Array ( [MBA Degree] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 6350 [title] => 30 Best Business Schools For Alumni Networks—That Will Help You Land Jobs [slug] => 30-best-business-schools-for-alumni-networks-jobs [category_id] => 130 [industry] => [attachment] => [intro] => It’s often who you know, not what you know, that counts. Find out which business school alumni networks are the best for getting jobs [image] => 1568808265.png [image_caption] => ©Stanford Facebook—Stanford has a thriving MBA alumni network [body] =>

‘Your network is your net worth’. People say it, and in the business school world it’s often true.

Building a strong network during your MBA can give you useful new contacts, knowledge, insight, and inroads into a new job or industry.

There are lots of business schools out there. So, which MBA alumni network is the best for getting a job? 

The answer is Stanford Graduate School of Business, according to a survey of 15,050 MBA alumni from 126 global business schools by Bloomberg that was used to compile its annual MBA rankings. 

The publication asked MBA graduates to rate the power of their school’s alumni network. Stanford came out on top for the quality, range, and responsiveness of its alumni network, with Harvard and Dartmouth Tuck coming second and third, respectively. 

The Stanford network numbers 30,000 worldwide and a significant portion are in San Francisco’s Bay Area, where many students land tech jobs, found a business or access venture investors. 

But the school’s close ties to Silicon Valley may limit networking opportunities elsewhere. Stanford is therefore offering generous scholarships for students, many of whom are from abroad, to return to their home region to work on graduation. Stanford’s USA MBA Fellowship pays $160,000 to students who work in the Midwest within two years of graduation. 

harvard second best alumni network

A broad, high quality and responsive alumni network can make a big difference in securing work, or hiring others or striking deals. It is one of the main reasons people come to business school. 

A Harvard MBA said in the Bloomberg survey: ‘I had been on a very linear path. After business school, I have the confidence, skills and the professional network to make several career moves, within a firm, to a new firm in the same function and, most recently, changing both firm and functional area.’

Harvard came second in Bloomberg’s ranking of the 30 best business schools for alumni networks that help you land jobs. Harvard has one of the largest alumni networks in the world, thanks to having large class sizes and having invented the MBA degree about a century ago. 

There are 84,000 MBA and executive education alumni in over 160 countries. These include billionaire businesspeople like Michael Bloomberg and Len Blavatnik. Harvard alumni also get access to discounts on courses and publications to facilitate lifelong learning. 

tuck best alumni network for landing jobs mba

Dartmouth Tuck is third on Bloomberg’s list and is renowned for its close-knight alumni network forged through small class sizes. The school’s location in the small town of Hanover in New Hampshire also fosters a strong sense of community. 

Tuck students often do outdoorsy team activities together, more so than they would in a major city. This loyalty is reflected in Tuck’s success in fundraising, with more than two-thirds of alumni typically making gifts to the business school. 

Along with Tuck, Bloomberg’s ranking is dominated by US schools, which typically have bigger class sizes and more established alumni networks, since the MBA degree has been around in the US for far longer than in Europe or Asia Pacific. 

INSEAD in France and Singapore, IMD in Switzerland, London Business School and Spain’s IESE Business School are the only non-US schools ranked by Bloomberg. 

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Try searching ‘MBA return on investment’ on Google.

You’ll find dozens of ROI calculators offering to calculate your predicted salary balanced against the cost of your MBA. 

Given the high cost of many programs, particularly in the US, this isn’t unreasonable. 

But is return on investment purely financial? What other factors do MBAs take into account when weighing up the hefty decision of MBA enrolment?

We spoke to two MBA alumni who offer a slightly different perspective on what return on investment looks like after graduation:

Scott Perry—“Broadening my business knowledge”

As a director at a computer software company in Ireland, an MBA didn’t seem like a necessary or likely path for Scott Perry. 

Scott wasn’t necessarily thinking about advancing his salary; return on investment was about advancing his knowledge and skills in a tangible way for the next steps in his career journey. 

“I didn’t have to be an expert in every area,” Scott notes. 

“But an understanding of how the other functions that make up a business actually work is something I considered key and would allow more meaningful conversations with peer departments in my career."

The decision didn’t come lightly, particularly considering the significant time commitment and cost of a program. 

“I found myself thinking, ‘Am I crazy spending this much money when some books claim I could do the same in two weeks?’” Scott remembers.

The program at EDHEC Business School in Nice, however, offered exactly what Scott felt he needed in order to get this return on investment. 

Broadening his industry knowledge was helped by the diverse backgrounds—both professionally and culturally—of the MBA class at EDHEC.

“Getting to know and understand cultures from so many different professionals with such broad backgrounds, all with a shared passion for education, cannot be understated,” Scott insists. 

In addition, this expanded Scott’s network, now having contacts and friends across the globe from a variety of industries.

Return on investment has been fairly clear for Scott, as he now works at the cutting edge of technology at an internet of things (IoT) connectivity provider in Berlin where he is Head of Customer Success & Customer Support. 

And the cost incurred from the MBA? Scott has no doubts as to whether it was worth it. 

“I could have purchased a pretty cool small car, or put a deposit on a house—M, B, and A are three pretty expensive letters,” he muses. 

“But will it end up paying for itself? I think so, yes.” 

Claudia Carrone—an unconventional career ‘triple jump’

Claudia Carrone was working as a business development consultant at a renewable energy company in Texas, when she decided she wanted an MBA to shake up her career. 

Reflecting back on her decision to do an MBA, Claudia definitely considers it well worth it. She points in particular to her career ‘triple jump’—changing industry, position, and location—something she would have struggled to do without an MBA. 

Around 37% of EDHEC MBA graduates are able to make this triple jump (see table).

But unlike many who would boast of the salary increase of a career jump, for Claudia, return on investment meant something quite different. 

With an interest in innovation, Claudia happened to read about a pedagogical innovation lab at EDHEC, and knew she wanted to be part of it. Studying an MBA would be the first step.

“I saw that the school had innovation in their DNA, and thought it would be an amazing thing to be a part of,” Claudia remembers. 

It also had a distinct appeal over the US schools which she had looked at, offering a shorter ten-month program at a much lower cost. 

She can identify some very tangible skills which she gained from it, offering her the skills on how to deal with difficult situations and how to resolve conflicts. 

Networking, too, was something significant that she gained from the program, and something which eventually landed her the current job she has working as a digital learning consultant at EDHEC. 

“I didn’t actually present a resume for my current job,” she laughs, “I went around knocking on doors, using the courage and trust in myself that the MBA gave me.”

Thinking about her decision, Claudia doesn’t deny that an MBA is a significant commitment—but it is one that has definitely paid off. 

“It’s true you have to invest a lot in terms of time and cost, but it’s worth it.”

Reflecting on her current job satisfaction, as well as her day-to-day life living and working on the south coast of France, the return on investment is pretty clear. 

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India has hundreds of universities, colleges, and business-specific institutions offering high-quality MBA programs and unforgettable cultural experiences to match.

There are plenty of reasons to study an MBA in India (referred to as Post-Graduate Diplomas in Management, or PGDMs).

While the cost of an MBA in the US or Europe can reach upwards of $100,000, Indian MBA colleges offer internationally-competitive degrees at affordable prices as well as attractive scholarships for international students.

If you're considering an MBA, here are 14 of India’s top MBA colleges you should consider.


These colleges are all part of the Graduate Management Council's (GMAC) Study in India campaign. 

Read on to find out more about each MBA college...

Check out our MBA colleges comparison table 

Goa Institute of Management

goa mba

Founded: 1993

Location: Goa

Eligibility Criteria: 

All applicants must have scored at least 50% aggregate in their Bachelor’s degree, awarded by a recognized University

Tuition: The two-year full-time PGDM is the Institute’s flagship program. It also offers specializations in healthcare management, big data analytics, and finance. For all NRIs and Foreign Applicants for the PGDM and PGDM (BDA) program fee is $3,500 per year and for PGDM (HCM) it is $10,000 per year.

IFIM Business School

ifim mba

Founded: 1995

Location: The IFIM Business School is located in Bangalore which is popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India.  Its PGDM is its flagship management program. It also offers specialist courses PGDM (Finance), PGDM (International Business), PGDM (Marketing)

Eligibility Criteria: IFIM looks at innovation potential, solution orientation and value fit of the candidates, besides their consistent academic performance and work experience for admission into its flagship PGDM program. The selection process comprises of several tests, group exercises and interviews.

Tuition: $22,300 (including hostel)

study in india

Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB)


Founded: 1973

Location: Bangalore

Eligibility Criteria: IIMB uses multiple parameters, namely academic performance in school, high school and graduation programs as well as candidate’s GMAT scores. Relevant work experience, if any, is also given weightage

Tuition: $29,300 for the Post Graduate Program in Management (PGP)

Scholarships: IIMB extends financial aid to students in need of financial assistance. The objective of the Financial Aid Policy at IIMB is to ensure that no student is deprived of an education at the institute for financial reasons.

International Management Institute (IMI)

mba college - imiFounded: 1981

Location: New Delhi

Eligibility Criteria: Bachelor’s degree, GMAT score

Tuition: PGDM: $35,250 (two years), Executive PGDM (15 months/12 months full-time): $17,500

Scholarships: Special financial aid schemes exist for international students that include partial tuition fee waivers and waiver of GMAT application fee for those who have not yet taken the GMAT.

Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad (IMTG)

imt - mba college

Founded: 1980 

Location: The school’s main programs are offered at the IMTG campus in Ghaziabad, Delhi and another in collaboration with the IMT Dubai campus. The International Relations Centre, IMT Ghaziabad, has partner institutions all over the world.

Eligibility Criteria: Recognized bachelor’s degree; GMAT Score 

Tuition: PGDM: $42,000, PGDM Executive: $22,000

Scholarships: For international applicants studying the PGDM Executive you can qualify for a scholarship of $2000 if you achieve a GMAT Score of over 550.

Indian School of Business (ISB)


Founded: 2001 

Location: ISB has two campuses in Hyderabad and in Mohali. It has academic alliances with the Kellogg, Wharton, London Business School, MIT Sloan and Tufts University.

Eligibility Criteria: A bachelor’s degree in any discipline. 2 years of full-time post qualification work experience. GMAT scores

Tuition: $46,500 (including shared accommodation) or $48,500 (including studio accommodation) for the one-year MBA

Scholarships: Leading financial institutions provide funding for up to 95% of the program expenses to admitted students

ISBR Business School


Founded: 1990

Location: The ISBR Business School, has two branches, one in Bangalore and the other in Chennai

Eligibility Criteria: A recognized bachelor’s degree. GMAT score.

Tuition: PDGM: $16,000

Scholarships: Up to 100% is offered to admitted students

KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research


Founded: 1981

Location: The school is based in Mumbai and places a big emphasis on holistic development of students. Including industry interaction, cultural activities, sports competitions, entrepreneurial pursuits, and socially relevant activities.

