Business students nationwide spend less time hitting the books than their peers, a recent study showed, a finding the GW School of Business dean called “devastating” if accurate.
This year’s National Survey of Student Engagement found that seniors in business programs tend to spend about 14 hours per week studying while senior engineering majors devote the most study time at 19 hours on average. Across the board, students reported on average 15 hours of studying per week.
GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie said it was hard to know how campus habits compare to the report, but said the study highlighted a problem he wants to address through the business school’s ongoing curriculum reform that started this fall.
“We’re still looking at the way those national levels of data map onto us,” he said.
The annual report – which surveyed 416,000 freshmen and seniors attending 673 colleges and universities across the U.S. – found a gap between faculty expectations for studying and students’ reported habits for all disciplines, raising a question of whether professors should lower their standards.
Seniors that graduated from the business school in 2009 reported studying habits almost exactly on par with the University-wide levels, with 14 percent of respondents devoting 16 hours or more to studying during their senior year, and 13 percent devoting between 11 and 15 hours, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research. Study habits of more than 10 hours per week were found among only 27 percent of business students at GW while 36 percent of students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science reported those study hours.
But the time business students spent working with peers outside of class was about 30 percent higher than the campus-wide average.
Guthrie said the school is working to push both faculty and students “to understand that a business degree is not a degree that you take lightly.”
“It cannot be the case that business schools aren’t every bit as rigorous, if not more rigorous, than other parts of the university,” he said.
The business school initiated the process of crafting a curriculum reform this year, with the goal of implementing changes after the University-wide strategic plan is released next fall.
Timothy Fort, interim associate dean of undergraduate programs for the business school and head of the curriculum reform, cautioned that the findings of the study should be taken in perspective, calling its conclusion of 14 hours “a number out of context.”
“There can be an assumption that because business school students have a number that is associated with [hours spent on academics], they therefore aren’t necessarily working as hard,” he said.
To achieve the dean’s goal of elevating the school’s rigor, Fort said the program can make its curriculum more demanding by requiring more challenging reading material and placing a stronger emphasis on math and statistics.
Fort added that it’s important to look at what students are doing outside of the classroom as well.
While business students generally spend less time studying, the report also found they spend the most time on outside jobs or internships, clocking in at 16 hours per week on average.
Gabbi Baker, a junior pursuing a business administration degree, said the tendency for business students to balance coursework and outside employment stands as “a testament to the emphasis that business schools place on gaining real world experience.”
“More than any other major, business classes teach you to connect what you’re learning in the classroom to what is happening in the world,” Baker said. “I don’t think that business majors study less. I think they study differently.”