Trisha Hynes (right) recently graduated from a full-time MBA at Middlesex with the only distinction in her class. She is now communications manager for the BBC's digital archive project.

"After 16 years working, mostly at BT, and having done professional marketing qualifications, I felt I needed a change. I was really interested in broadcasting, but didn't want to start again at the bottom, and I didn't have the inclination to spend three to four years doing a degree. An MBA seemed ideal - a higher qualification I could do it in a year, and broaden my strategic managerial skills.

"The fact that Middlesex had Amba accreditation was quite influential - I knew they had to jump through a number of hoops to get that. When I went to an open evening, I liked the way they didn't try and just get me onto the course.

"I also liked the mix of people. There were lots of international students and people who were very fresh and had lots of ideas.

"The tutors, too, were really approachable. They put me at ease and treated me with the respect I was used to in the commercial world. They were there to steer you and facilitate what you wanted to do, but the onus was on you to get out what you put in.

"It all worked out really well. A few months after I finished my MBA dissertation on digital TV, a job came up at the BBC that needed telecoms experience and some understanding of digital TV. I'm pretty sure the MBA helped clinch it."

Roy Patel (right), 36, a career development manager at IT and business services group Sema, graduated from a part-time MBA at Bristol Business School, UWE, last year.

"After a few years working as a trainer in central Government, I came to the conclusion that to get an opportunity to work at a more strategic level, I would not only need to get more knowledge, but also some credible accreditation for it. As I'd only left school with a clutch of O levels, I started on a certificate in management at Bristol Business School, moving on to a diploma in management studies, and culminating in an MBA over a total of three-and-a-half years.

"What I particularly liked about Bristol was that it was local and a very supportive environment. I felt comfortable and could learn. One of the most difficult things about being part-time was getting back into studying. Bristol really helped with little touches like the part-time library service - you could pick up the phone and order a book or article - a great time saver.

"I also had a lot of support from my personal tutor. I was encouraged to pick up the phone and talk one-to-one, or just pop in when I could and touch base. You were always made to feel welcome and people bent over backwards to help you, and there was a very relaxed atmosphere.

"We were encouraged to set up little study groups, and if we got stuck on something we could always go and find a tutor and get a mini 20-minute lecture on it."

Emma Haughton