Qualifications will always get you up the greasy pole. By Roger Trapp
The notion that British industry can rely on the gifted amateur finally looks as if it is being laid to rest with the finding that most managers fear they will lose out in the promotion race if they do not have qualifications.

Not surprisingly, the MBA is the most desirable string of initials, according to a poll by Ashridge Management College and the Institute of Management to be published on Monday. Eighty-eight per cent pointed out that it could be carried from job to job, 79 per cent said it increased business knowledge, with almost as many suggesting it improved employment and promotion prospects.

However, degrees in business and related subjects, post-graduate diplomas and national vocational qualifications are also valued.

Three-quarters of the 700 managers interviewed say that such qualifications are becoming more important because they anticipate greater rivalry for jobs and because their companies expect them to have a much broader business knowledge and to take on a new range of responsibilities.

The findings form part of a report - The Qualified Manager - A Survey of Managers' Attitudes to Business and Management Qualifications - written by John Fripp, director of Ashridge's new diploma in general management programme, and Andrew Wilson, the centre's assistant director of research.

The finding that two-thirds of managers would prefer to study for a qualification by tackling real work-based projects rather than just returning to the classroom is supported by the authors.

"It is clear that the importance of qualifications for managers is now widely recognised. There is a variety of options, but flexible courses, offering a combination of taught and private-study elements, assessed in practical ways and with a range of support mechanisms, would seem to be the ideal approach," the authors say.

Encouragingly perhaps for the likes of Ashridge, 300 of the managers in the survey are either currently studying or considering further study for qualifications. Just over half said the costs were being met by their employers, while 49 per cent were committed enough to the idea to pay the bills themselves and 5 per cent were taking out loans.