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MBA Passport to Success

Today's M BA with its focus on strategic thinking and analysis, and on global markets, offers the manager advantages that a first degree simply cannot provide.

Increasingly, graduates throughout Europe with technical degrees, liberal arts degrees or traditional professional qualifications are making the transition into general management. The MBA, with its focus on decision-making and analysis is a natural stepping stone for those who want to make this move and build on a first degree.

The global nature of modem business has sharpened the need for professionalism in management and business schools offering MBA programmes that reflect the reality of the business world. Organisations and their staff are also aware that narrow professional qualifications or functional skills are not enough for success in a business environment. An MBA is helpful where there is a need to take an integrated, and increasingly global, view of how decisions in one discipline may affect others. 

MBAs are, for most people, about upward mobility. Some MBA graduates remain with their present employer, but others see the qualification as a passport to move between companies, business functions and industries. Studies have repeatedly found that the overwhelming majority of MBA graduates consider the development of broad managerial skills, as opposed to specific technical ones, to be the main benefit of the qualification. MBAs talk of a change in identity that comes in taking the degree, and about the confidence that comes from the intellectual rigour of looking at corporate problems at an advanced level. 

There is now a strong demand for relevance and emphasis is being placed on practice rather than theory; there is more integration between the separate business disciplines, together with a heavy accent on 'soft skills' such as teamwork and leadership. There is greater emphasis on group work, replicating what really happens in the commercial world, and on in-company projects in the form of constancy assignments and internships. Many schools are now offering courses on presentation and communication skills, and are teaching the ethical aspects of management. 

A recent salary survey by the Association of MBAs shows that MBAs are represented in a wide range of industry sectors. However, they are particularly concentrated in the consultancy sector, and to a lesser extent, in finance. Together, these two sectors account for more than 25 per cent of respondents in the survey sample. Within industry, MBAs are concentrated in specific functions. The biggest concentration (38 per cent) is in the area of general management, suggesting that the system of MBA education continues to be successful in equipping its graduates for an effective role in business management. A further 14 per cent are employed in both corporate strategy and planning. 

Business schools increasingly recognise that today's global company requires managers with a broader outlook. They have therefore made great efforts to internationalise their MBA programmes - by attracting overseas students, employing faculty members with overseas experience, and forming effective links with business schools throughout Europe. Many schools, particularly on the Continent, offer bilingual MBAs. 

Strathclyde Graduate Business School and Groupe ESC Toulouse have introduced the European MBA, a one-year progran1me that is split between Glasgow and Toulouse and Cranfield offers a double MBA programme with Groupe ESC Lyon in France. These programmes have the added advantage of equipping managers with an understanding of cross-cultural issues, and an enhanced ability to communicate in a second language. 

Recognising this increased demand for intemationalisation, Lancaster University in the UK has just launched a new International Masters in Practising Management which was designed with and for a consortium of companies across the globe. The programme is taught by five business schools (Lancaster, McGill, Insead, Hitotsubashi in Tokyo and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore), each of which hosts one of the programme's five modules. There are now over 100 schools in the UK with at least an equal number in Con- tinental Europe and choosing a provider is not an easy task. The reputation of the institution from which the MBA is gained is crucial. Employers do not simply ask whether an applicant has an MBA, they also want to know where it was studied. A prospective student needs to consider a range of factors including the size and culture of the School, programme content, quality of faculty and student body, fa- cilities and location. The international- ism of a School, its administrative effi- ciency, success/failure rates and careers and placements services available should also be considered. There are a number of ways in which to take an MBA including full-time, part-time, modular and distance-learning - the last of which is more common in the UK than elsewhere. Full-time programmes are usu- ally a year in duration, while part-time pro- grammes last on average two to three years, with classes taking place in the evenings, during weekends or on day-re- lease. Programmes (full-time, part-time, modular and distance learning) at 30 Brit- ish business schools and 16 schools on the continent are accredited by the As- sociation Distance learning is the fastest growing mode of MBA study, with more than 10,000 students registered in the UK alone. As with part-time study, distance learning offers students the chance to integrate studies with employment. This provides a viable alternative for students who are unable to fit in part-time attend- ance, or who do not have access to a school of suitable standing. The course takes, on average, three to five years to complete. Unlike the US, Europe has no league ta- ble of business schools. However, the process of accreditation that has been carried out by the Association of MBAs for more than 25 years qoes offer clear guidance. Courses at 30 British business schools and 16 schools on the Continent carry accreditation by the Association. Accreditation by the Association gives an indication of the standing of the busi- ness school involved and also means that': students are eligible for the Association's loan scheme, which is designed to help individuals paying their own fees. Since the loan programme started in the 1970s £130 million has been made available to students. However, company sponsored MBAs are the most popular methods of taking an MBA. The latest salary survey results published by the Association of MBAs shows that 50 per cent of MBA students have all fees paid by their em- ployers, and only 16 per cent report no fiI\flncial assistance. Those wishing to find out more about tak- ing an MBA may like to purchase the Association's "Guide to Business Schools" (also available on CD Rom) and the recently launched MBA Salary and Careers Survey which looks at salary and career prospects of MBA graduates. . 

For further information please contact the Association of MBAS on Tel: 0171 837 3375  

 Author Robert Owen Association of MBAs

 

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