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1 network {professional research 20 diversity HOW TO executive benefit Choose standards strategic an MBA The best business school for you is the one that matches your needs and expectations network location alumni opportunities flexible

2 The immense number of MBA courses on offer can make the choice bewildering for aspiring business students. From an intense year or two of international study to specialisations in a particular field, a modular executive programme for the seasoned executive or a flexible course delivered to your laptop, business education seems to have something for every professional lifestyle. So how do you find the right MBA programme for you? The criteria for selecting a business school should, above all, be based on your personal and professional situation and match with your objectives and career goals. It is invaluable to reflect on personal preferences: learning styles, international perspective, class size, cultural diversity, faculty and areas of specialisation, school personality as conveyed by students and alumni, and value for money, as well as your post- MBA career ambitions. All too often the personal motivations for selecting a particular programme become overshadowed by a school s position in the handful of media rankings. However, the methodologies used to rank business schools vary widely, often with criteria that fail to reflect individual preferences and requirements (see box on rankings). So before creating a shortlist of MBA programmes, consider the following criteria to help you find the right fit. Reputation With so many MBA graduates competing in today s job market, it is no longer enough to simply have an MBA. Recruiters want to know where you studied: the reputation of a school makes big difference. Selecting an MBA programme with an internationally recognised accreditation, such as from the Association of MBAs (AMBA), is a guarantee for both you and a prospective employer that your studies have met rigorous standards of management training, and that the faculty, students and curriculum are of the highest quality. It is also a good idea to research the sort of links the school and its career services have with business or non-profit sectors, both locally and abroad, to see how they and the alumni of the school can help you in a particular industry or job function. Location Many graduates from UK schools such as the London Business School and Cass Business School, or from NYU Stern and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in the US, focus on post-mba careers in financial services, while graduates from Stanford Graduate School of Business or Cambridge University s Judge Business School have access to clusters of IT and biotech firms. The schools have strong ties with these sectors, with prominent guest speakers, summer internships and an influential alumni network. In continental Europe, graduates of France s HEC Paris benefit from the country s ties with the luxury sector and energy industry, while Germany s ESMT is supported by industrial giants such as Allianz, BMW and Siemens. For those wanting to develop their career in Asia, schools such as the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Indian School of Business offer cultural insights and access to fast-growing markets. It is no longer enough to simply have an MBA. Recruiters want to know where you studied 21

3 Programme length Over the past 10 years, top US business schools and a handful of European institutions such as London Business School, Manchester Business School and Spain s IESE Business School, have faced pressure to shorten the two-year MBA programme that they favour to a one-year programme, allowing students to return more quickly to the fast-moving job market. These schools have resisted such changes, maintaining that the management tools necessary to succeed in both old and new economies over a 40-year career are better provided over a two-year period. They also argue that the summer internship between year one and year two provides a valuable opportunity for students to sample a potential career switch and forge valuable ties for post-mba employment. 22 With their typically one-year programmes, many business schools in Europe offer an intensive general management focus, well suited to professionals with a clear sense of their future career steps. Schools such as Oxford University s Saïd Business School, Switzerland s IMD and Belgium s Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School rate favourably when calculating value for money or return on investment (ROI), given that tuition costs are lower for one year of study and students forego only 12-months of salary during the course. The summer internship provides a valuable opportunity for students to sample a potential career switch

4 MBA rankings Can you really compare apples and oranges? Class size Both the Harvard Business School in the US and Insead have announced increases to their MBA intake, pushing annual class size to close to 1,000 students. This can be a real plus when it comes to a far-reaching alumni network but those looking for a more intimate learning environment might feel more comfortable at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland. There the MBA programme of 90 students ensures a student faculty ratio of 3:1. Importantly, the focus of studies could be the perfect match with your post-mba career goals Specialisation The fundamentals of a solid general management MBA will include core subjects in finance, accounting, strategy and marketing and, increasingly a range of soft skills that include negotiation, presentation and people management. To assess the strength of a school in a particular field you can investigate the centres of research they may have, as well as faculty expertise and course electives. Schools such as EMLyon in France and Babson College in the US are recognised as leading institutions for entrepreneurship and have incubators and investor networks to help your fledgling business plan. Such schools may be outside the overall top 20 on a media rankings table, but tuition fees are also outside the top 20. More Media rankings of business schools form an integral part of the business school world, and their annual results are met with a mix of joy, despair and scepticism by the business school community. Students and alumni try to assess the impact of their school s standing in the global market, while potential applicants are sometimes overdependent on these subjective league tables to determine their shortlist of target schools. However, the reality is that there is no single best business school in the world, and rankings can all too often distract from thinking about which one could be the best business school for your individual needs. Each organisation that produces a ranking makes use of a different methodology and weights the use of different data to produce its league tables, so it is important to understand what is being measured. For example, the Financial Times bases 40 per cent of its ranking on post-mba salaries three years after graduation, which tends to favour schools the graduates of which secure lucrative positions in consultancy or finance. Meanwhile BusinessWeek emphasises the satisfaction levels of students and recruiters, The Economist includes an assessment of the ability of the MBA to open new career opportunities, and Forbes does a simple calculation of return on investment five years out from business school. The difference between a school ranked 28th or 48th in any of these tables is probably not that great; they will both offer you a worldclass business education. In any case, the results might be reversed on at a different league table. The practical value of a school depends on what is being measured and what matters to you. 23

