MBA special: homework unlocks the future

Even New Labour cannot make us all the same. Despite what some say, all
employers know that not all universities or degrees are the same.

Similarly, not all business schools or MBAs have the same status, weight or
credibility. And the proof is very much in the eating. While there are 120
universities offering MBAs, the major companies and top head-hunters only have
relationships with a handful.

In terms of salary and career benefits, not surprisingly those business
schools with most connections with the City and consultancy have much better
figures than those who cater for managers in the public sector, or those who
want to improve the skills for running their own business.

Horses for courses

As Mark Stoddard, the Association of MBAs accreditation manager, says:
‘Different MBA programmes cater for different career objectives. Not everyone
wants to end up working for a global international company where the best
benefit packages lie. However, the quality of the programme and how it sits
within the business school are very important factors.’

The Association of MBAs has accredited 39 MBA courses in the UK (120
worldwide). Not surprisingly this list contains all the top names and accounts
for 65% of the 12,000 MBA students who graduate in the UK each year. In the
United States, 110,000 MBAs are created every year.

As in other areas, there are universities and there are universities. Those
with the highest reputation and record in adding career value have the longest
queues of the best students and, therefore, start off with a great advantage
when the exit research is analysed.

And vice versa. There are schools that struggle to fill their places and who
have historically boosted their numbers with overseas students, principally from
China and India. These schools who struggle anyway are going to find the going
even tougher as the Asian economies gather confidence and start their own
business schools.

A survey of MBA graduates showed that they choose their school because of
rankings, reputation and recommendation. A significant 62% mention reputation as
being the most important criterion. In terms of rankings, there is of course
confusion since different media use different criteria; however, certain
business schools are regularly in all the top tens, so they must be doing
something right.

But the proof is in the pudding. What do recruiters think of the various
MBAs? Charles Davis, partner with headhunters AT Kearney, says: ‘We actively
reach out to Cranfield, London Business School, Manchester Business School,
Judge and Warwick. This is partly history, track record and the fact that some
of our staff went to these places. At these business schools we interview the
MBAs on campus. That does not mean those coming from other schools have no
chance. It’s just that they are not on the inside track.’

Suzzane Wood, senior partner in charge of the financial officers practice
with executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, says: ‘Of course some MBAs
do have a snob value which can easily be discounted. However, certain schools,
such as Cranfield and London BS, turn out consistently high-quality MBAs and
that does influence you. But that does not mean you ignore those from other
schools like Kingston or Manchester.

‘For me what drives an accountant to do an MBA is important. How he or she
funds the course, how long they take and what they get out of it is far more
important than where they went. But if you go to Insead, your international
profile is bound to be far more attractive; just as if you go to Harvard, your
US network will be superior.’

Pecking order

But Gordon Montgomery, a director of Hays Executive, says: ‘The school is
absolutely critical, there is both a global and UK pecking order which would-be
employers are only too aware of and influenced by. It is perceived that the
better schools attract the better students and have higher entry requirements,
and hardly surprisingly produce better MBAs.’

UK site suggests if you are looking to choose a business
school you should start by meeting them at the various fairs. Then check on the
structure of the course, its accreditation, cost, course content, location and
place in the league tables.


The prestigious Cambridge Judge Business School has done a detailed analysis
of what happened to its MBA class of 2005.Itwas composed of 105 students,
representing 45 nationalities with an average age of 31, and having an average
work experience of seven years. A low 24% were women.

On graduating 60%changed job and44%changed industry. A third changed location
and the average salary increase was 62%.Three months after graduation 81% were
employed and 89% of those were in full-time positions. On average, each had two
job offers.

In terms of salary, 38% had been earning less than $50,000 (£26,679) a year
before taking
Their MBA; that figure dropped to 10%after graduation. While 18% had been
earning more than $75,000 before graduation, that percentage rose to 45%.
Equally impressive, those earning in excess of $100,000 shot up from 6% to
35%once the MBA had been achieved.

The international status of the Cambridge School and its relatively high
salaries are underlined by the Association of MBA figures showing that among all
MBAs, 12% earn more than £100,000 and 5% earn less than £30,000. Among all MBAs,
the salary hike on gaining the qualification is 18%.

The MBA speeds up the carousel of career change and moving job functions.
Perhaps less surprising is that the MBA transformed the number of those employed
in consultancy from10% to 30%. Interestingly, however, there were desertions
from finance (from18% to12%), general management (from10%to 6%) and IT
(from12%to 3%).But armed with their MBAs, many shifted to marketing (rising
from8%to 10%) and business development (from3%to 9%).

When it came to moving sector, the shift to consulting and the financial
services, including fund management, was at the expense of the health industry,
the public sector and not-for-profit sectors, as well as industry and
manufacturing. One sector that did profit from the MBA is real estate, with the
number of MBAs working in the sector doubling from 3%to 6%.

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