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I did not think there would be a part three to this series of postings. I thought the strange case of the “MBA Winner” web site was more or less closed last year with the second instalment. And yet…. it lives on with the posting yesterday of a rather intriguing comment from someone called “Matt”, which I reproduce below (first verbatim, then with some notes and responses).

***Note: Since first posting this Part Three, I have heard from Matt, and he makes the fair point that I replied online here before he had replied to me. In his message Matt confirms that he was a student at Henley, and that he experienced poor tutor support, poor enough for him to seek additional support with MBA Winner. Matt says, however, that he received tutoring only and his work was his own. Matt goes on politely to take me to task with my comments on his comment, so to speak, which I have to take on the chin. I think it fair, therefore, to amend them below in line with what I know. I have asked Matt if he will share more of what happened, and what he believes went wrong, as I genuinely believe that the Business School should (where appropriate and within reasonable limits) make help available on the MBA.

But first, a recap.

A year ago I received an unsolicited email from a company selling “advice” to MBA students. Most of what they were selling was getting someone to write assignments on your behalf. I responded and entered into a short and not altogether un-bizarre correspondence with the company concerned. The exchange fuelled two blog posts, which you can see by clicking:

here (for part 1)

and

here (for part 2)

And I figured that was that. Now the Part 2 posting has attracted the comment below:

    “I have used MBA Winner myself as an MBA Student and I can tell you that I really got great help when I needed them.

     Chris Dalton does not like the idea of students experiencing frustration and having to meet tutors who are not really bothered to help. Business Schools like Henley charge an awful lot of money for the services they provide. Is the cost representative of the service that you offer Mr Dalton? From my experience with Henley Business School this is so far from the truth! The institution is the big cheater and you try to protect it. Who is cheating whom?

     I was going through severe illness and I was not getting any understanding from my institution. The tutors from MBA Winner really assisted me and helped me and I am grateful for this. I would advice that you consider the unethical side of your own educational business practices where money means more than the student. You are ready to point out how plagiarism is when someone writes someone else’s assignment. However when it comes to your failure to provide a good service as a business school your argument shifts to how there is staff that could help….. !! Yeah…. OK.

   Matt”

(This was what I wrote first:) Naturally, I was a bit concerned at first. Was Matt a Henley MBA student? Had we treated him poorly? Had his assignments been written for him?!?!  I wrote to Matt via the email address that comes attached when someone comments on the blog.  No reply, yet. (Reply now received, hence these parenthetical amendments)

And then I looked more closely at the comment. Here’s my annotated version:

 “I have used MBA Winner myself as an MBA Student and I can tell you that I really got great help when I needed them.

(OK, what could one object to here? It doesn’t say what “help” meant. Paid tutor support, presumably. It sounds like the other teasing testimonials on the MBA Winner web site. Everything, and nothing.)(with the added info, there does appear to be a back-story)

Chris Dalton does not like the idea of students experiencing frustration and having to meet tutors who are not really bothered to help.

(I call upon the readers of this blog to adjudicate on this one. Where did I say that? And, does Matt mean I don’t like the idea of tutors not bothering? Surely I’d be nuts to like the idea of tutors not bothering. And, there are frustrations that students on a good MBA should feel, as well as others that they shouldn’t. Which sort Matt means comes out later…)(think I still stand by much of this. I am very concerned if a tutor will not help. That should not happen. But, give me details…!)

Business Schools like Henley charge an awful lot of money for the services they provide. Is the cost representative of the service that you offer Mr Dalton? From my experience with Henley Business School this is so far from the truth! The institution is the big cheater and you try to protect it. Who is cheating whom?

(Matt, what experience with HBS are you referring to? You don’t appear on our database. Now, I don’t know if the cost of the Henley MBA is representative of the service that we offer, but I do think our students will not be shy in letting us know when this is the case. In my experience with Henley, when this happens – and it sometimes does – I hope that we take them seriously and act to correct the situation. The basic accusation here is that Business Schools are there to take your money and not provide you with a service. This theme repeats itself numerous times on http://www.mbawinner.com , where the payment is for a service that is delivered. The only slight problem with this is that the service in question is you submitting work that is not your own for a university degree. That is the herd of elephants sitting somewhat impatiently on the other side of the room.)  (notwithstanding Matt’s statement that he did not get tutors to write for him, I am happy to hold to my position on this, at least regarding the school where I work. I’m sure there are sausage-factory MBAs with anonymous interaction and arrogant, stand-offish faculty… I just don’t think MBA Winner represents the answer. Still, it’s healthy to air the debate, I think)

I was going through severe illness and I was not getting any understanding from my institution. The tutors from MBA Winner really assisted me and helped me and I am grateful for this. I would advice that you consider the unethical side of your own educational business practices where money means more than the student. You are ready to point out how plagiarism is when someone writes someone else’s assignment. However when it comes to your failure to provide a good service as a business school your argument shifts to how there is staff that could help….. !! Yeah…. OK.

(I’m very sorry to hear that you were not well, Matt. At Henley, when a student doing the MBA encounters a serious illness, problem or reason that they can’t study, they receive advice and assistance and may suspend their studies until they are better or the issue is resolved. I suspect that you may have chosen the wrong institution in the first place. The answer is not to aim low and cheapen yourself by paying someone to write your MBA for you, it is to aim higher and find one that expects more. Or, if the Higher Education sector leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, focus on gaining experience as a manager in the real world instead. No-one can fake that for you.) (given the institution in question is apparently Henley, then I would want to know more details…)

Matt”

(Dear Matt, you may, for all I know, be a real person, and your comment may be heartfelt, your experience bitter. But I’m not convinced. Sorry.)(dear Matt, you are a real person, so apologies for the snooty tone of this. As a serious educator and, I hope, a professional, I believe that if there is a problem, then the Business School needs to put its house in order)

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After a six week drought of time and energy to pursue it, I have just started to get back to the business of writing things down for my PhD.  With a new and deliciously abstract focus on epistemology.

All PhD candidates are required to show that they have justified their research question and methodology consistent with an explicit epistemology. For some, I suspect this is probably akin more to the drunk man’s use of a lamp-post for support rather than illumination or, worse, the adoption of a convenient theory of knowledge simply to fit the results of the research. 

For me, though, the epistemology is now the question, and one seeks to find data to shed some light on the epistemology, not the other way round.  Bateson once defined epistemology as a) “branch of philosophy concerned with how it is possible to know anything, what is truth, and so on…” and “the study of Natural History”, which meant for him the study of “how people think they know things” as well as “how people know things”. There was no need to define ontology (study of being) except within this definition of epistemology; they were essentially the same thing because in the world of living systems all knowledge is a matter of differentiation and classification of classes of differentiation. The differentiated world of form is one that “exists” in abstraction, inevitably removed from the undifferentiated, unknowable world of substance, of  “things as they are”. 

It follows that, in this branch of philosophy, “management” is not the name of an action but the name of a class or aggregate set of actions which become so labelled only from a view of the context in which those actions are taken.

So beginning from an epistemology that views all living organisms as systems and subsystems defined by patterns and by patterns of patterns, with patterns being the properties of difference, in my research I now propose use an exploration of human narrative to help me better understand how to appreciate what we mean by “patterns of patterns” and what we mean (in Management Education) when we talk about “learning”.

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