5 importantly, the focus of studies could be the perfect match with your post-mba career goals. And if the healthcare sector, non-profit management or sustainability is a priority, the MBA programmes at the University of Exeter, Canada s York-Schulich School of Business or McGill University might be worth considering. Research is key, because the market for business education has expanded in recent years to include specialisations as varied as wine management, hotel and tourism, football industries and luxury brand management. Network students and alumni Enduring features of your business school experience are the group of students with whom you will share an intense learning experience, and the alumni who provide the basis of your professional network in the years to follow. The cultural and professional diversity of classmates is often identified as a major benefit of the MBA and the experience and perspectives they bring to the programme are a key source of learning. Once graduated, alumni can provide an international network that can help you to open doors into a company, international market or simply provide well-informed advice and support. Alumni from the likes of Harvard Business School in America, Insead in Europe, and Melbourne Business School in Asia-Pacific read like a who s who of global business and it is important to find out how a business school helps its graduates to stay connected as well as the extent and activity of its networks both locally and abroad. Format Beyond the full-time MBA, typically preferred by career switchers or career enhancers, business schools offer an array of flexible options. The parttime MBA is aimed at young professionals looking to develop their managerial skill set while maintaining their current job. It s often confused with the executive MBA, which is intended for experienced managers. The part-time option is gaining popularity in Europe and Asia, and requires participants to juggle their studies with professional and personal commitments over two to three years. The executive MBA has been one of the strongest growing segments of business education in recent years. Often requiring company support, whether in the form of financial sponsorship or time off work, many business schools offer a weekend format suitable for students in proximity of the campus. To 24 Points to remember What benefits do you hope to gain after your MBA?»Improved salary/ earning potential»development of skills in specific fields such as finance, strategy and marketing.»access to a network of alumni»an improved opportunity to work in another country»professional benefits from the reputation of the school What are the teaching methods and the school environment that best suit your learning style and personality? A business school should enable you to achieve a number of goals after graduation, but the MBA programme is an experience in itself, and each school has a very different profile and personality. Consider the merits of the school such as working and being evaluated as part of a team, learning through case studies versus lectures, the competitive nature of the school, the flexibility to adapt to individual needs, the school s location (for you and your partner), the international nature of the school, social life at the school, the professors reputations etc. Identify schools that best correspond to your expectations following your graduation, and the environment you are looking for during the MBA Once you have worked out what you want both during and after the MBA, you need to get information on different MBAs and use this information to choose schools that fit your selection criteria. School websites and other online resources, MBA fairs, rankings, information sessions and interviews with alumni all provide you with valuable information, and show a school you are a motivated and serious candidate. develop the strategic management skills that are required for overseeing global teams there is a growing number of global executive MBAs such as OneMBA, IE Brown or the Trium EMBA, which combine a modular programme of week-long, multi-continent study periods, interspersed with virtual learning.

6 The MBA is a considerable investment in both time and money, and the return is counted in years rather than months Finally, the distance-learning MBA provides an online solution for those who want to study where they want, when they want. Advances in technology, along with an increasingly mobile audience of professionals around the globe, have given rise to a number of mass-market providers who count their students in the thousands, but the quality of such programmes is questionable. Only a handful of distance-learning MBA programmes, such as at the Warwick Business School or The Open University, are AMBA-accredited. Cost The MBA is a considerable investment in both time and money, and the return on investment is counted in years rather than months. Tuition fees vary considerably, from as much as 75,000 for two years at a top US business school, and even higher for a global executive MBA, to 23,000 for a well-rated, European one-year programme and less than 15,000 for many distance-learning MBAs. On top of this, there are living costs and additional expenses that vary based on where you study. Beyond any savings they may have set aside, many applicants are faced with securing student loans and applying for a variety of scholarships that might be available. Schools are often the best source of funding advice. So set up a realistic calculator of costs and foregone earnings and remember the investment you are making is in yourself. Claims by institutions, alumni and marketers that theirs is the best business school in the world and rankings by a range of organisations can all too often distract from assessing all the variables to ascertain which one could be the best business school for you. For more info visit 25

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