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Aparna Vashisht Rota

DBA Graduate - 2019

Thesis title

Within-Niche product proliferation strategies and reputation: explaining MBA program portfolio at 200 US business schools


Isabel-Maria Bodas-Freitas
According to the USNWR (2015), the top 200 business schools offered multiple MBA program modalities amidst changing student demands, evolution in the nature of the universities, increased competition, heavy criticism on program validity, and reduced funding. Noting these factors, this dissertation examines the within-niche product proliferation decisions of the MBA programs and strategic utilization of the technical, economical, institutional factors that may impact the composition of the program portfolio. Internal demand and the ranking of the full-time MBA program were found to differentiate the product portfolio for unranked and ranked universities. Design Methodology/Approach: We used Quantitative method using Poisson, multivariate probit, probit, and fractional logit models. Research limitations/implications The research implications are that we found that the top 200 universities are different in their strategic choices and resource utilization. For the ranked group, at the portfolio level, demand and rankings impacted the product portfolio. For the unranked group, size, demand, and academic support were significant. The research provides evidence that there is a strategic balance between legitimacy and reputation and there are some barriers for the lower ranked institutions. Our study reveals the within-niche product proliferation in HEI and it shows that universities are strategic in their portfolio decisions. We add to the literature by focusing at the product level as most studies in strategy focus at the firm level, not within the firm. Practical implications Practitioners can use this framework to study the factors that impact product decisions at top universities or firms that have a ranking. It shows that the management portfolio is a within-niche product proliferation strategy and the products are versions of the full time program. We contribute to the literature to reveal that a product category can suffer from lack of legitimation of a category. It reveals the sub niches a firm is unwilling to enter due to perceived reputation loss. The difference in the two groups, ranked and unranked shows that the top 100 are exploiting the MBA program while the lower ranked institutions are branching out and exploring newer formats such as an online MBA. Social implications Rankings or looking good are more impactful than any other factor on the portfolio selection. The MBA program is a sinking ship as the program costs too much especially with the online programs offering a more affordable and robust program. Recently, there was a news article that students don’t value the MBA program and no longer see its value in society. For the sake of legitimacy and reputation, the MBA has program lost its way. Originality value The paper connects several bodies of literature to address the white elephant in the room for the MBA programs by showing the factors that impact the program portfolio while also revealing the difference in portfolios between the ranked and unranked universities. It also shows that there are strategic groups and market segmentation factors at play and those universities aren’t evolving with the needs of the market. Keywords: product proliferation; MBA programs; niches, product demography; valuebased theory