Operations Research at Business Schools: The Bad!

Right after returning from Egon Balas’ 90th Birthday tea, as I thought good thoughts about the role operations research plays in business schools, I read some disconcerting news from the College of of Business and Economics, University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, from Dr. Nicola Petty:

On Wednesday the Council of the university at which I have been employed voted to close down the Operations Research programme. The university wants to “concentrate” and OR didn’t make the grade, despite two academics taking voluntary redundancy, and a concerted effort to streamline the programme so that it is financially viable. It is the end of an era.

Let me begin by saying that I love New Zealand and its universities.  I spoke at a number of them in 2007 when I was the New Zealand Operational Research Society Visiting Speaker, and I spent a wonderful couple of days at the University of Canterbury.  Christchurch is a beautiful town that has had a tough time of it recently.  And I have no direct knowledge of the challenges the university faces, or what went into the decision.

That said, I have to ask:

What the heck is that university thinking?????

Here we are, entering a golden age of analytical decision making.  We are in a world where companies are drowning in data but are unable to make sense of it to turn data into better decisions.  Where companies like IBM put business analytics front and center in their strategic plans.  Where a key managerial skill is understanding data and applying analytical approaches to problems.

What kind of management program would purposefully cut their business analytics capabilities in this world?


As an academic administrator in a business school, I guess I am happy to see our “competitors” making themselves weaker.  More for us, I guess.

As someone in operations research, it is depressing to see how some academic administrators just don’t get it.  It gives the rest of us academic administrators a bad name.

If you are a student planning to study management, please ask the question:  am I going to get the skills I need to survive and thrive in a data-rich environment full of complicated decisions?  A management school that is running away from analytics is a school that is living in the past.

4 thoughts on “Operations Research at Business Schools: The Bad!”

  1. Dear prof. trick

    Cannot agree more. As an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, there has never been a better time to apply analytics and optimization to solve large scale business problems (with all teh progress in computing, storage, Big Data etc). It is sad that the University of Christchurch has chosen a “local maxima” at the expense of finding the “global solution”


  2. couldnt agree more. In India, analytics is gaining traction, with quite a few analytics biggies setting up shop here. however, OR in management schools is an ordinary commodity, being taught alongwith statistics in the first year, with no emphasis on quant modelling.hence learners’ skill pickup is patchy and companies train them eventually.

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