Eligibility Criteria: You need to have an undergraduate degree from recognized university, pass an interview and present GMAT score

Tuition: Two-year PGDM costs $25,600 

Scholarships: The school offers needs-based scholarships based on demonstrated financial need. They will review your family’s financial circumstances to make sure you get the necessary support and offer 60% waiver of tuition fee

Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS)


Founded: 1981

Location: The school has six campuses in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Shirpur, Indore and Navi Mumbai and 14 constituent schools of Management, Engineering, Pharmacy, Architecture, Commerce, Business Economics, Science, Law, Aviation, Liberal Arts, Design, Family Business & Entrepreneurship, Performing Arts, and Distance Learning.

Eligibility Criteria: A recognized bachelor’s degree as well as GMAT scores for the various degrees. 

Tuition: The MBA is a two-year course that costs around $20,000

SDA Bocconi Asia Center

sda bocconi asia

Founded: 2012

Location: Based in Mumbai, the SDA Bocconi Asia Center, formerly named MISB Bocconi, is a pan-Asian hub that offers Executive Education and Postgraduate Programs designed by SDA Bocconi School of Management, Italy.

Eligibility Criteria: You’ll need a Bachelor’s degree (or should be currently in your final Year) in any discipline from a recognized institution. To stand a good chance, aim for scores above 65% in your subjects. You’ll also need to present scores from one of the following tests: Bocconi Test; NMAT by GMAC 2018/2019; GMAT taken after January 1, 2017

Tuition: Total costs over two years $26,000 for the International Master in Business

Scholarship: The school offers tuition waivers, Dean’s scholarships, Women’s Leadership scholarships as well as a Sports and Cultural Art scholarship

SP Jain Institute of Management & Research

sp jain

Founded: 1981

Location: The school is located in the western suburbs of Andheri in Mumbai. It also has a center in Delhi. 

Eligibility Criteria: The school’s flagship program is Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM). Various factors are considered for selection of applicants such as: Overall profile; Academic background; Work experience; Entrance scores (GMAT); Versatility and achievement

Tuition: PGDM: $39,840 

Scholarships: Need based scholarship is available



Founded: 1980

Location: The TA Pai Management Institute is located in the university town of Manipal in Karnataka

Eligibility Criteria: A Graduate Degree with not less than 50%. Foreign Nationals: GMAT and IELTS (if required).

Tuition: $40 000 for two years.

Scholarships: Merit-based scholarships available 

Universal Business School


Founded: 2009

Location: UBS is based in Mumbai and was founded by leading International Business leaders and has a strong focus on environmental sustainability. It offers MBA degrees in partnership with international business schools.

Eligibility Criteria: The school places a weighting of between 20 – 25% on the following requirements: Good undergraduate results; Entrance Exam (GMAT) ; Extra-Curricular Activities

Tuition: Dual MBA degrees vary, around $24,000 on average

Scholarships: UBS awards scholarships based on merit and financial need basis. Up to 50% off tuition

Xavier University Bhubaneswar (XUB)


Founded: 2013

Location: XUB is a Jesuit, Catholic university located in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. It is takes its inspiration from Saint Francis Xavier, a missionary who founded the first Jesuit college in Goa, India.

Eligibility Criteria: A degree from recognized university as well as test scores from GMAT or NMAT

Tuition: $25,000 for the standard two-year MBA

Scholarships: The school awards scholarships as per their discretion to full time students by waiving the academic fee   

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India: home to 1.3 billion people, 22 official languages, and more than 200 business schools.

In India, thousands of eager candidates apply to top MBA colleges each year. The MBA in India is a rite of passage for business professionals; a skill-upgrader; and a door-opener to exciting career opportunities.

For those international candidates who choose to study in India, an unforgettable journey awaits; a ride on the wave of a rising emerging market where the MBA is king.

In this article, we showcase some of the amazing experiences, hear from admissions directors from top Indian schools, and give you nine undeniable reasons why you should study an MBA in India:

study in india mba

1. Great value for money

India offers high quality education at an affordable price. Plus living costs, many MBA programs in Europe and the US can cost more than $100,000. That can leave you with a lot of funding issues. MBA colleges in India would typically charge less than half that.

MBA programs in India—or Post-Graduate Diplomas in Management (PGDMs) as they’re referred to nationally—also give you a big return on your investment. On some Indian MBA programs, you can expect to earn more than 180% more than your current salary after graduation.

2. Plenty of top business schools to choose from

There are a lot of MBA colleges in India, so it’s important you choose the right one. Check out our article—14 Top MBA Colleges In India That You NEED To Know About—to see some of the best on offer. All these schools offer high-quality and globally-accredited MBA programs.

study mba in india

3. Friendly student visas

Getting a student visa in India used to be a bit of a challenge—but not anymore. India has streamlined the process for international student visas, making the process simple and painless. If you’re an international, the Indian government wants you! You can get support and find out more about MBA student visas in India on Study in India.

4. Scholarships for international students

MBAs in India are not only affordable; they’re also heavily subsidized. Many Indian business schools will offer you generous scholarships; based on academic achievements, test scores, or your international profile. These include full tuition scholarships, where your entire tuition fee is covered by the school.

study mba india

Advice for international MBA candidates in India

study mba india

Meena Saxena, director of international linkages at NMIMS in Mumbai

“When you come to India, ask for a student buddy. Most institutions provide buddies to begin with. You need to understand the culture and these local buddies guide you on the way. You will learn new things and these buddies will become your friends.”

5. Exciting career opportunities

Technology solutions, fintech, healthcare, education. Guru Kumara, director for external relations at the Indian School of Business (ISB), says India’s economic growth is creating new and exciting career opportunities for MBA students. Just like in the West, big-name companies like Amazon, Google, McKinsey, and Uber hire MBAs from Indian business schools.

6. A buzzing startup scene

As career opportunities go, nothing is quite as exciting as the high-octane life of an entrepreneur. India is a buzzing hive of startup activity, with 1,200 new startups founded in 2018 alone and a red-hot tech startup hubs in cities like Bangalore.

Meena, from NMIMS, says the India’s startup story is the main reason you should consider studying there:

“India is positioned to be at the forefront of new market opportunities. We are one of the world’s largest democracies, our economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world, and our income levels are rising.

“India also poses a unique challenge. You have the opportunities to scale but at the same time people don’t have much purchasing power. It’s exciting to study here and be part of providing solutions.”

7. Safe cities

If you read certain stories in the news, you may be a little concerned about safety in India. However, these reports are often exaggerated.

Meena hosted 15 students from business schools in the US and New Zealand on-campus in Mumbai who came to India to volunteer in the nonprofit space, travelling on local trains to lesser economically-developed areas. 

“All of them said they wanted to come back and work here afterwards,” Meena recalls. “These stories in the media come from all parts of the country. You hear ‘India’, but most cities where business schools are—like Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad—are very safe.”

India is a hugely-diverse country which, like any, has more unstable areas to it. But especially if you’re an MBA candidate—supported by the school and the student community—you should have no worries about studying there.

8. A leading emerging market

India’s position as a leading emerging market makes it an exciting place to study, with new innovations and changes popping up all the time. 

As Indian companies continue to extend their global reach, knowledge of how to do business in India is becoming more and more important wherever you’re based. Studying in an emerging market will also give you that unique value proposition; a different perspective which can give you an edge when applying to jobs back home.

9. An unforgettable experience

study mba in india

Amazing people, colorful festivals, and fantastic food—over 10 million foreign tourists visited India in 2017. India offers a little bit of everything—wildlife, temples, beaches, deserts, the Himalayas, and the Taj Mahal. Imagine doing an MBA in your dream holiday destination—India offers exactly that.

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Sarel van Baalen’s pursuit of an MBA at Oxford Saïd Business School has been a long time coming. 

He’s been a keen entrepreneur from a young age. As a student at an all-boys boarding school in South Africa, he quickly found a way to make money.

His growing, teenage peers would always get hungry in the evenings. So, Sarel decided to use the small, unused storage room near his accommodation to open a tuck shop—with the headmaster’s permission, of course. 

Grown up, Sarel moved into civil engineering, with a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s in engineering management. He’s spent the last five years working his way up to a development manager’s position at a construction company in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

He now wants develop his skills, knowledge, and network at Oxford. But he is currently facing one big hurdle—the £57,200 ($70,000) tuition fees.

Why crowdfund?

Landing on Sarel’s MBA fund webpage, you’re met with an offer. ‘Venture with me to Oxford’, it says—tempting. 

Those who do donate are given something in return (see below), part of Sarel’s charm offensive to encourage the masses—incentives are key, he adds. 

His £7,200 ($8,800) in savings and a £15,000 ($18,000) scholarship from the Saïd Business School Foundation started his funding journey. But he realized that he needed a lot of help if he was going to fund the remaining £35,000 ($43,000).

Crowdfunding wasn’t his first option. He considered a loan but soon ruled it out. Too pricey; too much interest.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, around 40% of MBA graduates from top-ranking business schools endure at least $100,000 in debt through borrowing money.

While return on investment is high for an MBA, this return isn’t guaranteed until the end of the one or two-year program. 

After some extensive research, Sarel came across several successful crowdfunding campaigns and reached out to the creators on LinkedIn for advice.

“If it was possible for them to do it, surely I should give it a chance?” he thought to himself.

Nearly a year later, he is now just over £22,000 ($27,000) away from his desired target. He’s starting at Oxford this month.

“I’m not asking other people to give me money,” says Sarel.

“I’m putting my case out to the world and inviting people to look at the case, look at something that they can connect or associate with, and feel that they would like to invest in this venture of mine. That’s really my approach.”

Using an MBA to make an impact

Africa needs an infrastructure revolution, says Sarel. With an Oxford MBA, he wants to provide that, helping to resolve the continent’s problems in water, energy, transport, and real estate.

In order to bridge its infrastructure gap, Sarel states that Africa must spend $130-to-$170 billion yearly. The continent is currently short by 60%, he adds.

Sarel aims to bridge this gap by using foreign investment, new technology, and local human capital across infrastructure projects within the continent. 

‘Each donation is an investment in the venture’, Sarel states on his website, putting him one step closer to his ambitious goals.

The investment theme is an idea that he picked up from Peter Cohen, one of the individuals he had reached out to on LinkedIn.

Peter, a Cass Business School alum, created a crowdfunding page that allowed visitors to donate funds and expect a return within three years.

The idea came about as a solution to the 2011 global financial crisis, which affected the MBA loan scheme and investors alike.

Sarel was also inspired by an Oxford MBA alum, Jayanth Kashyap, who advised him on the look and feel of his website. 

“I’ve actually implemented a lot of the changes he suggested,” Sarel says.

Jayanth told him the website’s message was too formal and too much like a business pitch. 

“He said that you have to bring in a personal element and show who you are, and what you’re all about, [rather than] what the MBA is about or what Oxford is about.”

Sarel’s cause has been shaped by this advice, and he now sees crowdfunding as a viable option for future MBA candidates to strongly consider. 

“There are so few of us that actually aspire to go to Oxford. You eliminate that option, especially with the exchange rate for international candidates, because it’s so difficult to pay for tuition.

“Crowdfunding will open up the possibility of doing an MBA for a lot of people,” he says.

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Deni Galijaš knows what it’s like to be displaced.

Born in former Yugoslavia, he was forced to leave the country of his birth as a young child, saying goodbye to his home and huge parts of his family because of the Yugoslav Wars.

