First Master's programme to focus on ethical values in business
Questions on businesses' responsibilities to the societies in which they operate have increasingly come to the fore in the wake of the devastating economic and banking crises, spurring international discussion and spawning widely-acclaimed publications by leading figures.
Locally, two faculties at the University of Malta have decided to translate the debate into a Master's degree in Business Ethics which will turn the spotlight on morality and integrity in commercial activity and the application of ethics in decision-making and operations.
It is the latest initiative of the Faculty of Theology's professional ethics programme, established three years ago to collaborate with other faculties in offering joint courses on values in professions.
The programme's first successes were registered with the encouraging response to its MA in Bio-Ethics, an MA in Matrimonial Canon Law and Jurisprudence, and separate MAs in Family and Youth Ministries.
A year in the offing, the three-year MA in Business ethics has been designed in collaboration with the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy. The evening course will be led by lecturers from both faculties and business leaders, including Joseph F.X. Zahra, Lawrence Zammit, Roderick Chalmers, Peter Baldacchino and David Fabri. It is mainly a taught programme with its final year dedicated to dissertation.
Aimed at business practitioners and stakeholders like directors, company secretaries, compliance officers, trade unionists, bankers, lawyers, accountants, NGOs, government officials, and journalists, the course incorporates 10 wide-ranging areas of study.
The modules, involving at least 28 hours of lectures each, will focus on themes including ethical concepts, theories and practice; values and systems of corporate governance, the ethical issues of management, finance and marketing; personal responsibility and corporate social responsibility; ethical issues in the regulation of business; and international business ethics.
The MA in Business Ethics is supported by the Pastoral Formation Institute and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation.
Course co-ordinator Mark Sultana explained the course was inspired by the fundamental fact that business revolves around human relationships.
"This inter-disciplinary course will examine the way in which business and ethics inter-relate," Rev. Dr Sultana said. "These issues have been highlighted by the economic crisis, with people blaming the lack of regulation and integrity as the root cause. This programme seeks to throw light on the different aspects of this relationship."
Saviour Gauci, dean of the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy, and Emanuel Agius, dean of the Faculty of Theology, are optimistic people are willing to learn more about the importance of values and their application to the business eco-system.
Dr Gauci, who heads the Department of Marketing, said questions on ethics arise within most aspects of commercial activity. The study area on international business ethics, which he will lead, will focus on issues as far-reaching as those relating to the establishment of subsidiaries in emerging or developing countries.
Rev. Prof. Agius, who was awarded his full professorship last week, hoped the programme would inspire discussion and the sharing of experiences among participants and lecturers.
"Over the next three years, we aim to foster this culture," he said. "We talk so much about values, about a Europe of values, a Malta of values... This is a course which will hopefully contribute to the well-being of Maltese society and to the business community, to make people conscious and conscientious of ethical values.
"Business must have a soul. It goes beyond the regulation of markets. This programme is about imbuing professionals with a greater sense of justice, fairness, solidarity, morality, responsibility and the common good."
Prospective candidates are expected to possess an undergraduate degree or equivalent professional qualification. Those who opt to exit the programme after a year will be awarded a postgraduate certificate or a postgraduate diploma after two years.
Applications close on Friday but late applications will be accepted under a separate fee regime.