As Dean of Executive MBA (EMBA) at SP Jain School of Global Management since October 2016, Gary Stockport has been at the helm of furthering advanced business education for working professionals. During Covid, there was an explosion in online upskilling programmes available at affordable costs with flexible schedules. Did that affect EMBA enrollment? EMBA more relevant than ever, says Stockport. He is proof positive that the EMBA is delivering on its value proposition and more and more managers looking to invest in the strategic transformation of their careers.

In this interview, he discusses the popularity of an online EMBA format, who an EMBA is for, and the benefits and distinctions of pursuing an EMBA versus an online upskilling programme.


Did the surge in popularity of online upskilling programmes affect EMBA admissions? 

Covid was very challenging for all businesses and EMBA programmes. However, SP Jain’s EMBA had a massive growth in student numbers, particularly online. Since January 2020, the B-school has started 24 online batches with over 1,000 students from about 15 different countries. It’s been an incredibly fast-growth period for SP Jain and the growth has mainly come from online. We are still focusing on both online and face-to-face, but the student experience will continue to be technology-driven. Technology is going to be pivotal as part of the student learning experience. 


What is the profile of students who have signed up for an EMBA at SP Jain? Is it gender diverse? 

The average age of students is 35-36 with 10 to 11 years of work experience, typically from an engineering background. But we take in students even with three years of work experience. So, it’s possible for us to have someone with 20 years of work experience and someone with three years in the same batch. The cohort size for an online batch is 40-50 students, and face-to-face is 20-30 students.

Close to 20-25 per cent are female. We are always looking to increase that number to 30-40 per cent. The students come from about 15 different sectors or more. A typical batch has got people from banking and finance, oil and gas, IT, healthcare, shipping, and a whole range of different sectors which adds this fantastic richness to the learning experience.


What does one join an EMBA for? What are the students’ motivations?

The motivations for joining vary from person to person. Generally, it makes someone a much better general manager. When they approach a business problem, they can look at it from an accounting point of view, finance point of view, marketing and HR point of view, and even strategy. It gives someone the confidence to be a much more competent general manager. It also builds the capabilities for leadership positions, such as the ability to speak clearly. We offer speaking-selling skills with Toastmasters Clubs.

Students want to strategically transform their careers and also speed up. One-third of our students typically have at least one job change during the 18 months. Some wait until after the EMBA has finished. We’ve got lots of students that change job sectors, change their job roles, and even students that want to start up post-EMBA.


Can skill gaps be plugged with short-term, online courses, is an 18-month EMBA still relevant?

I don’t think so. Students want to have an 18-month professional career experience. SP Jain runs a lot of short courses. But the EMBA is totally different. This is a master’s degree for students who are willing to focus on their professional development for 18 months.

Students want to do this because they believe this is going to be more or less their last chance to focus on themselves for a full 18-month period. So, we don’t usually find the choice between executive development short courses and an EMBA.


What are the new skill sets that EMBA provides post-Covid? Is there a data focus and tech intervention? 

In our EMBA, students do 30 courses for 36 credit points. So, there’s a whole range of skills and capabilities that we want to have our students to better — skills and strategy, thinking strategically, planning and doing, and being aware of the latest trends in terms of corporate governance and ethics, business acumen skills, making strategic decisions with data or a lack of data.

There is a big emphasis on Big Data analytics, both within core and elective subjects. Also, we’ve got lots of students really interested in technology development, particularly in starting their own businesses. So, we offer a technology entrepreneurship elective.

We also have an incredible amount of project-based learning. All students do a five-credit point project called an Applied Strategy Project at the end of their EMBA. They investigate a major strategic issue from within their organisation and they’ve got an academic mentor and an industry mentor too. These are high-level strategic projects that have a major quantitative value too.

We make sure that the programme is at the cutting edge of the latest management developments. We also have soft skills courses throughout the 18 months. It’s a very rich course.