MBA: Does size really matter?

Big isn't always best in the world of business schools.

Think of an MBA school and it's likely that the largest ones will spring to mind first: Cranfield, London Business School, City University - all have an intake of several hundred full- and part-time MBA students every year.

Size really does matter when it comes to your MBA. Indeed the Association of MBA's accreditation criteria demand a minimum annual intake of 75; below that a school may not have sufficient resources to run an MBA programme properly. That said, this doesn't necessarily mean that the smaller schools have less to offer. Indeed, keeping things neat has a number of advantages, argues Steve Robinson, director of executive MBA programmes at Ashridge, which has deliberately confined its annual student intake to no more than 30.

"Our size is our greatest selling point, and one of the main reasons students come to take an MBA at Ashridge," he says. "One of the benefits of coming here is the greater access you get to faculty staff. You're much better off if there's just 30 people wanting to see someone rather than 180, and in the classroom academics are obviously more able to interact with their students when the numbers are smaller."

Indeed, a quick glance through the Association of MBA's Guide to Business Schools will show larger differences in staff-student ratios. Some of the smaller schools, for instance, have almost as many staff as students, whereas some larger schools may have one faculty member for every three students.

But it's not just improved access to academic staff that smaller schools can offer. Other support staff can be as essential in helping you gain the most from your MBA. The overall size of the intake will also affect the culture and service levels, and how much personal attention you get, points out Anthony Birts, director of MBAs at the University of Bath School of Management, which currently has an annual intake of around 80.

"If a school has 200 students but only one careers officer, you won't get very much time with them. It's the same for access to computers and to administration staff."

However, it's often the atmosphere that attracts many people to the smaller schools, says Professor Rick Crawley, director of MBA programmes at Lancaster University Management School, which has 70 students on its full-time MBA.

"All our students say we have a very relaxed culture, which means the possibility for students to have informal access to the faculty is high compared with other places. In top schools there's a tendency for the stars to want to strut their stuff and waltz off again, but we're not a very status-conscious place. Members of the faculty are happy to hang around and talk to the students. It's much easier if you limit the size in the way we have done."

Birts believes that being a small school also promotes a feeling of intimacy that might be missing from larger establishments: "Particularly for students coming from abroad, they like the idea of coming to a campus environment where they can be known. When you're one of 70, you're not a number, you're a person."

However, one of the key questions to consider when it comes to size is the numbers in the actual classroom or seminars. Schools with larger intakes may nevertheless retain the virtues of compactness by breaking students up into smaller groups for teaching. Generally, the smaller the class size, the better, with 30-50 considered the largest manageable group.

Bath, for instance, splits its intake into two groups of 40, although numbers may well be much smaller when it comes to choosing options and electives.

"An awful lot does depend on the willingness of people to pitch in," says Birts. "With larger numbers it becomes easier for people to hide and say nothing. It can easily slip into chalk and talk with no interaction. You're really after a small, intimate atmosphere where no one feels intimidated about chipping in."

But it's not all roses being small, he admits. "The bigger you are, the faster your alumni group grows and the more companies are prepared to take you seriously and come to you on the milk round. You certainly do have to work a lot harder if you're smaller, because the larger schools will always tend to have a higher profile. Reputation is crucial; after all students are buying into that brand for the rest of their lives."

SMALL AND FRIENDLY WINS THE DAY

VAL MOORE is strategy development manager at Nat West Mortgage Services in Birmingham. She took a full-time MBA at Lancaster two years ago, when she was 35.

"I'd been working for Nat West bank since 1983 in retail credit. When I decided I wanted to do something more challenging, someone suggested doing an MBA. I won a scholarship to attend Lancaster, and I was really attracted to the fact that it has got such a small and friendly campus.

"There were just 56 people on my course, but that covered 23 different nationalities. I really wanted to get to know people from different countries and learn about their different cultures. That's much easier when there are not so many of you.

"The size of the group was great from a social point of view as we didn't have to split up and we could have activities together as a group. Academically, too, it was very informal. We were able to ask questions during the lectures, and even those staff who were only there for a few weeks got to know everyone's names. You always felt you could approach people, whether they were academics or fellow students.

"The most refreshing thing was the real willingness to share and the great atmosphere of mutual cooperation and support. We'd often meet up in the bar, so that one student who had a better grasp of something could explain it to the others. I've heard that in some larger schools people are far more competitive and less concerned with helping each other along."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

    £30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

    Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

    £40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

    Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

    £30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

    Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

    £35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game