“It’s something which shapes a person’s life,” he reflects, looking back.

“It made me realize that there is something much bigger than our personal fears, resentments, or biases, and more important than the country we’re born in—it’s our actual human connection, that we all share on a deeper level.”

The lessons he learned from his childhood mean that Deni has never stopped trying to have a positive impact on other people.

When he enrolled on the MBA program at EU Business School in Barcelona, he saw it not only as an opportunity to expand his business acumen, but to learn how to bring humanity into his business practice—and thanks to his fundraising activity as a student, it’s had an impact far beyond his own career.

“I felt the need to challenge myself in a new environment”

Deni had decided to enroll on the MBA because he was looking to push himself out of his comfort zone.

“Back in Germany I was working full-time, mainly as a psychological coach,” Deni recalls. “I loved the job and the lifestyle, but I still felt the need to challenge myself personally in a new environment.”

The EU MBA was the perfect place to do this—EU Business School has campuses in Geneva, Munich, and Montreux as well as Barcelona, and the MBA plays host to students from all over the world.

Presented with such an international environment, Deni was inspired, and not just to change his career.

Alongside a fellow student named Jasmin Aebischer, he decided that business school was the perfect opportunity to bring his classmates together for a good cause. 

The challenge with such a diverse group was knowing how to do it.

Thinking outside of the box

With language and cultural barriers to overcome, finding common ground that was fertile for fundraising might seem next to impossible.

Luckily, MBAs are great places to learn about international management. The MBA at EU even has a module specifically dedicated to it. 

When they put their heads together, Deni and Jasmin realized there was one sure way to get everybody involved.

The result was ‘Students for Humans’, a soccer tournament that brought together players and spectators from across the EU Business School community, raising money for two causes: supporting orphans in Kenya, and the escalating crisis in Europe surrounding refugees from the civil war in Syria.

“Sports is a language we all speak—whether through watching or actually participating,” Deni reasons.

“Seeing people, independent of their country of origin, coming together for a good cause and expressing their common human connection was something beautiful.”

Especially with a cause so close to Deni’s own past, the fundraising event was a very fulfilling experience, and it taught him some valuable lessons about business, too.

Working out how to unite people from disparate backgrounds and experiences behind a common goal is not just an essential skill for activism, but also for management, and Deni says that his experiences on his MBA prepared him well for his corporate career post-graduation.

Now working at TomTom in Barcelona, he credits the MBA at EU with broadening his horizons.

“[An international MBA] can help to broaden one’s perspective crucially,” he counsels, “while it can give you the possibility to work at the same project simultaneously with people from around the world—for example India, Lebanon, Australia, Mexico, Sudan and Sweden.

He concludes that “Talking and, most importantly, listening to so many people’s perspectives on approaches to business and to life itself, with a common goal in mind, is challenging, beneficial, and beautiful.”

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The UK government has announced a plan to allow international students to stay in the country for up to two years after graduating.

The move will overturn a 2012 policy that cut back this period to just four months, and be open for students on all undergraduate and postgraduate programs, including MBA and business masters.

Under the new regulation, graduates will be able to work in any sector, and there will be no cap on the number of graduates who can make full use of the allowance.

The move will bring the UK’s student visa policy more in line with countries such as Canada, where international graduates can live and work in the country for up to three years after graduating without having to apply for a new visa. 

BusinessBecause reached out to business schools in the UK, to find out what the visa update will mean for business schools and their students.

"Good news" for business school students

For Wendy Pearson, MBA and master's career consultant at Durham University Business School (pictured), this announcement is good news for incoming students.

The new visa allowance will encourage applicants who want to study abroad to choose a UK institution, she believes. 

With more time to find relevant work, Wendy adds, life will almost certainly be easier for MBA and master's students who want to remain in the UK after their program has ended.

"Students will have more time to secure a suitable job on completion of their studies, rather than needing to apply in the early months of an already challenging MBA schedule," she explains. 

"My first reaction was that this would be a good move for students."

Crystal Grant (pictured), director of admissions at Imperial College Business School, agrees that the visa policy will have a positive impact.

"In a competitive global market, it will encourage more students from around the world to choose a leading UK school," she says. "The phenomenal talent of our international students is crucial to our success as a school." 

Although the new allowance will apply to all international students beginning their program in 2020, it will not extend to current students, the government says.

For future students who will benefit though, Wendy also recommends caution.

"Students will need to carefully consider the impact of being away from their home country for longer periods of time, and of the opportunities in their home markets which may have higher rates of economic growth, or more opportunities in some sectors," she explains.

Offsetting effects of Brexit

Along with international students themselves, the UK companies they eventually work for are also likely to benefit, according to Wendy and Crystal.

Because overseas students have experience living and studying in at least two different countries, they have the ability to facilitate international business, Wendy notes. 

With fewer barriers to hiring these students, UK businesses can more easily benefit from their insights, and graduates can more easily find work.

"It will encourage firms to engage with business schools and students as a source of talent," Wendy says.

As Brexit approaches, this new allowance could also offset a downtick in international business school applications, Wendy believes.

"I think this move will help to ease the minds of EU students who have expressed concerns about their ability to work in the UK if the country leaves the EU."

London Business School (LBS) have responded to the visa announcement with similar optimism, describing it as “a sensible approach.”

“We know many EU applicants were concerned about what their post-study opportunities would be [after Brexit],” a representative said.

“Having a clear policy on post-study work rights will help reduce concern around this.”

A “relief” for international applicants 

For Florence Mele (pictured), director of program administration, quality, and standards at ESCP Europe, the visa announcement came as a “sigh of relief”. 

“We welcome this good news which will allow qualified graduates to find employment in the UK, and contribute to the economy in a positive way,” she says.

Despite this reaction, it is still too early to tell how serious the impact of Brexit will be for international applications, Florence cautions. 

“We have already observed a higher rejection rate in visa applications by the Home Office since 2016,” she observes.

LBS also hasten to inform international students that “the devil is almost always in the detail” when it comes to immigration policy.

The institution keenly anticipate clarification on a few points, such as whether graduates will have to demonstrate job-seeking activity during the two year visa period, and what options will be available to them at its close.

“These may seem like small points, but our experience tells us that it is the detail that will determine the overall success of the policy.” 

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Sitting in Coupa Café on the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) campus, Yossi Feinberg is feeling optimistic. 

The senior associate dean for academic affairs might have been at the school for 21 years, but he’s spent that time putting in place the tools for his students to thrive today and beyond. 

Yossi’s students are the source of his optimism. He sees them streaming in and out of the café; he sees the energy and excitement they have to make the world a better place. 

“It’s just a place that constantly changes and evolves,” he says.

But what do you need to know if you want to join them, if you want to become a Stanford MBA? It requires more than a will to change lives, change organizations, and change the world, as the GSB motto reads.

A lot of scratching, a lot of backs 

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours could be the mantra applied to the community at Stanford GSB.

It’s not just about the individual’s experience, it’s about the group, explains Yossi.

“We want each person here not only to grow and succeed, but also to contribute to the growth and success of everyone else.”

Like every community, you give as well as receive, he adds. That’s something you need to acknowledge if you want to apply.

Yossi says a lot of MBA applicants question whether they are the right fit for this particular culture.

“The strength of this culture is that not everybody comes in as a fit, it’s the other way around.”

No matter who you come in as, the immersion in the community and the attitude of Silicon Valley has the power to transform you as an individual, he explains.

"It's just a place that constantly changes and evolves."

He remembers a student from a few years ago who was sceptical about the MBA experience. She was unsure whether it was for her, whether she’d made the right choice.

She told Yossi, though, that she’d yet to have a boring conversation, and by the time he caught up with her again in the Spring she was over the moon, he says.

She said it was the most impactful experience she had in her life. She knew there was something missing from her personal development and career, she just couldn’t put her finger on it before.

“These are the people who really flourish at the GSB,” Yossi explains, “those who are extremely talented, but are also open to new ideas and possibilities.”

What skills will you need?

Strong values and passion have always been part of the requirement for Stanford MBAs, says Yossi. 

Now, though, he says it’s essential you bring an open mind and patience.

“That’s something that I think leaders need today more than ever. As things become more sound bite and less deep, leaders need to compensate by being more patient, more thoughtful, and better listeners—that starts with conversations in the classroom.”

“At the high end you will need more people who can handle much more complex situations in fast changing environments.”

Soft skills alone won’t cut the mustard. Soft skills are stronger, Yossi says, when they are built on a “deep, authentic” understanding of the business industry and environment in which you work.

On the Stanford MBA you have the capability to build a deep understanding of your favored subject area through numerable electives, Yossi says, which can then be complemented by soft skills developed through courses like Interpersonal Dynamics.

As an MBA student you can take classes from across Stanford University in your second year—in computer science, manufacturing, or energy, for example.

So, an autonomous vehicle enthusiast could develop their management competency and soft skills alongside modules on artificial intelligence, the manufacturing of self-driving cars, and industry regulation.

“For the best soft skills, it’s almost a necessary condition for you to immerse yourself in the field to become a leader. Immersing in the field builds a strong foundation,” Yossi explains.

What does Yossi think about the future of the MBA?

The modern MBA has to reflect the pace of change within companies, he thinks, by incorporating real-time learning for MBA students in collaboration with global corporations, startups, and SMEs.

Stanford’s curriculum, he adds, is constantly evolving to reflect this.

In the future he believes the MBA will play even more of a central role in the creation of business leaders.

Though he adds that the trend of the traditional MBA as a milestone in a career path is decreasing, there is a strong need for people who can manage highly dynamic, changing environments and industries—that will only go up, he says.  

“At the high end you will need more people who can handle much more complex situations in fast changing environments—people who have a deep empathy and human connection but who also understand the technology and the cutting edge of where we are.”

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Born and raised in Boston, Michael Deen had the values of life-long learning and development instilled in him from a young age.

Six years into his career with nonprofit trade association, Public Power Council—where he is currently policy director—he knew he needed to go back to those values.

Michael was after a step up. He could see the ladder to progression in front of him, he just didn’t know how to start climbing. That’s when an MBA came into the picture.

Michael is a current MBA student at Oregon State University College of Business, where the flexible options of taking courses fully online or in a hybrid format of online and in-person is allowing him to combine work and study at the same time.

But that’s just one benefit of the program. Here’s four ways the online aspect of an MBA sets you up for career success:

1. You don’t need to take any time off

Choosing between your career and further education is a tough decision. Let’s face it: if you leave your employer for a two-year MBA, you might find it difficult to go back.

In Michael’s case, he wanted an MBA that would give him the flexibility to continue working while studying.

The Oregon State MBA can be completed in 30 months or 21 months for students who qualify for an accelerated program. 

Students have the option to take one-to-three classes in a given quarter. They can choose to either ‘flex up’, ‘flex down’ or take a break, depending on their external commitments and demands—Michael decided to take the entire summer off from his studies.

“I've met and worked with people with all kinds of different schedules in my classes, and everyone is able to make the program work for them,” he says. “I occasionally have unexpected work travel, and without the flexible structure of the classes I don't know how I would be able to manage.”

If you want to advance your career in the same company, a 100% online or hybrid MBA program makes sense.

