Perfect match: How to find the right business school for you

A search for the right business school will involve websites, blogs, even podcasts. But there's no substitute for visiting in person, says Diana Hinds

"I am the only blonde in the MBA class," writes 27-year-old Morgan Witkin from Miami in a September blog post. "This happens to be the first time in my life I am a minority... and I am LOVING it."

Witkin embarked in August on an MBA course at Esade in Barcelona, and her blog, which she began earlier this year, now charts the ups and downs of her life in Spain, as well as the demands of her course and her struggles to get to grips with hours of managerial statistics. She already receives 10 to 20 emails a day in response to her blog, at least half of them from people she has never met.

"My blog is not just for my friends, but for people who may be thinking about an MBA or living abroad," she says. "I want to show people that there is someone like them. I want to give them some inspiration as well as some commiseration – because it's not all easy."

Blogging is an increasingly popular sport with MBA students, attracting the interest of students in business schools worldwide as well as of those contemplating an MBA. But how reliable are MBA bloggers, in terms of the information they provide about a business school?

"Schools have been saying to us that they are quite worried about blogging, because there's no regulation of it," says Jeanette Purcell, chief executive of the Association of MBAs (Amba). "It only takes two unhappy students to create a lot of hysteria about a business school. I would be very wary."

One leading business school, for instance, discovered that a Thai student who had failed his MBA had alleged in his blog that this was because "all the lecturers are racist".

At Insead business school, in Fontainebleau, near Paris, there are now eight or 10 student bloggers at any one time, according to Caroline Diarte Edwards, director of MBA admissions, but she feels that blogs are a useful resource for students.

"The fact that they sometimes say things that are not entirely positive lends more credibility to the blog," she says. "Our instinct is to want to control messages that are put out about this institution – but you can't control it, and it's not in our interest to control it. It's a positive development."

Insead, like many other business schools, also produces its own podcasts – showing academics talking about their areas of interest, for example – which students can download. But all schools emphasise that when it comes to choosing an MBA, there is nothing to beat actually visiting the school. Next best thing, says Jeanette Purcell, is to track down an alumnus of the school (Amba can help here) and contact them by phone or e-mail.

Making the right choice is particularly critical in a period of economic instability, given that this is one of the largest investments any student will ever make. "Ironically, economic downturns are very good for business schools," says Dr Gareth Griffiths, MBA director of Aston Business School (soon to be MBA director at Bangor University Business School). It can be a good time for people to take a year out of their career and invest in their future, he says. A full-time MBA course can also be a profitable way to spend redundancy money, as well as plugging a gap on a CV.

For those with family commitments, part-time and distance learning MBAs – which are plentiful in the UK – are the lowest risk option, offering a useful mixture of work and study.

Given the fluctuating exchange rate, an MBA in mainland Europe could be more expensive than previously. Griffiths, who is also an international assessor for Amba, encourages students wanting a truly global experience, as well as a considerably cheaper course, to consider an MBA in China, India or South America.

Accreditation is an important factor in choosing a school – predominantly Amba for UK schools, AACSB for US schools and Equis for European schools, although top international schools now like to have all three. Rankings are another factor, although as Jeanette Purcell stresses, a top-ranking school is not necessarily the right place for every student.

The crucial thing is to find a school that is the right match for you, in terms of location, cost, programme content, and to make sure that an MBA from that school has currency in the market in which you hope to work.

Applicants must be clear about looking for something specific that will help to develop them and boost their cv, says George Burt, head of MBA programmes at Strathclyde Graduate Business School. "An MBA is only as good as the person who has the MBA. The more people can develop themselves the better – but you can only do this if you know what you're looking for."

'I wanted to move into strategic tasks in a bigger company'

Bjorn Anders, 30, from Hanover, has just completed an MBA at Aston Business School.

"I wanted to do an MBA to get international experience and to make faster progress in my career. I had been working in sales in the packaging industry, and I wanted to move towards strategic tasks in a bigger, more international company.

I chose the UK because of its long tradition in business education and because I wanted to improve my English.

I went to the MBA World Tour in Frankfurt. That was definitely useful, because I could talk to representatives from different schools and compare the culture and the programme content. I was looking for reputation in terms of teaching and research, as well as an international mix of staff and students.

I applied to Aston Business School, because it had a high ranking and because there was a connection between Aston and the private university I went to in Germany.

I looked at material provided by Aston, including DVDs of lectures and a report written by students, and I also talked to an alumnus about his experience at Aston. Visiting Aston would have been a good idea, but I decided against it because of the cost. I was happy with the course.

I really appreciated the team work approach and the very good atmosphere in the student body."

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Secondary Japanese Teacher, January 2015 - China

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Position: Secondary Japanese TeacherRequ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes