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The Independent Online
Few people would argue that the MBA is now the undisputed premier business qualification. Growth in student enrolments over the last decade has been spectacular.

There are now some 100 schools in the UK - only a handful of universities do not offer this qualification - so choosing a provider is not an easy task. The reputation of the institution from which the MBA is gained is crucial.

Employers do not now simply ask where an applicant has an MBA (it is increasingly assumed that applicants for senior jobs possess one) but where it was studied. Unlike in the United States, there is no league table of UK Business Schools. However, the process of accreditation carried out by the Association of MBAs (Amba) does offer clear guidance.

Amba accredits MBA programmes at 33 of the 110 providers in the UK and programmes at 16 of the leading schools in continental Europe.

Besides an indication of the standing of the business school involved, accreditation means that students are eligible for the Association's loan scheme, designed to help the individual paying his or own fees. The scheme is of rising relevance, since the average cost for a full-time programme is now pounds 7,000-pounds 8,000 or more, and fees for the part-time programme can be more expensive still.

The Association of MBAs is a membership organisation for MBAs. It also offers an accreditation service to business schools to maintain standards. Only graduates and students of Amba accredited schools are eligible for membership, and only students enrolled on accredited MBA programmes are able to take advantage of the Business School Loan Scheme which Amba administers on behalf of Barclays and NatWest banks.

If you are considering MBA study, you can speak directly to representatives of 39 accredited MBA schools at the MBA Fair on Monday, 12 May from 4.30- 8.30pm at the Institute of Directors, 116 Pall Mall, London SW1. It is sponsored by Barclays and NatWest banks and The Independent. Admission is free by registering via the NatWest Helpline on 0800 854 369n