Best of all possible worlds: How to mix and match distance, part-time and full-time learning

In these uncertain economic times, it can be hard to decide whether or not to do an MBA. On the one hand, you know it will improve your qualifications, boost your networks and get you ahead of the crowd. On the other hand, it's probably unwise to leave a secure job or put yourself out of the loop on the job-hunting market.

You could, of course, always do an MBA part-time, or by distance learning, but then you'll miss out on all the good things about the campus experience.

Luckily, now it is possible to take a top-class MBA and get the best of all worlds. Students are increasingly able to mix and match elements of distance, part-time and full-time learning to build a package that is right for them, and many schools think this is the way of the future.

Nigel Banister, the chief executive of Manchester Business School Worldwide, says the substantial growth in flexible MBA programmes over the past five years has been driven by top business schools offering more credible alternatives to full-time MBAs. This in turn, he says, has attracted students from multinational organisations, often sponsored by their companies. And he sees this growth continuing and becoming ever more sophisticated.

"More technology will be used to support flexible MBAs, with the student learning space becoming similar to their working environments, through online collaborative project tools and simulation software to supplement the face-to-face tuition," says Banister. "In the future, employers will also want their MBA employees to have an international perspective, so there will be growth in offering part of an MBA at different locations across the world. In our programmes, students can study in Dubai, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Jamaica, Brazil and next year in Miami."

Edinburgh Business School, part of Heriot-Watt University, has made its MBA truly flexible. Alick Kitchin, business director of Edinburgh Business School, explains: "It is modular. You can do it in any order, you can start when you like and finish when you like, and the same things are taught across the whole range of pedagogies. You can, for example, do accountancy by distance learning and come on to campus to study marketing."

To offer worldwide flexibility, the university is in partnership with 25 other institutions, and offers its MBA in English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew. Exams are taken at 363 centres worldwide. "But all our students take the same exam, on the same day, and all the papers are marked at Edinburgh," says Kitchin. "Students know that the course is flexible but also rigorous."

The programme is the second-largest MBA programme in the world, after that offered by the University of Phoenix, and is especially popular with students based in the United States who like having some "tartan time" in Scotland.

"Many schools give their distance-learning students a chance to come on to campus, but at Warwick you can start as a full-time student and do all your core modules on campus, then change your mode of study to distance learning," says Rachel Killian, the marketing and recruitment director for the MBA at Warwick Business School, which has been at the forefront of flexible learning. "It's brilliant if you don't want to be out of your job for 12 months, but still want the advantages you get from being on campus."

Doing an MBA in the current climate is "a bit like taking out insurance – you don't know that you need it until you need it," she says. But doing it flexibly makes it much easier for students. "If a company should pull out of its sponsorship, you know you've got a less expensive way to finish your MBA. And you can put things on hold for six months as well, if you need to. People sometimes do this if they have a new baby or a promotion."

At Bradford University School of Management, students really appreciate being offered flexible options. "If your employment moves you away, you don't have to start afresh with another school," points out David Spicer, associate dean for the MBA programme. "And if someone starts part-time, then loses their job, they can switch to full-time study and make good use of their time while they are looking for another one. Some of our part-time students also really like to get some of their electives out of the way by distance learning over the summer. All our models are consistent with each other. It's the same modules, with the same content, just delivered in different ways."

However, the university knows how much MBA students get from their colleagues. "So we tend to discourage people from too much cherry-picking and encourage them to stay with their cohort," he says.

'A flexible programme is really good, especially in the recession'

Marwa Bouka, 30, is a civil engineer with the United Nations World Food Programme in Syria, and started her MBA at Warwick two years ago on an Anglo-Syrian scholarship from the Saïd Foundation.

"I wanted to do something to push me to another level in my career, and I was looking at MBA programmes in the UK, but things were going so well with my job I was not happy to leave.

So I started my application as a distance-learning student. When I contacted Warwick, they said it was a flexible programme. I thought that sounded great – although it was also a little confusing to me until they explained it, because I thought full-time was full-time and distance learning was distance learning!

I started as a full-time student for three months and did six modules. It was very intense, but a really good experience. On campus, you are surrounded by people from all over the world. After that, I had a three-month break and did nine months as a distance learner, and then had another three-month break, and now I am back on campus for the last two months.

A flexible programme is really good, especially now in the economic recession. It is much easier for people to take a couple of months off than to leave their jobs. The only difficulty was making the switch to distance learning after being on campus. Working online is different, but you get used to it after a time."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Leeds November start...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

EBD Teacher - Food Technology Specialist

£100 - £181 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobTo plan and deliver all ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker