Personal services give courses modern edge

Private business schools are providing some truly innovative MBAs, says Stephen Hoare

Helen Walters, venture manager for E.On, has just completed a 16-day advanced management programme at Ashridge Business School. The course began with a 360° appraisal from other delegates and centred on developing practical solutions to people's management issues and personal leadership style. "I found focused leadership development without the academic context of an MBA," says Walters.

The course ended with a set of outdoor bonding activities. Says Walters, "We faced leadership challenges such as crossing a rope bridge balancing in pairs and swinging across an imaginary ravine without spilling water from a bucket. You got instant feedback."

Set up as a charitable foundation, Ashridge is a private, not-for-profit business school. It runs a full-time and a part-time executive MBA as well as open and customised executive education. Innovation is part of its life blood and right now leadership programmes are in vogue. "The advantage of a not-for-profit is we don't have shareholders who want to take money out of the business and we can respond quicker to market changes because we are not accountable to shareholders or to government funding mechanisms," says Ashridge CEO, Kai Peters.

As a result, the Ashridge MBA and its executive courses are aimed at the upper end of the market. The cost of its full-time MBA is £30,000 and the advanced management programme (AMP) is £16,950. "We have 25 students on our full-time MBA and we focus on behavioural and leadership issues. You can't do that in big classes," says Peters.

Private business schools are steering the MBA market, using their degree-awarding powers to create customer-focused offerings. The Coalition Government has said that it wants to see the emergence of a healthy private sector in higher education. Many believe that this fast-growing sector is better capable of offering innovative solutions such as the two-year undergraduate degree. Ashridge is joined by BPP Business School and Buckingham Business School, part of Buckingham University, which is launching its first pre-experience MBA in January.

But being private does not always ensure a business school's success. Henley Management College famously did a deal with the University of Reading in August 2008 under which the University took over Henley's assets including Greenlands, a mansion by the Thames, and a portfolio of MBAs and executive short courses. The merger enabled Henley to meet its sizeable staff pension liabilities, save its listed building and invest in new courses. "The deal gave us a lot more resources to invest in physical infrastructure and in talent," says Hugh Evans, the director of executive education.

Worldwide, the online MBA market is dominated by private sector players such as University of Phoenix, Laureate Online Education and Strayer University, all of which run a model of fixed campuses and modularised MBAs supported by e-learning.

University of Phoenix, part of the Apollo Group, has 400,000 students worldwide, and about a third are studying for the MBA. The MBA faculty teaches face-to-face as well as through threaded discussion groups online. "We are the biggest producer of online MBAs in the US," says Dr Bill Berry, director of the school of business at Phoenix.

With an iPad application just launched, Phoenix appeals to working adults who find it difficult to attend business school part time on a regular basis but who are prepared to study in short bursts. "We work to ensure our students can access our systems from anywhere. This is part of the Phoenix heritage, as we were set up to widen participation to students from poorer backgrounds who never had the opportunity," says Berry.

Phoenix is owned by the Apollo Group, which in 2009 acquired BPP Business School in the UK. Marketing its MBA for £16,500, BPP is bankrolled by Apollo and has plans to expand into the areas of health and education. "We have linked with employers to offer an innovative MBA programme that has already won two industry awards. The MBA with law firm Simmons & Simmons offers a tailored MBA to trainees working with the law firm's client base," says BPP's chief executive, Carl Lygo.

When the Buckingham Business School opens its doors to the first cohort of MBA students its aim is to create a niche player in the MBA market with employability at the core. "We have always placed high value on small group teaching and we will continue to work hard to ensure our students are both very satisfied and employable," says the school's dean, Dr Jane Tapsell. Buckingham's MBA will continue to build on the university's research reputation in enterprise, finance and investment.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

FDM Group: Business and Technical IT Consultants – London, Manchester, Glasgow

21,000-24,000: FDM Group: Kick-start your career and join FDM’s award-winning ...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all