2. You can make an immediate impact at work

If you can manage your time effectively, learning and working at the same time will likely please your employer. Michael is able to apply his newfound learning and skills every day to his role.

He recently had to analyze and respond to an accounting error at a partner company. Michael says that his management ethics and corporate social responsibility class at Oregon helped with this task.  The discussion involved how culture within organizations allows employees to find errors and bring them forward without worrying about any consequences.

“That learning has really helped my ability to evaluate the adequacy of proposed changes in financial controls to prevent similar errors in the future,” he says.

3. You can customize the program to fit your career goals

Whatever your career goals, the MBA at Oregon State lets you to choose from four specialized tracks—business analytics, organizational leadership, marketing, and supply chain and logistics management—to follow the path that interests you most.

Michael chose the business analytics specialization, as it best fit his goal of improving in his current role, while also providing him with transferable skills if he ever decides to move on. “Like many industries, the energy and utility sector is generating increasingly large and complex sets of data,” he says.

“The industry is also facing unprecedented change and uncertainty. Using data to inform complex decisions under uncertainty, coupled with the ability to develop strategy and clearly communicate, is becoming more and more valuable.”

4. You will work with classmates from all over the world.

Online learning means connecting with classmates all over the world. You can build up a global network and you also get to grips with the realities of everyday work in a global organization—collaborating across time zones, languages, and cultures.

Michael works in Oregon where the Oregon State MBA is based, but his classmates are situated in multiple locations.

Matt Kelly (pictured below) is the global director of procurement for Adidas, one of Oregon State’s industry partners. He’s also on the advisory board for the supply chain and logistics management specialization at Oregon State. 

Advisory board members work closely with the faculty to ensure that MBA curriculum and projects are in tune with industry needs and help students tap into relationships with future employers. 

Matt says connecting with classmates globally during the online segment of an MBA will put students at an advantage if they move to an international company after graduation. “[You] are exposed to other cultures, ways of thinking, ways of working, time zone differentials, approaches to business and life.”

While there are more MBA format options available to you than ever before, for Michael, the Oregon State MBA offered a level of flexibility and reach that others do not.

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Eric Rivera’s father migrated to New York from Puerto Rico with his mother and four brothers and sisters. 

He worked hard his whole life, put himself through college as a first-generation college student, and has always been a strong role model for his son.

Seeing that encouraged Eric to graft equally as hard, and to strive to accomplish his goals. 

After graduating in English Language and Literature from Taylor University in the US, he joined Cairn University as director of admissions, where he helped others achieve theirs.

Now, as senior associate director of graduate enrolment at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, he’s in a unique position—Eric is also a current student in the Online MBA at Fox, the program that he recruits for.

He loves his job because it allows him to meet applicants, hear their stories, and ultimately have a big impact on their lives.

He recalls a student from years ago who after graduating kept in touch. He told Eric when he bought his first house, when he got married, had his first and more recently second child.

“I joke that I’m pretty much the coach in the background of all these major moments in his life,” he laughs. 

online mba degree

What is Online MBA life like?

The program includes one-on-one coaching and industry intelligence tools that prepare students to accelerate their career. Each course is five weeks long, and students partake in weekly live WebEx lectures between eight-and-10 in the evening.

Students can tailor their degree—which can be completed in 20 months or up to six years—through one of the program’s concentrations. Among their options are business analytics, entrepreneurship, human resources, innovation, and travel and tourism. 

Set to graduate in December this year, Eric explains that he’s been pleasantly surprised by his online MBA experience.

“What surprised me most is that it’s a real community. You’re going to get to know the students in the class really well. It’s a real, genuine experience that you’re having, just through a different format.”

Nowadays we’re all working digitally, Eric adds. Whether it’s online or a hybrid program, you’re learning in an environment akin to how you’ll be working in the real world, he says. 

The students on the Online MBA at Fox have roughly 10 years of work experience. Eric explains that they’re at a point in their career where they have a real understanding of what they need to take the next step.

Flexibility is key

The Online MBA is for those who desire a strong level of flexibility to accommodate busy professional, personal, and family lives. Eric is balancing the MBA with work for Fox and family life that consists of his wife and four kids.

He advises students on the program to communicate with their support network. 

“It’s got to be a team effort because you’re not going to be able to do as much as you were able to before.”

“You have to be realistic with what you can and can’t do with your time,” he says.  

Whether it’s his wife going the extra mile to wake up with their toddler in the night, or bringing Eric a quick bite to eat in the home study, the small things have been key to providing him with the space and time to get work done, Eric explains.

“I really don’t think I could have done it without her,” he says. 

Advice for incoming MBA students at Fox

Before you set foot in the classroom, take time to get your life in order, advises Eric.

Become friends with your calendar, combing it for free time. Can you free up space at the weekend to prepare mentally?

“Coming in, take a breath, relax, and prepare your life to leave yourself the time you’re going to need.

“As you move through the program you become more strategic, you don’t cram.”

And make the most of your classmates, Eric says. After all, they are all coming in with their own viewpoints and perspectives.

“You’re in conversation with other students from really diverse backgrounds and industries, and you’re hearing solutions to problems that you wouldn’t have thought of. You can bring those to your own organization throughout the program.”

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Taking time off work to do an MBA can be a real adventure. 

Stepping out of your usual life and back into full-time education can be an exciting way to fast-track your career—but it’s not the best option for everyone. 

Women in particular can be more reluctant than men to enrol on MBA courses. 

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC),  in 2016 women took 45% of MBA entrance exams administered worldwide, but many didn’t take the next step, as women were responsible for only 37% of full-time MBA applications. 

This can be attributed to a number of factors. One is that women still do the majority of housekeeping and childcare; for working mothers, uprooting their lives to pursue education is not always possible. 

For women who aren’t parents, there could be any number of reasons to be reluctant to take on the time-consuming full-time MBA—but that doesn’t mean that they’re barred from the benefits of business education entirely.

Peace Joseph is a chartered accountant and business adviser based in London. She knew she wanted to pursue business education, but she didn’t want to put her career on hold to do it. 

She decided to upskill while still working, by starting her online MBA with Edinburgh Business School (EBS) at Heriot-Watt University.

“Why not?”

“A couple of my friends suggested Edinburgh Business School to me, and one of them was actually on the MBA program at the time,” Peace recalls of the decision to enrol on to the school’s MBA.

“I decided to go ahead with it because of the ease of access and its ranking. If I could gain a degree from a reputable school, while still living and working in London, and without having to worry about relocation and all the associated costs, why not?”

Edinburgh Business School offers a number of options for students like Peace looking to pursue their studies on their own terms.

The whole program can be completed independently online, with one of the school’s learning partners, part-time at one of the Heriot-Watt’s international campuses in Edinburgh, Dubai, or Malaysia, or full-time at the university’s campus in Dubai.

Not to mention the school are actively engaged in making sure that women also get to feel the benefits of business education. 

From a highly visible female figurehead in their dean, Professor Heather McGregor, to their support of the 30% Club—the campaign aiming to get more women into senior leadership positions in top companies—the school have made efforts to craft an encouraging environment for women business leaders, whether they’re studying on campus or not. 

This supportive environment and suite of learning options worked well for Peace, who chose to study at one of the school’s learning partners in London. She says that it made the process of upskilling in her career much more convenient.

“I would have gone on with my MBA [even without flexible learning options],” she says, “but it would have required some sacrifice in another area—for example, I may have chosen another school, or put my career on hold.”

“It taught me to think strategically”

Instead of pressing pause on the other aspects of her life, Peace was able to learn new skills while still working, particularly in the area of strategy.

Project management, strategic planning and organizational behavior are all built into the school’s MBA core courses, with the option for students to expand their skills with electives on topics like ‘competitive strategy’ and ‘influence’.

In Peace’s mind, these skills have been an invaluable part of her career progression since graduating.

“The MBA taught me to think strategically, to focus on sustainability and longevity of the organization,” she says.

“It also taught me the ways to approach sustainability through leadership. I understand that people management, be it with consumers or employees, is essential to making the organization’s vision a reality.”

"It will shape your relationship with any business you associate with"

From successfully establishing a revenue-maximizing service within her accountancy practice, to improving productivity through training and development schemes, Peace has been proactive in applying what she’s learned to the company she’s working for—and her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“Since the MBA, I have been promoted to a managerial role at my firm and I have been approached on several occasions for director-level roles externally,” Peace reports.

Far from putting her career on hold like a traditional MBA, the online-learning option has acted as an accelerator.

“The MBA has equipped me with strategic thinking and planning, adaptability, communication, and leadership skills, to name a few,” Peace asserts. “I have been empowered to achieve more at work.”

To other women considering distance learning as a means to kick their careers into high-gear without having to make a pit-stop on the way, she is enthusiastically encouraging.

“I say to any and every woman in the professional world looking to keep achieving, an MBA will add to your skills arsenal,” she says.

“Seize the available learning options at your disposal—it will set you apart and shape your relationship with any business you associate with.”

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Business schools are taking more of their learning online. In the past five years, the number of AACSB-accredited business schools offering online MBA programs has increased by 69%, from 97 to 164 schools.

In 2019, the University of California Davis, University College London, and Michigan Ross join the ranks of big-name schools offering online MBAs.

For business schools, going online is a way to reach a global market and diversify program portfolios to meet demand.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) latest Application Trends Survey, 36% of online MBA programs recorded increased applications in 2018 compared with 32% of full-time, two-year MBAs.

For students, it is about flexibility; the opportunity to work, travel, and study at the same time.


Patrick Gettleman, a student on Birmingham Business School’s 100%-online MBA program, says he could not have studied an MBA without that flexibility. “Online was the only option that would work for me outside of quitting my job to become a full-time student.”

Patrick is one of 300 students who have enrolled on Birmingham’s online MBA—the first fully-online MBA to be accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA)—since its launch in September 2015. AMBA accreditation requires at least 120 real-time contact hours.

Birmingham splits its online MBA class by time zone, delivering fortnightly ‘live sessions’ to groups of up to 25 students, to meet this requirement.

While online MBAs have been seen as secondary to campus-based courses, such advances in technology—bringing more interactive learning experiences—mean schools are increasingly offering online MBAs as direct alternatives to the traditional, full-time MBA.


Birmingham promotes the idea of the ‘One MBA’. Whether studying online or on-campus, students cover the same content. For the 2019-20 academic year, Birmingham’s 100%-online MBA will cost over £20,000 ($25,500). Birmingham’s full-time MBA costs £27,000 ($34,400).

Dan Chicksand, the online MBA’s director, says the program offers students the same quality of learning experience as the on-campus course with a different mode of delivery. The online MBA is a program in its own right, he says, developed for the online space and priced with the global reputation of the university in mind.

Read: What Kind Of MBA Candidate Are You?


Birmingham’s online MBA is more affordable than most. Both the online and full-time MBA offered by Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business cost $132,000 in tuition alone. Tepper’s online MBA includes a residential component with ‘Access Weekends’ held several times a year.

But with students largely missing out on the campus element of the full-time MBA, is paying the same price for an online MBA worth it?

One way of considering a program’s worth is by calculating return on investment (ROI): the money paid for a program and the salary earned after it. By this calculation, online MBAs are typically less ‘worth it’ than full-time MBAs.

At Warwick Business School, full-time MBA students can expect a 77% boost on their salaries three years after graduation, according to data from the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2018. Online MBA graduates can expect a 34% increase. The programs cost £40,000 ($51,000) and £32,000 ($40,800) respectively. 

But comparing the ‘worth’ of an online MBA in this way is misleading. First, online MBAs tend to attract an older, more experienced student, who earns more and is less likely to experience the salary jump of an early-career professional.

Second, most online MBA students continue to work, and earn a salary, alongside their studies. According to GMAC’s 2018 Prospective Students Survey, 75% of candidates for professional MBA programs (including online and standard part-time MBAs) plan to stay in full-time employment.

That means no ‘opportunity cost’ for students from taking a year or two off work to pursue the MBA. And why GMAC say it takes alumni of online MBAs two and a half years on average to recoup their investment compared with three and a half years for full-time MBA alumni.

Check Out: The 10 Best Online MBA Programs In 2019


There is more to the worth of an online MBA than money. GMAC’s Alumni Perspectives Survey of 2018 asked 11,000 business school alumni whether they found their degree personally, professionally, and financially rewarding.

79% of alumni from full-time MBAs found their programs financially rewarding compared with 69% of alumni from professional MBAs. However, alumni opinion on the personal and professional value of their MBA was similar whether they took a full-time MBA or a part-time, online program.

Leila Guerra, associate dean of programs at Imperial College Business School, says the school’s full-time and online MBAs are equivalents but not replicas—learning on the online MBA is tailored for the online space while full-time students pay more for more time and, she says, the increased networking opportunities available on campus. Imperial’s online MBA costs £35,600 ($45,400); its full-time MBA £52,000 ($66,300).


GMAC research suggests online MBA students are more likely than full-time MBA students to be motivated by career advancement—a promotion or salary increase—rather than a disruptive career change.

Yet Leila says a similar percentage of online MBA students at Imperial find new jobs after graduation. 68% of the most recent graduates changed role; 30% changed company; 22% changed location.

Despite the programs’ differences, Leila says full-time and online MBA students can get the same kind of personal and professional return:

“Every time I have seen an MBA student a few years after graduation and asked them: Was it worth it? I’ve not yet met anyone who has told me it was not. The transformation is similar whether they’re from an online or a face-to-face program.”

READ MORE: The Pros And Cons Of Online Learning


Launched in December 2017, Vlerick Business School’s 100%-online MBA—like Birmingham’s—is positioned as equivalent to its full-time program. Vlerick’s online MBA costs €35,500 ($40,400); its full-time MBA costs €38,000 ($43,200). “We don’t want an A and a B product,” says Steve Muylle, the program’s academic director.

However, Steve says the programs serve different market segments with different needs. Vlerick’s 21 online MBA students have an average age of 37, compared with 30 for the 43 students on the full-time MBA.

33% of Vlerick’s online MBA students are international, compared with 80% on the full-time MBA. Most online MBA students come from a 100-mile radius of the Brussels-based school, working locally, familiar with and attracted by the school’s brand. Around 40% of them are sponsored by their companies.

Vlerick has developed Impact Learning Indicators to understand how the program is helping students reach their goals. Students are asked about their expectations from the program, whether it has delivered on them, and whether they feel it is delivering value.

Whether they study online or full-time, the worth of the MBA for students, says Steve, is decided by their individual career goals.

The outcome of the Impact Learning Indicators is not just a financial, salary story.

“People are looking for a purpose,” Steve explains, “for something they believe in.”


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The world, as we know it, is quickly moving online.

Adults in the UK spend on average 24 hours a week on the internet. We do our shopping online, talk to our friends online, and watch movies online. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that we can do an MBA online.

Online, distance-learning MBAs are part of a growing trend towards putting more flexibility into graduate management education. 36% of online MBA programs experienced growth in 2018, compared to just 24% of full-time two year programs.

The opportunities online are many and varied. For those not interested in completing a full online MBA, there is the choice of executive education programs which are increasingly online.

The past decade, moreover, has seen the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a chance for students to get a taster of business education in a shorter, cheaper format.

The jury, however, is still out. While online flexibility is making the MBA more accessible, are online MBA students getting the same experience as their full-time counterparts?

We’ve weighed up the various pros and cons of online learning:

PRO: Accessibility and flexibility


Family, financial commitments, physical restrictions—it’s often easier to think of obstacles to studying an MBA rather than reasons to do so. Not all MBA students are young, free, and single—for many, online access might be the difference between earning an MBA or not.

Through distance-learning programs, students can get access to education from world-class business schools, from the comfort of their own home. This is significant, since over 60% of prospective students said that commitments to family and friends would impact their reservations towards applying for an MBA.

CON: Less financial assistance


While online MBAs are certainly cheaper than a full-time program, financial assistance is more limited.

A Warwick Business School MBA student, for example, will pay $51,400 for a full-time program; a Warwick Distance Learning MBA student will pay just $41,764. At US schools, this will be much higher.

Only 13% of online students globally, however, receive financial assistance, compared to 45% of students for a full-time program.

Online students benefit by studying and continuing to work and earn a salary at the same time. But for those who can’t afford to break the bank for their education, a lack of financial assistance can be a barrier to studying an MBA.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Online MBA Programs In 2019


PRO: Work alongside study


It has become far less common for companies to sponsor employees to study an MBA as part of their employment, meaning an MBA can be perceived to equate to job uncertainty.

Distance learning, however, means that work and study can exist in harmony.

Given the flexibility of online MBAs, full-time workers can complete their classes in their evenings, or over weekends. While there are set deadlines for assignments, coursework can be completed at a pace set by the learner.

Many Professional MBA programs are already pursuing this option, integrating online learning as a significant portion of their part-time degree. The nine professional MBAs offered at WU Executive Academy have e-learning components in the run up and conclusion of modules which are done in the classroom.

CON: Lacks the ‘campus’ experience


From Cornell Johnson’s lush state parks, to Warwick Business School’s soaring views across London, business schools are famed for their campuses.

For fully-online MBA students, the closest you’ll get to this will be on Google Images.

The campus experience goes far beyond the knowledge you are accumulating in the classroom. MBA programs encourage their students to get as involved as possible in campus life.

Harvard Business School, for instance, has over 80 student clubs for MBAs to join, from the entrepreneurship to the whisky, bourbon and spirits club.

READ MORE: Is An Online MBA Worth The Money?


PRO: Supplement established business knowledge


One of the biggest motivations for online learning is to advance your own career, and one of the best ways is to add to your toolkit of skills.

Professional MBAs, with online elements, are the perfect way to advance your acumen, especially if you are coming from a management background. This might offer the opportunity to specialize in fields such as marketing or accounting; or it may just add theoretical knowledge to previous experience in business.

This is part of a trend of lifelong learning, where graduates are increasingly likely to come back to their business education years after their MBA. Schools like Wharton offer executive education courses to their alumni, free of charge.  

For prospective students, or students looking to upgrade their skills, many top schools offer MOOCs through platforms like Coursera, in everything from data analytics to corporate sustainability. As top b-schools like Stanford and INSEAD offer more of these courses, the more they are perceived as real business acumen.

CON: Networking and interaction limited


The classmates, the professors, the network. Business school isn’t simply about what you learn; it’s about the interactions you have and the connections you make.

The emphasis on group learning in MBAs can be diminished in the distance-learning format, where the program is designed around the individual and their own time management. While this provides flexibility, it might be argued that it does not reflect the nature of teamwork required in the workplace.

MBAs also provide ample time for networking, particularly with regards to meeting potential employers. Behind the screen of an online MBA, this face-to-face opportunity is less available.

The experience of the full-time MBA versus the online MBA seems to be in the additions which you get outside of the classroom.

While the content is the same, and the accumulated knowledge will read the same on paper, the full-time candidate has easier access to faculty, campus, and the network which can still be limited, or even non-existent, for the online learner.

An online MBA, however, is ideal for a particular type of candidate, who for financial, familial, or accessibility reasons, isn’t able to commit themselves to a full-time, full-contact MBA.

That online courses are growing in demand, at the expense of full-time courses, shows that this type of candidate is increasingly present.


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Taking a year out of employment to advance your career with an MBA is a tough decision.

How will your current employer take the decision? How will you fund your studies?

Luckily, full-time MBAs aren’t your only option. Alternatives to the traditional, on-campus MBA have evolved as the demand for more flexible learning rises.

Most part-time, online MBAs can be taken within three to five years, while many accelerated online MBAs can be completed in 12 to 18 months.

This is exactly the kind of flexibility that Phina Kamanyire sought out when she chose to study the two-year, Online MBA from Maastricht School of Management (MSM) in 2018.

Balancing studies and a career

Ugandan-born Phina wanted the ease of a program that could allow her to continue her 14-year management career.

Phina is used to working in a demanding environment. She’s led teams in a humanitarian organization, responding to disasters in war-torn countries. She also took up managerial roles with charitable organization, Oasis, which serves underprivileged communities.

Phina’s career shows no signs of slowing down. She decided to do an MBA because she wanted to advance further and apply to top-level organizations without leaving the working environment.

“It’s quite expensive to come and spend a full year in the Netherlands, doing that course without a job,” she explains. “I can do both the online MBA and work and have more money.”

Phina recently left her full-time position as the country director for Oasis. She now works a four-day week as a business manager for a public university based in the Netherlands. On the fifth day of the week, she accesses MSM’s online portal.

Maastricht’s Online MBA provides the same level of education as its on-campus MBA programs—the only differences are in its delivery and flexibility.

The 100%-online MBA consists of eight modular lecture sessions including topics on finance, global responsibility, and strategic orientation.

Every week, students are given assignments based on a chosen study text and academic material, from journals to videos.

These assignments are posted in an online discussion forum for each student to view and for the instructors to monitor. Candidates assess each other on communication, critical thinking, and participation. The final course assignment is for the instructor alone to view and assess.

The online MBA requires at least 25 hours a week of participation.

“I find it intense. It takes a lot of commitment and self-motivation,” Phina says. “Right now, we’ve been going full on since June last year.

“It’s structured in a way that you are forced to participate; you’re forced to take a concern in certain subjects.”

Dr. Pascale Hardy, Director Research School and Online Education, explains the difference between this online program and a traditional course.

“Online MBAs are on the rise," she says.

“[On our Online MBA], all the courses are based on the principle of discovery learning, meaning students will learn through their efforts of discovery by reviewing materials from a variety of sources, and undertaking online activities such as writing papers and discussion board posts that demonstrate their knowledge, understanding, and ability to apply it.”

Forming connections online

The students in Phina’s class frequently communicate with one another through the forum discussion.

There is a feeling of solidarity among the group too, as the lecturers pose questions online, and every contribution can benefit each person's answer.

“Because they’re promoting engagement, we’re asked to give feedback or respond to two or three of our fellow students’ answers,” says Phina. "By having access to other students’ work, you learn from them, and because they also review yours, you learn and grow from it,” she continues.

“I’ve been impressed that we can interact, and everyone has an equal level of motivation.”

There is a set structure in place to maintain a routine for the online MBA candidates.

