May 2013 issue

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MBAs in the UK

Students commencing a Master of Business Administration programme have strong academic credentials, and, in most cases, have clearly defined career objectives. This programme continues to be the ‘gold standard’ for many international students looking for a business career, as Nicola Hancox finds out.

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a graduate degree that equips the next generation of global leaders with the business, management and leadership principles required for success in international business,” begins Sonja Hein at Hult International Business School, which has several international campuses including one in London.

Designed to familiarise students with a host of business competencies, there is, notes Steve Cousins at Cass Business School in London, a wide variety of options available which might make it hard for students to choose the right course. Many, he adds, choose schools accredited by organisations such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).

Completion of an MBA typically takes two academic years, although one-year intensive options are available as are part-time and distance learning options. “We currently offer an intense one-year MBA programme (full-time) and three executive MBA programmes,” observes Gary Rees at Portsmouth Business School, part of the University of Portsmouth. MBA programmes are popular with international students due to the global nature of offerings, he adds.

At Greenwich School of Management(GSM) in London, MBA and financial management programmes are the most popular as the subject areas are the most transnational, says Emma Buckby at the college, although a variety of subject areas such as strategic management and HR are also offered. Meanwhile at Norwich Business School www.business.uea.ac.uk, part of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, elective modules specialise on business specifics, says Julian Campbell, although MBA programmes focus on various business areas. “This allows students,” says Campbell, “to explore areas such as entrepreneurship.”

Hult is one of the few US-accredited schools that offers an accelerated one-year MBA option, says Hein, and provides a “faster return on investment compared with a two-year MBA programme thanks to lower study-related costs, less time away from work and a quicker re-entry into the workplace with an MBA salary.” She adds that India, the USA, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Italy lead the way in MBA admissions.

Some MBAs incorporate work placements. “This is often done through consultancy-based projects which allow the students to develop further skills,” says Campbell. And at Cass Business School, work experience gained prior to MBA studies is the biggest focus in the admissions process. “That is not to say we are just looking at how long someone has worked,” adds Cousins, “What is most important is the richness of the experience; what they can gain from and bring to the programme.”

As well as having at least three years of postgraduate work experience, MBA students at Hult must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and demonstrate leadership potential, says Hein. As part of the admissions process, the institution also stipulates that students take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).Well-balanced GMAT or GRE (Revised General Test) scores are also an admission requirement for the full-time MBA at Cass Business School, and an Ielts score of 7.0 is required for non-English speaking students, notes Cousins. Interestingly, 85 per cent of students on Cass’s full time MBA programme are from overseas.

A recent report by the Financial Times observed that international MBA enrolments were at their lowest in eight years, but Campbell notes the school has been fortunate enough not seen a drop in applicant numbers, although it has experienced pressures. These include companies spending less on sponsoring employees to undertake an MBA as a result of the global recession and the perplexing UK visa situation. As a result, providers in the Netherlands and Germany are tapping into the English-language learning market, providing excellent provision at competitive prices with fewer immigration restrictions, asserts Buckby. “Regardless, there is still a requirement to do an MBA in a city like London, the heart of business in the UK,” she says. The UK Home Secretary’s announcement that an extra 1,000 places would be made available to MBA graduates who wish to stay in the UK and start-up businesses has brought some cheer to the sector.

Actively recruiting

A diverse recruitment method to counter any challenges in the enrolment of international students is strategically vital. At the Greenwich School of Management (GSM) in London, Emma Buckby notes that they welcome direct applications as well as those via education agents overseas. “We have a number of intakes per year, more than one campus location, and flexible programmes so we have a fairly open channel to meet many needs.” Top source countries at GSM include India, Nigeria and Ghana, with increasing interest from Japan, South East Asia and the Americas, adds Buckby.

As one of the only UK universities to offer an AMBA-accredited 24-month MBA programme, Gary Rees at Portsmouth Business School, part of the University of Portsmouth, notes they have a distinct edge in the global market, and the institution attracts students from China, South East Asia, India and some African countries. “We have targeted parts of Africa for additional sources of students and are considering South America as a new feeder stream for the MBA,” he adds.

In the course of their research, Julian Campbell at Norwich Business School, part of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, notes that students often make direct contact via the university website. They also utilise agents. Meanwhile, Steve Cousins at Cass Business School in London relates that the institution regularly travels overseas offering master classes, having one-to-one meetings and attending specific MBA fairs.

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