MBA: And the winner is...

The 1999 Student Of The Year Award is a chance for individuals and schools to shine

THIS YEAR The Independent will again be running the Student Of The Year Award with the Association of MBAs. It is the second year of the competition and business schools are being asked to nominate their best all-rounder, rather than their top academic achiever, taking into account nine criteria.

Last year - the first year of the competition - women distinguished themselves by walking away with four out of the five regional prizes. The lone male winner was a Canadian who studied his MBA at Bath. Both runners-up were women.

All showed the extent to which MBA programmes are attracting people from different walks of life, including people from non-business backgrounds. One of the winners was an independent school headmistress, another worked for the Church Commissioners, one was working with disabled people in the voluntary sector and a fourth was employed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

According to the Association of MBAs, the award highlights the role a student can play in the development and continuing success of the MBA, while promoting the interests of the business school. It is also designed to highlight the importance of the MBA to an individual's personal and career development.

Business schools appreciate the award because it enables them to reward someone who has contributed to the programme as a whole. They also like it because it sends a signal that you don't have to be an intellectual to do well on an MBA. Schools are asked to nominate people who have excelled at working in a goup, have been a good ambassador for the school and committed to the future development of the MBA, who have overcome challenges during study, have benefited themselves from the MBA and helped others on the programme.

Last year's winners say the award has been useful to them personally. Sara Hadlow, 32, who studied for an MBA at Aston, says winning the Midlands regional award gave her the chance to move into a new job at Brintons Carpets in Kidderminster, looking at strategic issues. "It helped me to raise my profile and gain credibility," she says. "It was really pleasing to see success stories from MBAs and to show the value of MBAs beyond a piece of paper. People change their thinking and their approach to business as a result of the programmes."

Eve Poole, 27, winner of the Scottish award, has been promoted to senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting within six months. "That was certainly aided and abetted by the award," she says. (Before her MBA at Edinburgh Management School she worked for the Church Commissioners.) The promotion means that she receives more money, as well as a company car.

"The award was a nice accolade," she says. "I wasn't expecting it."

There are some changes to this year's competition. As last year, entrants will be divided into five groups. But the field is being widened to include overseas schools. A winner will be chosen from each group. Unlike last year, one overall winner will then be chosen from those five. Winners from each of the five groups will receive a cash prize of pounds 500 and a two year free membership of the Association of MBAs. Awards will be presented at the Association's annual autumn dinner in London.

For more details, email Paula Glason at the Association of MBAs: p.glason@mba.org.uk

MOVING UP

WHEN DAVID Deakin, 41, embarked on a four-week management training course while working for his then employers - a Swiss pharmaceutical company - he was unenthusiastic. But he quickly caught the learning bug, going on to do a diploma in general management and an MBA.

"Going to Ashridge really broadened my mind. I had a marketing background, which meant finance, human resources and operations were pretty new to me. I learnt how to look at a business as a process - taking material and human resources and making something of real value for the customer. Having completed the diploma at Ashridge, I was able to join the second year of the part-time MBA. It was difficult because of the amount of work but I found it very interesting and it changed my perspective. Halfway through my MBA I moved to Barnados, the childcare charity. For the past year I have been a director of a health care consultancy, Agora Healthcare Services. I recommend anyone to do an MBA at Ashridge. It's a wonderful place with brilliant facilities."

MOVING ON

BEFORE HELEN Johnstone, 38, embarked on her full-time MBA, she worked as a chartered patent agent. But she thought it was too narrow a career and she wanted to broaden her skills. By obtaining an MBA on top of her science degree and intellectual property qualification, she thought she might be able to get a job as a technical director.

"I chose to do my course at Leeds because the business school is accredited with AMBA and I live in the city. I've really enjoyed the MBA - in a way it's almost gone too quickly. I think it's a course where you can benefit from having a good few years of work experience. Whenever you're doing something academic you can relate it to some incident you've experienced. It's almost like you're crystallising what you already know. Certain modules I found more interesting than others. Accounting and finance were the most difficult. It's been a very useful experience having so many overseas students on the course (Leeds has 80 per cent) because it lets you see how people from different cultures function."

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