Every two weeks, they have conference calls with the professors, who give them a chance to ask questions. “I think they have been impressed with the level of participation and how much we’ve grown together as a group,” says Phina.

MSM’s Online MBA program is ranked the fourth best Online MBA program in the world by CEO Magazine. Phina says her experience on the program so far has helped her to advance in her career.

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Augmented reality (AR)—the application of digital imagery to a real world environment—came to the public’s attention first through Snapchat filters, and latterly through the gaming app Pokemon Go.

Whether its adding digital backgrounds to your selfies, or hunting 'Pokemon' in the real world, both, in their own way, are fun and gimmicky.

Now, disruptive technology is being rolled out by major luxury retailers and fashion labels such as Swarowski, Prada, and Burberry. For some brands, this enables you to digitally try on clothing, while for others, you can customize your own home digitally through your smartphone camera.

While these retailers still deal with tangible goods, they are being forced to adapt their products by enhancing and providing digital experiences.

“Luxury managers often see digital media as a threat, worrying that mass appeal will take power away from the brand,” says Anne-Sophie Dutat, in charge of the Online MBA in Luxury Management in the Digital Age at Sup de Luxe in Paris.

For the brand managers of the future, adapting luxury brands to the interests of the buyers of the future is crucial, and it is quite clear that ‘digital’ will play a large role in this. 

Data and digital in the luxury world


Adapting to the new generation of buyers is crucial for retailers. For millennials and generations Y and Z, this is firmly centered in a world of technology.

“Digital attracts a much younger generation of clients not necessarily seen in physical stores yet,” Anne-Sophie notes.

Part of this is adapting the ‘DNA’ of a brand in a way that appeals to young consumers. Swarovski’s VR app, for example, shows goggle-wearing consumers around a luxury home fitted tastefully with Swarovski products.  

Incorporating digitalization is at the forefront of the minds of luxury managers of the future, and at the heart of Sup de Luxe’s online MBA in Luxury Management in a Digital Age.

The online MBA combines the hallmarks of their luxury brand management degree with the technological considerations which make it ‘digital age’ relevant.

Modules in experiential marketing, for example, combines the established knowledge of building customer journeys with an understanding of immersive marketing and digital experiences.

A huge part of this is the use ofpersonalized data, which is being recorded and used to relate to the consumer as an individual in their customer journey.

“Data represents one of the greatest opportunities for luxury brands to translate their traditional offline experiences to the online world,” Anna-Sophie reveals.

Online with a twist


Understanding digital technology isn't just theoretical, it is part of the structure of the program. As the name suggests, the MBA is now conducted mostly online.

The online MBA has seen a significant increase in the last decade, with the number of programs increasing by 54% between 2012 and 2017.

"[Studying online] is a huge opportunity for working people around the world to get the specific knowledge and expertise for the luxury sector,” Anne-Sophie recognizes.

Crucially, it enables professionals to study for their MBA while continuing their job in a remote location, alleviating the geographical and temporal commitment of a business degree.

In addition, students get a taste of the Sup de Luxe experience during a week-long study trip to Paris. Online MBA students get the chance to meet with luxury brand managers and immerse themselves in the fashion houses based in the French capital, experiencing, in a week, the seminars and events that full-time MBA students attend. 

This allows students to see the application of digital in a physical setting, as well as speaking to experts in the field and their experiences of digitalizing these firmly-established brands.

A whole new way of buying

The ‘digital age’ is not a future any more—it is now.

Millennials are increasingly detached from the in-store mode of shopping, and much more attached to the online way. In the US, 47% said they would prefer to buy online, compared to 43% in store. 

Moreover, Goldman Sachs estimates that virtual and augmented reality technology will be worth $80 billion by 2025, as it becomes more of an integrated part of retail.

For luxury brand managers, this is a pressing priority. For online MBA students at Sup de Luxe, this is an opportunity to use disruptive technology to innovate a historic luxury industry.

For customers and retailers, it’s a win-win. “Technology allows customers to experience products differently, in a more intense, innovative and unique way,” Anne-Sophie beams.


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Nonprofit and for-profit organizations, while different, need to be managed in similar ways.

In March, GoFundMe’s CEO Rob Solomon argued that charities must embrace technology or face extinction. Charity executives, just like the leaders of any big private company, need to make tough decisions and deal with the pace of change.

A good management education can provide the necessary skills to do so, but this can also be expensive, and for many in the charity sector, the barriers to entry are financial.

Edinburgh Business School (EBS) at Heriot-Watt University, however, is breaking down the barriers and ushering in people from non-profit backgrounds who are keen to improve their leadership skills and gain first-class business education.

On top of competitive fees, prospective students can also apply for MBA scholarships. EBS has run a number of scholarship schemes over the years, benefitting students both in and outside the UK, whether they’re studying on one of Heriot-Watt University’s three campuses worldwide or online.

“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to do the MBA”


Jacqueline Cassidy, head of external affairs at the charity Children in Scotland, received a Scottish Silver Scholarship from EBS, which gave 19 outstanding Scottish residents a full tuition MBA scholarship.

Jacqueline (pictured right) excelled on the MBA at Edinburgh Business School, graduating with distinction, and is currently studying a Postgraduate Certificate in Business Research Methods at the School. She says this would not have been possible without the scholarship she was given to pursue her studies, or without the flexibility that the online program format granted her.

“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to do the MBA”, Jacqueline says.

“The programme offered by EBS is also very flexible and I was able to study in my spare time, whilst my kids were busy with after school activities and clubs. It was important that I was able to find time for my studies around busy family and work life.”

Learning key business cornerstones—like macroeconomics, accounting, and financial and business models—helped Jacqueline understand, not only the broader structures she works within, but how she herself works within her role.

“I did an elective around influencing, and that’s quite key to my job,” Jacqueline recalls. “It’s something I do but I wanted to understand how I do it —the MBA provided me with context to my actions, and an understanding of what underpins our behaviors.”

“There’s not enough investment in the charity sector—MBA skills will be invaluable”

Taking this knowledge forward into her career, Jacqueline hopes that it will allow her to take the reins of a bigger charity and play a part in strategic planning.

“In the future, I’d be looking to move into a chief executive role,” she explains. “I think the MBA will be enormously helpful, because what I now have in my toolbox is an understanding of each of the elements that come with a role like that—HR, finance, and business strategy, and the implementation of that.”

Jacqueline says that she would recommend the MBA at Edinburgh Business School—not just to other professionals with backgrounds in charities, but to businesspeople who are looking to pivot their career to make a difference in the world.

“There’s not really enough investment in the charity sector in terms of leadership skills, and we tend to try to work it out as we go along,” she says. “Skills from the MBA will be invaluable in terms of managing an organization, often on a very tight budget, and that’s transferable from the private sector into charities.”

David Kelly, the student and alumni director at Edinburgh Business School, says he’s happy with the progress the school has made in making education available to people who want to make an impact within the charitable sector and beyond.

This focus extends globally. The African Scholarship, one of the business school’s biggest scholarship schemes, saw 250 fully-funded distance learning scholarships awarded over a five-year period.

“The provision of scholarships plays an important role in ensuring opportunities [for education] are made available to individuals and communities who may not otherwise benefit from them,” he says.

Currently EBS is offering scholarships for women, in conjunction with the 30% Club in Dubai and Malaysia, which campaigns for greater representation of women on the boards of FTSE100 boards.

Read more about funding and scholarship opportunities at Edinburgh Business School.

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The Nike tick, despite being one of the world’s most recognizable logos, slumped in value in the early years of the 21st century. 

In the face of a slipping sales performance, the sports giant revitalized its e-commerce strategy, refining its website and working with Amazon rather than high street retailers to boost sales.

Result? It saw a $6 billion increase in annual revenue from 2017 to 2018. 

The world, as we know it, is becoming digitalized, and brands and businesses are being forced to adapt. 

Digital transformation is make-or-break for companies. Similarly, business professionals need to master skills like data analytics in to become leaders in the digital age. 

Using tech to transform a business

A strange but certain phenomenon that business leaders have to get used to is change. 

Every business has to change, adapt, and innovate in order to stay alive, and in the 21st century digitization is the quickest, most efficient way of enacting change.

“The most interesting effect of digitalization is the process of breaking out of current structures and the social change in a company that goes along with this,” insists Katarina Lucic (pictured), a data science graduate and part of the executive education learning design team at WU Executive Academy in Vienna.

Tech is no longer seen as a compartment of business; it is fully integrated into business models and processes. This understanding is central to the Professional MBA in Digital Transformation and Data Science at WU, where MBAs are viewed as agents of digital change. 

“Business leaders have to know what is important and what is possible,” Katarina explains.

“We offer a holistic view of technical possibilities, and how companies deal with the subject.”

This is an attempt, Katarina suggests, to bridge the gap between IT and business, ensuring that IT managers can lead and that leaders can understand IT. For both sides, an understanding of the other is vital. 

Understanding the benefits—and dangers—of data

Data—and the way it is handled—has come under great scrutiny in the past year. 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s data leak have increased people’s understanding of how data can be used to understand consumer behavior, helping to make processes more efficient, and in the wrong hands, manipulate outcomes. 

Professional MBA students at WU get a hands-on insight into the value of data, and how it can be used for digital transformation. 

A 12-day data science course follows the business core, ensuring that students are comfortable with analytics, handling big data, and understanding how to use it in various business contexts. 

They also apply it to group projects, exploring how data is used to understand customers and operations, all the while getting coaching from experts and professors in this field. 

“In order to get an idea of what data scientists are doing, they have to get their hands dirty,” Katarina underlines. 

As the Facebook scandal highlights, data has a darker side to it, and modules in business ethics emphasize the importance of responsibility when handling data. 

One professor said that if data is the new oil, then we have to think about its polluting effects,” Katarina muses. 

Standing out to employers

As tech and non-tech employers continue to clamor over MBA graduates, there is an increasingly high demand for tech-based skills.

While digitalization has been happening for steadily for a long time, many business schools are still playing catch up in preparing their students for business tech. 

“The topic is not new, but awareness of how important it is is only just arriving in the world of business,” Katarina imparts.  

The Financial Times Skills Gap Survey 2018 revealed that big data is one of the most in demand, and hardest to find, skills—with 13% of employers claiming it was impossible to find. 

WU graduates, therefore, have the dual appeal, that of the leadership skills of an MBA, combined with tech proficiency. The tech MBA hybrid, it seems, is a pretty enticing proposition for employers in the digital age. 

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Imagine you are trying to sell an apple.

Marketing will tell you the story about the apple, about how it was picked, and how it came to be where it is today. The apple’s identity is as important as the apple itself.

Sales, meanwhile, will get you the highest price for the apple, and will make sure that the customer keeps come back to buy more apples.

Marketing and sales, although standing side-by-side, have historically pitched against each other. The word ‘smarketing’ refers to sales and marketing teams that are perfectly aligned—a rarity rather than a reality for most organizations.

“Their functions have developed in different directions, but [marketing and sales] need to work together towards a common goal—delighting your customer,” emphasizes Dr Barbara Stottinger, dean of WU Executive Academy.

