MBA: Take your pick of the bunch

The soaring number of MBA courses means you need to do your research before applying.

Gone are the days when an MBA was considered exotic. Now it's the fastest growing UK postgraduate qualification - some 9,000 students graduate with one every year. Ten years ago there were only 50 UK providers: now there are 116.

Indeed, an MBA is fast becoming a prerequisite for a management career, as both individuals and organisations realise a broad range of management skills is crucial in today's more integrated and global business environment. "While there's extreme variation in the quality of delivery between the best and the worst institutions, overall the MBA is gaining great ground in the marketplace," says Professor Leo Murray, dean at Cranfield School of Management, "You only have to look at the number of jobs ads that require one."

But today's prospective MBA has a much more realistic view about how it'll enhance their career, says Edinburgh University's director of full- time MBAs, Richard Kerley: "We're seeing far fewer people who see it as an open door to a hugely demanding job in a major organisation. Applicants now take a more considered approach, and are far less likely to see it simply as a meal ticket."

Basically, a good MBA will give you a range of skills required for general or senior level management, including accountancy and finance, qualitative analysis, economics, marketing, organisational behaviour, human resources, and information technology and strategy. Beyond the core curriculum, you'll have various options or electives, that may include such subjects as mergers and acquisitions, consultancy skills, international marketing, diversity management, small businesses.

While an MBA is invaluable for those with technical, arts or traditional professional qualifications who want to move into general management, there are many reasons for doing one - to kick-start a change of career, broaden your portfolio of skills, secure promotion, or boost your salary. In addition, many MBAs find it a great confidence-booster, says Amanda Brook, external relations manager at Bath School of Management:

"Graduates talk of it enhancing their confidence, partly from gaining an understanding of a broad range of business areas and an ability to communicate credibly with specialists in finance or IT, for example, but also from mastering subjects in your weak areas. It helps you approach future challenges with a much more positive attitude."

With so many providers here and abroad, choosing a school is not easy. For students and employers alike, reputation can be crucial. A big international consultancy, for instance, will probably only consider you if you've been to a top school. There are many other reputable schools, and, as long as the institution is accredited by the Association of MBAs, you can be assured of the basic quality of its course, and focus on other factors, such as duration, fees, entrance requirements, and the quality of faculty. Do consider too, the quality of your likely cohort: "A lot of programmes are struggling and filling up with non-UK students," warns Murray. "You don't necessarily want a programme where 90 per cent are non-British."

Fortunately the growth in MBAs has led to a range of study options, including full-time, part-time, modular and distance learning. Full-time programmes usually last one year, and part-time 2-3 years, with classes taking place in the evening, during weekends, or on day-release. Distance learning is the fastest growing mode of study, with over 10,000 students currently registered in the UK.

"Although people still think of an MBA as a 27-year-old doing full-time study, the typical student is a part-time or distance learner, 30-40 years old," says Peter Calladine, membership services manager at the Association of MBAs. "It's a throwback from the early Nineties when the domestic job market was terrible and people were not prepared to give up a their job as well as pay tuition fees."

Indeed part-time or distance learners are much more likely to attract corporate sponsorship; around 80 per cent are supported by employers, against very few on full-time courses, where there is no guarantee students will return to the firm.

That said, full-time study has distinct advantages. "It can be less stressful than trying to juggle a career and studying," says Calladine. "You've burnt your bridges and can focus on a new career, and you benefit from a general perception that full-timers are more dynamic, less risk averse, with a great deal of confidence and determination."

Cranfield also opposes distance learning because of the lack of peer contact. "A good MBA should have basic management skills, such as reading a balance sheet and the ability to solve business problems, but they should also have undergone personal development in areas such as leadership skills, team-working, and so on," says Murray, "For that you really do need regular contact with your cohort."

When it comes to applying for an MBA, good research and common sense are essential. It's fine to make multiple applications - institutions usually accept more students than they actually expect to turn up, says Richard Kerley. "Indeed we usually expect brighter candidates to apply to three or four places - it's one of the tests of their seriousness and how much they have thought about what they're doing." But if you apply for 10 or 12, you will look trivial, he warns: "It will be obvious you've not thought clearly about what you're doing, because you should be applying to institutions in roughly the same ranking."

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits