A new breed of work-hard, study-hard, management high-flyer is emerging as the Master of Business Administration. Dismissed four years ago as yesterday's degree, it has now adapted to the 1990s and continues to expand.

Full-time degrees that promised five-figure salary hikes have given

way to part-time alternatives that can be fitted around a job, while the

Open University's distance-learning MBA, launched five years ago, has proved a runaway success. Today it has over 5,000 students

in the UK and is still growing,

while other providers are scrambling to produce similar courses

or make other forms of provision more flexible.

Part-time and distance-learning MBA students have been successful in gaining support from their employers: the most recent national MBA survey shows that 57 per cent had all their fees paid by the employer, while 55 per cent were given some study leave.

In return, managers are giving up their Sundays, evenings and lunchbreaks to writing assignments, swotting for exams and reading

up case studies - on top of a demanding full-time job. Some go-getting young managers even combine this regime with moving house or having a baby.

The new modes of study have attracted students from a far

wider range of jobs than the

MBA's traditional heartland of financial services, consultancy, and corporate management. Today, solicitors, nurses, police officers, teachers, local government officers and small business people are among the new sectors represented on these courses.

Open Business School

Flexibility is the key feature of the Open Business School MBA, which can be taken in three to five years by the graduate entrant. A foundation course, The Competent Manager, is followed by a compulsory strategic management course and three optional courses from a menu of nine, which includes a project. A special option in public service management is offered for the one third of students drawn from the public sector. The programme has the classic Open University ingredients of course materials for home study, an assigned counsellor and course tutor, regular tutorials in a regional centre and residential summer schools. Students are encouraged to attend support groups with fellow students and to use the OU's computer conferencing system.

The school directs students to relate study material to their work experience. If demands of work and study conflict, the counsellor negotiates a change of study schedule, or a transfer to other centres in the UK and Europe. Total cost is pounds 7,500.

Peter Cardwell, a partner in a marketing consultancy and an OBS student, said: 'The OU offers the best value. Our support group is great: it represents a really wide range of interests. We have a cosmetic surgeon, a civil engineer, a computer scientist, a PhD in entomology and someone in the music business. Seeing how people relate the course material to their different circumstances is very useful.' The course was a 'huge commitment' alongside running a small business - he studied four evenings a week and had to give up sailing. 'But this knowledge is very useful and I can apply it directly on behalf of my clients.'

The modular MBA offers a fast route to gaining an MBA for those in full-time employment who have a supportive employer prepared to accept substantial chunks of full-time study.

Henley Management College offers the first modular course in the UK to combine three four-week blocks of full-time study with home study using distance learning materials. The course can be completed in a year and covers the same ground as the college's other programmes. It costs pounds 10,250.

Like most students, Ian Mash, a British Telecom manager, is sponsored by his employer. 'I had to persuade both personnel and my line manager which wasn't easy,' he said, 'but this approach appealed to me because you go through the materials at your own pace.'

City University Business School's part-time MBA is a well-established, popular programme that takes in 70 students a year. The school's location in the Barbican has ensured a large intake of students from banking and financial services and until last year, the course had an inbuilt emphasis on financial management. This year, however, it has been broadened to include electives in the full range of management functions. Dr Carol Viebla, course director, said: 'We also attempt to keep a balance between theoretical exploration of business and practical skills.' The course is taken over two years, with students attending two evening classes a week. There are also residential weekends and a series of one-day skills workshops devoted to practical skills such as teamwork, decision-making, resource management, negotiation and handling stress. In the second year, students undertake a project and are offered two optional study weeks abroad. The programme costs pounds 14,000. 'I chose the City course,' said Susannah Aliker, an accountant with the Burton Group, 'because group work is vitally important for me and there is a lot of group work at City. It was also partly financial: if I'd done a

full-time MBA I would have had to recoup an enormous investment.' Her employers have given pounds 3,000 towards the fees. 'I wanted to study to broaden my horizons and my experience. The good thing about the MBA is that it brings your intellectual abilities to the fore but you apply everything you learn to the real world. To keep up, one day of study a week at home is essential, plus I would do two to three hours reading a day on the Tube.' She lives in Loughton.

Accredited business schools offering MBA courses in the London area:

City University Business School

Frobisher Crescent Barbican Centre

EC2Y 8HB(071-477 8606)

Henley Management College Greenlands Henley-on-Thames Oxfordshire

RG9 3AU (0491 571454)

Imperial College Management School

53 Prince's Gate, Exhibition Road

SW7 2PG (071-594 9105)

Middlesex University Business School The Boroughs NW4 4BT (081-362 5000)

Kingston University Business School Kingston Hill Kingston upon Thames Surrey KT2 7LB (081-547 2000)

London Business School Sussex Place Regent's Park NW1 4SA (071-262 5050)

The Open Business School

Parsifal College 527 Finchley Road

NW3 7BG (071-433 6161)

Warwick Business School University of Warwick Coventry (0203 523922)

London Management Centre University

of Westminster 35 Marylebone Lane

NW1 5LS.(071-911 5000)

(Photograph omitted)