This philosophy is central to the Professional MBA in marketing and sales, bringing together professionals to teach the two different practices as one, in the aim of creating more efficient departments in both.

Experience from both backgrounds

Working as a brand manager at consumer goods giant Kraft, Dmitry Osokin (pictured) was well aware of the internal struggle between marketing and sales in a large-scale organization.


“Both parts are crucial to commercialized products and service, yet do not always work together,” Dmitry remembers.

Looking for a top business school in the German-speaking world, WU Executive Academy jumped out, and their Professional MBA instantly piqued his interest.

“I knew I wanted to specialize in sales and marketing going forward, and the professional program was a much better fit since I already had a business background,” Dmitry notes.

While Dmitry hailed from a marketing background, the program consists of a healthy mix of professionals to ensure balance in the classroom.

The spirit of innovation

Part of the shared learning environment includes a heavy emphasis on group learning. The workshops are facilitated to allow students to bring together their knowledge and discuss it critically as a group.

This is important in a curricular sense, but also in facilitating human understanding between the two opposing groups.

“Professionals have to be able to understand each other not only theoretically, but also on a personal level,” Barbara stresses.

Taking this into account, it is crucial to give both disciplines equal footing, in group discussions and the curriculum.

Modules like personal selling performance gives students an understanding of external communication through both marketing and sales perspectives, while marketing financials involves assessment of success metrics for both disciplines.

Barbara also underlines the importance of “the spirit of innovation” which characterizes the course. While the fundamentals of marketing and sales are the same, the technology has developed hugely.

“The mindset hasn’t changed, it’s the tools that have changed,” Barbara sums up.

Part of this innovation is an international residency in Silicon Valley, where students get the opportunity to meet professionals at the cutting edge of innovation, encouraging them to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset which can be applied to marketing and sales.

"Challenging, but manageable"

The ‘professional’ aspect of the name is of equal importance, with most students studying alongside a full-time job. This is significant, since for over two-thirds of prospective students, uncertainty over job prospects will impact their decision for choosing to study an MBA.

For Dmitry, not only did this avoid the risk of sacrificing his role at Kraft, studying the Professional MBA in Marketing and Sales actually propelled his career.

Students study between three days and a week no more than once a month, meaning that the program fits alongside a full-time job, rather than in its place.  The first year is focused on core business modules, while the second year is focused on the specialization.

“It is definitely challenging, but manageable if you are committed to it,” Dmitry advises.

For Dmitry, the extra effort paid off. Firstly, in his role at Kraft at the time, Dmitry was offered a promotion to move to Austria; then, subsequently, he landed a job at pharmaceutical giant Roche.

It wasn’t just to do with the MBA letters after his name. He noticed real results in the way he was working, which ultimately accelerated his career.

Now working as a business unit head at pharmaceutical company Takeda, Dmitry’s role overlooks both marketing and sales from a joint perspective.


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Travel, deadlines, globalization—today’s careers are changing and fewer people are willing to take a break from full-time work to pursue an MBA.

“The nine-to-five working day is no longer the norm,” says Prashant Malaviya, associate dean of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and designer of the Flex MBA, a revamped part-time MBA program the school is launching in fall 2019.


Leading the charge for flexi-learning, McDonough is tapping into the changing nature of employment by reinventing its part-time MBA Evening Program —which already ranks 11th in the US among other part-time programs by US News & World Report.

The new Flex MBA will provide all the same content as the school’s Full-time MBA and confer the same degree, but teaching will be delivered in more flexible ways.

The Flex MBA will combine face-to-face and online learning, with a selection of ‘hybrid electives’ allowing students to learn virtually, remotely, and on-the-go.

The duration of the program will range from 28 to 60 months depending on what works for each MBA student – with new opportunities to transfer in previous graduate coursework. Evening classes allow students to attend school once their working day in the office is done, or Saturday electives offer an alternative to long days of work and school.  

One- and two-week intensive learning experiences also provide opportunities for students to learn on campus and network with peers, without keeping them away from work commitments for long. 

Before creating the Flex MBA, McDonough surveyed prospective part-time MBA students and discovered 70% were interested in a more flexible, customizable experience.

For Prashant, flexibility has become a key component of any learning resource. He’s quick to highlight that the core courses, which comprise half of the Flex MBA program, ensure that the community building atmosphere thrives in-keeping with the school’s cohort model.

Adrienne Cohen is a 2018 McDonough MBA graduate and chose the school, in part, due to the fact that students received the same quality of education in the part-time MBA as the full-time program. “On a day-to-day basis, I was able to see direct linkages between what I was learning in class and what I was doing in my job,” she says.

When Adrienne had to travel more frequently for work, making attending evening classes tricky, she was thrilled that Saturday electives ensured that she did not have to sacrifice work or her MBA commitments.

Adrienne is now marketing manager for Western Europe at Microsoft, achieving the role change she wanted from her MBA. “The Saturday elective was a game changer for me,” she beams. "It gave me the best of both worlds."

Tyler Shymansky has first-hand experience with hybrid electives, being amongst the first cohort to try the pivotal aspect of the Flex MBA.


As an analyst associate in commercial real estate finance, he viewed the MBA as a focal credential for career enhancement—a “door opener”. His role is execution orientated and heavily quantitative so he wanted an MBA that would develop soft skills in negotiation and strategy.

Georgetown McDonough’s reputation—its MBA is ranked in the top 30 globally and 17th among U.S. schools in the 2019 Financial Times MBA Ranking—and the flexibility that they offer were the key reasons he chose the school.

Tyler took the hybrid course Real Estate Private Equity. It required two in-person classroom meetings (the first class and last class), supplemented by online lectures, tutorials, assignments, and quizzes.

“This flexible format more closely resembles today’s working world where schedules are increasingly task-oriented,” he says.

Tyler adds that the hybrid classes replicated a realistic business environment —short meetings and reliance on e-mail communication— which set students up well for real-life application of the MBA skillset.

He benefited from the opportunity to work more efficiently, choosing the time of day he studied and speeding up and slowing down online content to work at his own pace.

“Time is my most important resource, and there never seems to be enough of it,” he says, “so if business schools can cater courses to allow greater flexibility, without sacrificing student engagement, it is a ‘win-win.’ 

McDonough School of Business is doing exactly that!”

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The part-time MBA has had a rough ride recently. Created to help the growing hordes of time-poor managers earn the degree without quitting their jobs—or their salary—the part-time MBA has many merits. But a combination of more stingy employers cutting back funding, a dearth of diversity among part-time cohorts, and the millennial desire for community have seen application numbers to the courses sink.

Yet technology is now reviving part-time MBAs. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in August said it will offer an MBA for working professionals delivered mostly online. And in July, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business added greater flexibility to its part-time MBA via technology.

By studying content online, students can take less time out of work, and schools can reach more global audiences. “Students can learn on their own schedule, and they can ‘rewind the professor’ to review difficult concepts,” says Gonzalo Freixes, associate dean of UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Fully Employed MBA. “If their work or personal life does not allow weekly attendance, online provides a way to deliver the program.

“More material can actually be covered online than in a live class, since there are no interruptions for questions, and multiple videos can cover more subjects, and provide optional learning opportunities.”

Georgetown McDonough has also strived to offer its part-timers greater flexibility with its recent course redesign. The traditional timeline to complete the program was three years, but can now be completed in as little as 28 months or as long as five years. Students who have completed prior graduate coursework, can transfer up to 12 credit hours to the MBA, to shorten the duration.

“Our new Flex MBA is a reflection of market research and feedback we’ve received from prospective students,” says Shelly Heinrich, interim associate dean for MBA admissions. “The need for greater flexibility often comes from work responsibilities that vary in intensity through the year, impending military deployments or changes in duty station, the desire to complete a degree while balancing demands of raising a family, and budget constraints. The Flex MBA meets these needs so our students can focus on what’s most important to them.”

What’s more, online learning can better prepare people for a world of work that is becoming increasingly tech-driven, because they work in teams remotely. “We are deeply committed to preparing students for success in the ever-changing world of business,” says Scott DeRue, dean of Michigan Ross.

The school’s new part-time online MBA includes a mixture of online learning opportunities and three in-person residences on campus that focus on leadership, business transformation and innovation. Michigan Ross calls these 'MAP' projects, and more than 12,000 students have participated in projects held in over 98 countries. “We’re delivering the same high-quality Michigan Ross education using a flexible design,” Scott says.

UCLA’s course is also a hybrid—a mixture of online and in-person elements. All core classes and many electives are available online, with approximately 22-to-25% of the students opting for the hybrid format in any given quarter. “Students seeking a part-time MBA desire to expand their network and leadership skills, and are coming to realize that a purely online program can’t do that,” says Gonzalo.

“Offering a hybrid program allows for the opportunity to network and interact with faculty and peers; a pure online program does not.”

He goes on to say that this method of learning can ultimately attract more applications, hopefully stemming the part-time MBAs decline over the past several years. “We surveyed our hybrid section after three years and discovered 80% [of students] would not have come to UCLA FEMBA [Fully Employed MBA]” without the hybrid format, he says.

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Fewer people are taking part-time MBA degrees in the US, according to research published by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which owns BusinessBecause.

Each year since 2009 most US part-time MBAs have reported either falling or flat application volumes. In 2017, fewer than half of the courses reported application growth, GMAC said.

Falling employer funding for management education since the financial crisis may have contributed to the flagging demand for part-time MBAs.

Separate GMAC data on 'professional' MBA alumni—which includes part-time online and executive MBAs—show the share of students receiving funding dropped from around two in three for the graduating class of 1996 to less than one in two for the graduating class of 2015. 

One bright spot is 'lockstep' MBA programs, in which all students study the same curriculum at the same time. Most part-time lockstep MBA programs grew their application volume for three consecutive years, GMAC reported.

That is because lockstep courses focus more on group experience and participants may build stronger networks as a result, according to GMAC.

Compounding that trend is the fact that millennials—those who reached early adulthood at the start of the new millenium—now account for nearly nine in 10 US resident part-time MBA students, said GMAC. Surveys suggested that millennials expect a community experience, flexibility, and the option to specialize their degree.

Millennials are also increasingly concerned about the cost of an MBA, and their employers are less likely to help them pay for it than in the past, the organization said.

Part-time MBA programs can future-proof their success by turning to technology. MBA programs have in recent years sought to blend online and face-to-face content to meet the needs of students who are looking for more flexibility in how and when they study, said Dan LeClair, chief strategy and innovation officer at the AACSB accrediting body.

“We see an increase in more hybrid education,” he said. “One reason is that businesses are using more virtual teams, although face-to-face teams are still a reality of business.”

Many schools have found success delivering customized courses designed specifically for employers—INSEAD launched a web and mobile-based solution that delivered high-quality video lectures to companies including Microsoft and Accenture.

But technology is a double-edged sword for business schools, as it has led to the rise of new digital-enabled competitors, such as the providers of Moocs like Coursera, which has more than 30 million users.

“If they [business schools] don’t innovate now, they will struggle to stay relevant,” added AACSB’s Dan.

There are other ways for part-time MBA courses to remain relevant. GMAC said that developing group learning opportunities, specializations and career support would be worthwhile investments.

