "The cycle time was reduced dramatically."
Also, the smaller size of the January cohort allowed for smaller instruction groups.
Admissions criteria were the same for students in both cohorts. Students were asked to select their preferred entrance date in their applications.
As a result of the experimentation facilitated by the two-cohort system, Badaracco said, several innovative programs were introduced.
"We began an experimental general management program for students in the spring cohort, then applied what we had learned to the program for fall cohort students," he said. "I think this is very typical of the innovations we saw."
Though the review process began in April 1999, Harbus, the HBS student newspaper, reported that the majority of students had no idea that the two-cohort system was undergoing scrutiny.
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