The A-Z of Business Schools: Ashridge Management College

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The Independent Online
Age: 39.

History: Began life as a college offering short executive courses lasting one to four weeks. Moved into the MBA market in 1988 with full-time, then part-time and now consortium MBAs.

Address: Former neo-Gothic stately home of the Dukes of Bridgewater set in 168 acres of rolling parkland near Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire - as far removed from the hustle of capitalism as you can get.

Ambience: A Rolls-Royce business school with a divine situation, tailor- made for stressed-out managers wanting to slough off the cares of the world. Only 30 minutes from Euston station. Comes complete with physical fitness centre, including swimming pool, squash courts, gymnasium, sauna and jacuzzi, with a health and fitness expert on hand to tailor individual fitness programmes. A brainy health farm.

Vital Statistics: Prides itself on being intimately connected to the coal-face rather than the chalkface because of its origins offering short courses to businessmen. The MBA is quintessentially practical. Its heart is a "live consultancy project" in a real business, identifying a problem and proposing how to solve it. Each student has a project supervisor. Teaching is in small groups. MBA programmes contain no more than 30 students. Students on a part-time MBA are 100 per cent company-sponsored.

Added value: The "life consultancy project" done by each student. It means companies sponsoring students get a piece of consultancy for which they would otherwise have to hire an expensive firm. And it's not any old project but a piece of work overseen by one of Ashridge's faculty members - who is already a highly-paid consultant. State-of-the-art learning resource centre containing personal computing and media training facilities.

Easy to get into? Minimum requirements are a degree or a professional qualification or if the company has identified the person as being a potential high-flyer. Plus five years' managerial experience. Plus the GMAT examination.

Association of MBAs accreditation? Yes.

Glittering alumni: Ken Cunningham, chief executive of Stoke Mandeville Hospital; Richard Beaven, customer service and operations director at Barclays Bank; David Woodhouse, managing director of Hall and Woodhouse (West Country pubs); Gill Edelman, chief executive of ICAN (children's charity); Belinda Phipps, chief executive of East Berks NHS Trust; Dr Simon De Vries, chief executive of HRL, a biotech start-up company.

International connections: Heavy overseas contingent among students and staff. Full-time MBA this year contains a Russian, a Belgian, a German, an American, a Bulgarian, a Chinese, an Indian, a Japanese and a Swiss national. The remaining 16 students are British. Has links with Babson Business School in Boston, Cornell University, Michigan University, Centre for Creative Leadership in North Carolina, Monash University in Melbourne and the International Management Centre in Prague.

Student profile: Average age is 32 for full-time MBA and 34 for the part- time. The college is keen to attract women. Last year the ratio of men to women on the full-time MBA was 64:36 and on the part-time, 80:20.

Example of management speak: An outdoor learning environment.

Cost: pounds 17,000.

What do you get for the money? The world's your oyster. One graduate last year had seven jobs to choose from.

Who's the boss? Tall, charming, suave Michael Osbaldeston, who grows vines in France.

Next week: Aston.