In addition, increasing the diversity of part-time courses could improve overall demand for them. “They tend to attract local talent and that can be a downside for employers looking to build an international talent pipeline,” said Sandy Khan, a former recruiter and now founder of IN-CO, which hosts events where MBAs meet business leaders.

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Erica van Engel’s mission is to help women succeed in social entrepreneurship. She founded Differeve, a management consulting firm specializing in empowering female entrepreneurs. Erica also sits on the regional advisory board (South-West) of the Dutch chamber of commerce.

With an MBA, Erica aims to take her career even further. She’s considering part-time MBA programs in the Netherlands, at Business School Netherlands and IBO Business School in particular.

Previously, Erica started-up her own internship agency, Stageloket, which matches Dutch students with organizations in Suriname, her country of origin, in South America.

This was the basis for a career in social entrepreneurship and coaching others who want to start their own social enterprise. 

What do you hope to gain from an MBA?

I want to broaden my skills, knowledge and business network. With an MBA I can do more challenging consultancy jobs and be of higher value.

What are your future career plans?

I’m aiming for executive-level jobs with a special focus on the power of female social entrepreneurship. For instance, as a chief impact manager of a corporate foundation for a luxury or fashion brand.

Or I would like to publish [work] on this topic and influence governmental policies on a national, European and international level.

What are the most important factors to you when choosing a business school?

As a single mum and the main breadwinner, a full-time MBA is a bit of a problem. I’m looking for a part-time program, preferably in the Netherlands.

Scholarships would be very nice. In the past the Business School Netherlandse provided in a special scholarship for women and they have a payment plan for selfemlpoyed. Last but not least, I hope to find a business school that pays attention to diversity in gender and generations. 

Which scholarships have stood out for you?

The Business School Netherlands has a scholarship for women and a payment plan for the self-employed.

Would you consider an online MBA?

I love online learning because you can take classes when you want to. But I would prefer blended learning, because I would also like to meet the lecturers and other students face-to-face.

What was it like setting up your own business, Stageloket?

I don’t believe in traditional development aid. The initiative arose from the conviction that knowledge contributes more to developing countries than giving money.

Our advocacy for Suriname led to around 1,000 Dutch students choosing internships there. This resulted not only in the transfer of knowledge and [a] workforce, but also millions of dollars per year in income for local tourism and retail industries, and for local citizens who rented out their houses to the students. For me, this was proof that you can brand your belief and turn your purpose into a profitable product.

What advice would you have for MBA students looking to start a social enterprise?

Make your own money. Look for a for-profit business model, because it’s more sustainable than non-profit models, where you depend on funds and grants. 

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The future of the MBA degree is in part time study. Innovation in technology and the changing nature of the workforce have chipped away at the traditional degree’s appeal.

Managers are under increasing pressure to progress. Since the financial crisis they have been less willing to push the stop button on their careers. Wage growth is still weak in some economies and many workers are unwilling to face lost earnings.

“Flexible study can be very attractive for some, especially those who do not want to leave their full-time employment to avoid losing momentum,” says Paula Robles, associate director at global business school INSEAD.

The cost of business education has risen. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business estimates that total MBA tuition has surged by at least a third in the US since 2007.

Students must pause their careers, miss out on salary and promotions, and take on debt to fund traditional MBA studies.

“These factors together conspire to make it extremely difficult to attend face-to-face MBAs and Executive MBAs,” says Federico Frattini, director of the Flex EMBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano, an Italian business school.

“This sure is the elephant in the room,” says Alyssa Shadinger, a senior management consultant at Protiviti – a consultancy firm whose clients include Fortune 500 companies – who is applying to MBA programs at several leading academic institutions.

As the co-founder of a non-profit company that seeks to raise money for disadvantaged women to gain an education, she knows better than most the financial challenges that prospective students face.

She has been forced to pool various funds together to finance her degree. Alyssa has been putting cash away for four years. “[But] with the rising cost of MBA programs, that still would not cover all of it,” she says. She will turn to student loans to foot the rest of the bill. This is a fast growing market in the private sector.

More than $7 billion has been loaned to students in 2014, up 25% from 2011, according to student loan tracker MeasureOne. In the US alone there is roughly $1.1 trillion in capital owed in total in federal student loans.

“For us as there has been a [funding] void over the past years because of the financial crisis,” says Ashley Arnold, director of MBA recruitment at Henley Business School. “Even though the economy is improving, it’s still tough out there,” he says.

There is increasing demand in flexibility from students – a result of frequent business trips, unpredictable schedules, and family commitments, according to Federico at MIP.

“The market of university and post-graduate education has recently witnessed a steep growth in digital learning MBAs,” he says.

Approximately 80% of the Flex EMBA is taught through online channels. “This innovative teaching approach enables students to keep pace with the program,” says Federico.

A fall in applications has pushed business schools to close full-time MBA programs altogether.

Virginia Tech last year made the decision to go fully flexible – offering just executive, evening and weekend programs – for instance, while Thunderbird announced that following its merger with Arizona State University it will no longer teach MBA students.

Wake Forest recently announced it would move to part-time MBA programs, some of which are taught through digital channels, and Miami University has similarly moved away from the two-year model that is the bedrock of US business education.

These new formats allow students to avoid losing career momentum, a huge slice of their bank balance as well having to gamble on the strength of the jobs market at a later date.

Business schools are often reluctant to turn to online formats for fear of losing market share and the large fees associated with traditional MBA programs, but there has been a huge increase in the provision of distance learning and short executive courses.

“Now [that] the competition has increased – and more companies are offering programs to their employees – universities are growing their programs and class offerings,” says Peter Methot, managing director of executive education at Rutgers Business School.  

There has been a preference for nurturing talent inside companies and this is fuelling a boom in executive education. Many banks in Europe, for example, are bringing in more analysts through graduate programs for in-house training.

Businesses are funding managers through specialist degrees that focus on one or two functions, such as marketing or finance.

“It’s a matter of specific goals and backgrounds,” says Alessandro Arbore, co-director of the Executive Master in Marketing and Sales, taught jointly by SDA Bocconi School of Management and ESADE Business School.

The course tends to bring in savvy executives but at the other end of the spectrum, pre-experience degrees are also catching on.

Masters in Management programs, long popular in Europe, are gaining ground globally and the US is one of the fastest growing markets. Usually one year in length, they aim to fast-track fresh college graduates into careers.

“MiM programs are becoming more popular in the US because of demand from both students and employers,” says Derrick Boone, associate dean for the MA in Management program at Wake Forest.

The pace of innovation is driving this trend. Rapid changes in technology are spurring more managers to study from a distance. Education marketing consultancy CarringtonCrisp forecasts that three-quarters of prospective business students would prefer to shape study around their current careers. 

Education tech companies – such as Coursera and FutureLearn – believe that the future of business education is in the online world, and part-time study is increasingly taking this form.

“Both our domestic and international students appreciate the opportunity to undertake self-paced learning of foundational and technical content in [an] online [format],” says John Shields, deputy dean at the University of Sydney Business School.  

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Time was not on Nic Lee’s side. Like many executives, he did not have the luxury of taking a break from his business analyst’s role at Terra Firma, one of Australia’s leading management consulting firms. He wanted to further his education, but could not put the brakes on his life in the fast lane.

“Working full-time has always been the priority. The luxury of taking a break from work did not present itself,” says Nic. So, he enrolled on a part-time MBA program at Melbourne Business School, one of a new breed of flexible courses designed for the busy manager.

The program was split over three years. “I would have classes from Friday to Sunday, once every three or four weeks,” says Nic. He graduated last year and has been promoted to a senior role at Terra Firma. “Combining the complementary nature of my studies to my existing work has been a great career enhancement. Long-term, the MBA has opened new doors and opportunities,” he says.

The increasing pressures of management and fuller work schedules means many executives can no longer afford to take one or two years out of work to obtain a traditional MBA degree.

The business education market has had to adapt to meet the needs of today’s business world, according to Federico Frattini, director of the Flex EMBA program at MIP Politecnico di Milano, the Italian business school.

“These factors together conspire to make it extremely difficult to attend face-to-face MBAs and executive MBAs,” he says.

An obvious alternative is the EMBA, designed for more senior workers and spread out over a longer period. But these programs are also risky. “In the case of our EMBA participants, leaving their job carries a risk, given their seniority and what they have accomplished in their careers,” says Paula Robles associate director of marketing at INSEAD.

The rise of flexible and distance learning, where students use online platforms to study from the comfort of their work desks or even at home on the sofa, means there is now a wealth of choice available.

“Flexible study can be very attractive for some, especially those who do not want to leave their full-time employment to avoid losing momentum,” says Paula.

There are plenty of ways to fit MBA training into a harried schedule. According to the latest GMAC data, 60% of full-time one-year MBA programs reported a decrease in applications in 2014. But applications to part-time MBA programs and flexible MBA programs increased, while outside of the US, EMBA programs are also gaining in popularity.

A flexible MBA allows working students to load up on courses over a long period of time. The Modular MBA program at Cass Business School in London caters for this by holding classes once a month, over a weekend.

But EMBA programs can be pricey. The two-year program at Wharton School costs $181,500 – including tuition, books, and program-related housing and meals.

“Some companies can’t fund executive MBAs. Companies are also more reluctant to give up their employees in terms of time,” says Ashley Arnold, director of MBA recruitment at the UK’s Henley Business School.

This problem has aided the growth in provision of distance learning programs, which are often cheaper and do not require much travel time. Henley’s Flexible Executive MBA can be taught almost entirely through an online learning environment, according to Ashley, although there are some face-to-face meetings.

The online method of delivery relies on technology and many programs are developed by outside providers such as Coursera and FutureLearn.

For multinational companies, there is increasing pressure to develop global teams who can work together on specific projects – virtually. Experts say that virtual team meetings can break biases in thinking and spur innovation.

Flexible MBA programs delivered online mirror these practices. “Some do email, some might do Skype, [and] some might setup some great whizzy bit of kit that allows them to work virtually,” Ashley says of the Henley executives.

But a constant criticism of these programs is that it is harder to connect with peers from a distance. Henley offers an online platform for its students to network, but executives often use independent communication systems developed by their companies, says Ashley.

He adds: “Although we have facilities, most step outside of that. If you force them into some channel of virtual communication, they won’t use it.”

MIP’s Flex EMBA has developed an online platform with Microsoft. About 80% of the program is taught via distance learning and 20% is delivered in face-to-face lessons.

“This allows users to personalize their distance learning experience, and communicate with their peers by email, chat and social networks,” says Federico. “These activities definitely teach students to work and communicate virtually with global teams,” he adds.

But with such flexibility of study, there are concerns that students may lack the focus of someone on a full-time MBA – programs that are known for their intensity.

Some think that the rise of distance and flexible learning poses a threat to the traditional MBA. But Federico believes they are targeting different demographics – the programs are “very different and not overlapping”.

Ashley adds that technology is shifting so wonderfully that both sets of MBAs will now have a similar experience. “That’s what business schools have realized – as tech evolves, there are other ways to present a program just as effectively with the same outcome.”

For Nic, networking on his part-time MBA program has proved to be a powerful asset that will continue to grow in value. “The value of my MBA will grow over the long term,” he says. 

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