Australia-first MBA program for school principals

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6 October 2016

As any school principal with attest to, their role in the modern school setting has moved beyond shaping curriculum and filling in for the absent teacher Image 1 - Stephen Elder, Addresses the graduates. Image 2  - Education Minister James Merlino, Vice Chancellor of ACU Greg Craven, Executive Director of Catholic Education Stephen Elder with graduates of the Australia First Executive Education MBA.when there are no casual relief teachers around.

The principal is now a business manager, who shapes the organisational structure, mediates human resources issues, and oversees key financial decisions, among a myriad of responsibilities and pressures.

The annual Principal Health and Wellbeing Report has cited resourcing needs, employer expectations and financial management as some of the leading sources of stress for principals and a potential distraction from their ability to focus on teaching and learning.

And while they are skilled educationalists and administrators, principals are keen to learn or upgrade the business skills and qualifications that will make them better managers.

To meet this need Catholic Education Melbourne and Australian Catholic University (ACU) Executive Education have partnered to deliver an Australia-first program to provide school principals with the best knowledge and skills to manage the more than $43 billion government spend on primary and secondary education annually.

Catholic Education Melbourne Executive Director, Stephen Elder, said if we are asking principals to oversee multi-million budgets and managing medium to large organisations, they need to have the business grounding to make the best decisions for their schools.

‘We too easily forget principals are heading multi-million dollar enterprises, while at the same time demonstrating their accountability to school communities and governments by delivering the best value for money,’ Mr Elder said.

‘The people who are leading our schools need to be business minded. Governments are demanding more of us and our communities are demanding more of us as managers and leaders, so we have created this tailored Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

‘We can now be confident our principals not only have a deep understanding of education, but also the skills and knowledge to contribute to successfully running their schools.’

The first group of 28 graduates from the course were recognised earlier this year by the Victorian Education Minister James Merlino, with the second class of graduates excepted at the end of 2016, growing to more than 50 principals.

Principal at St Margaret’s Primary School, Maribyrnong, Gavin Brennan, one of the first graduates, said he expected MBA qualifications to become the industry standard.

‘I do see a time very soon when to be a principal an MBA will be essential,’ Mr Brennan said.

‘Going back 10 to 15 years ago a principal was a teacher who had higher responsibilities, but the role is significantly different now. This sees the principal spend less time involved in shaping the curriculum and more time managing the organisation, overseeing budgets and ensuring interdepartmental communication.’

The MBA (Executive) is a three-year course delivered through intensive week-long seminars at Melbourne’s Catholic Leadership Centre by ACU Executive Education.

Director of Strategic Partnerships and Executive Education Tom Ristoski said ACU’s storied history as one of the country’s leading education providers made collaborating with Catholic Education Melbourne a natural fit.

‘ACU has strong ties with Catholic Education Melbourne and it was these strong ties which allowed us to come together to build a course offering that reflects the unique needs of principals in the modern school environment,’ Mr Ristoski said.

‘Our MBA offering is considered one of the best in Australia, along with ACU’s specialty in teaching and education, we have now have an offering that we hope can have a profound impact on the sector.’

For more information on ACU Executive Education’s MBA and other business-related offerings visit