Westminster's part-time MBA has been accredited for years. It's also a great place to study. By Emma Haughton
It's hard to think of a more venerable history than that of the University of Westminster, which started life in 1838 as an exhibition hall for such London notables as Brunel and Naysmith to display their technical marvels, and which quickly took on an education function as well. After several reincarnations as Regent Street Polytechnic and the Polytechnic of Central London, Westminster gained university status in 1992.

Its business school also has a well-established pedigree. It began offering business courses between the wars, when the Institute of Mechanical Engineering required its members to think about managing as well as being engineers, explains director of MBA programmes John Hooton, whose father was an early alumni of the polytechnic in the 1920s.

He says: "We're committed to the concept of management development - our aim has always been to enable individuals and the organisations they work for to improve their performance and standing through progressive qualifications."

The school's research interests include education, training, the labour market, the future of work, franchising and total quality management.

Indeed, Westminster was one of the first to offer a part-time MBA, which, 15 years ago, was one of the first to gain accreditation from the Association of MBAs. Now the school offers two part-time courses: one evenings only, another over an afternoon and an evening. There is also a full-time course, and more recently established specialised MBAs in tourism, international construction management, and design management.

The school prides itself on being highly cosmopolitan. Around 80 per cent of its students are on the full-time course - and almost as many studying part-time are from overseas, including countries as diverse as Israel, Russia, Nigeria, Canada, Brazil, Brunei, and China. "I think we've become a global village," says Hooton, "If we can't reflect that, who can?"

Part of Westminster's international attraction is the fees. The annual intake of around 50 full-time and 90 part-time students pay pounds 8,450 and pounds 7,475 respectively - some of the lowest fees for accredited courses anywhere in the United Kingdom.

However, perhaps its greatest asset is its location. "Being literally outside Baker Street Tube, we are one of the best placed institutions in London," points out Hooton, "Our geography is of great appeal to those who want to live and to study in the capital."

Westminster also has some of the best research facilities in Europe, and under the M25 agreement, students share lending and borrowing facilities with all other institutions in the area.

With 103 academic staff, teaching at Westminster is rigorous, but the emphasis is entirely down to earth. "We don't have a huge range of people with doctorates in the faculty, but we find that actually goes down a lot better with many of our clients," says Hooton,

"We get a regular trickle of people from companies like BT, London Underground and the banks who feel that, although our students get some leading edge stuff, they're also getting a good dose of common sense."

And he sees the old poly reputation as something of an asset. "In some top-ranking schools you get these jet-set academics. However, when it comes down to it you're largely taught by their researchers.

"Here you get good solid teaching from people whose feet are still firmly on the ground," he stresses.