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MBA programmes in the UK and elsewhere
Choosing an MBA course
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London Business School

Judge Institute, Cambridge

An MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a postgraduate course which teaches students advanced business skills. MBA courses are not suitable for recent graduates (a specialist masters degree may be a suitable alternative). Usually you are expected to have 3 or more years of work experience. The average age of people on full-time MBA programmes is about 27.

This page is intended to help people who are in the early stages of considering whether to take an MBA course. The focus is on UK schools, but some information is also provided about US and European schools.

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Several MBA Fairs take place in London each year:
- January: ULCS/AMBA fair (see: Ideas/Events/January, or
- March: World MBA Tour fair (see: Ideas/Events/March, or
- April: AMBA fair (see: Ideas/Events/April, or
- October: World MBA Tour fair (see: Ideas/Events/October, or
- October: AMBA fair (see: Ideas/Events/October, or

These fairs give you a chance to meet representatives of business schools, collect application forms or prospectuses, and ask about course details and costs.

The Institute of Directors

A stall at one of the MBA Fairs

The Business Design Centre

Below are some of the key factors to consider when choosing a business school:

Structure of course
Full-time MBA courses typically last between 1 year and 2 years.
- 1-year courses are the most common type in the UK. Short courses are cheaper and more intensive than longer ones, but the majority of your time may be spent on "core" skills rather than on electives.
- 2-year courses are normal in the US, and there are some in the UK too. Longer courses are more expensive, but may allow you to specialise more.
Part-time MBA courses are more variable in length. If you want to take this type of course, think carefully about how you will be able to balance conflicting requirements of your job, family and study.
Distance learning MBA courses are becoming more common. Not that this way of studying requires a lot of self-discipline, and that the parts of the course involving teamwork can become time-consuming.

You may want to check if the course and/or school has been accredited. This can give you some reassurance about the quality of the education provided.
- The Association of MBAs (AMBA) is the main accreditation body for MBA courses in the UK:
- EQUIS is a quality assurance scheme for business schools, run by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD):
- AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) is the main accreditation body for MBA courses in the US:

MBAs are expensive, so the cost of the course may be an important factor to consider.
- Tuition fees for full-time 1-year courses at accredited schools in the UK vary widely, but you might expect to pay £15,000 or more
- Distance learning courses are perhaps one-third cheaper
- 2-year courses are of course more expensive (as well as the fees charged, consider the lost potential income)
- Fees may be lower for schools in less popular locations; living costs may vary too
- Ask your company if it would be prepared to sponsor you on a full-time or part-time MBA programme

Course content
Although the core subjects studied at business schools may be similar, there are important differences between the courses:
- Schools place different emphasis on lectures, case studies, computer-based simulations and personal study.
- The range of available electives can vary. You may want to look for courses offering particular electives if there are specialist skills you wish to acquire.
- Some courses (usually the 2-year ones) incorporate a period of work experience.
- Some courses expect more intensive study than others. You may want to ask about the typical number of hours worked per week.
Do not rely too much on the name of the course. Titles such as "International MBA" or "European MBA" may be chosen mainly for marketing purposes.

Profile of classmates
At business school you can learn a lot from fellow classmates, and will also be able to build up a network of contacts which may help you in the future. It is therefore important to assess the type of people you will be working with:
- What is the academic strength of the students? Average GMAT score is one measure that is often used to assess this.
- How much diversity is there in the backgrounds of students? You may benefit if there are people on the course from many different work backgrounds (although it can of course also be helpful to have a few from a similar field to your own).
- What is the nationality mix of students? Working with people from different parts of the world may help you if you work in an international field of business.
You may wish to visit the school and ask to join a lecture or class so that you can assess the atmosphere.

The location of the business school may be an important factor:
- If you are doing a part-time MBA while you are working and need to commute to the school regularly.
- If you are interested in applying to a particular employer after the MBA, you may want to choose one of the schools from which the company recruits.

League tables / MBA websites
You may wish to check a school's ranking in annual MBA league tables. Some of the companies which produce tables are:
- the Financial Times:
- the Economist Intelligence Unit:
- Business Week:
Ranking reports may give you some useful information about the strengths or weaknesses of schools and the quality of students which they attract, but do not pay too much attention to the exact positions.
The above websites also contain a lot of further information about MBA courses, including discussion forums. Other sites to look at include:
- Studylink:

MBA course guides
The following books may help you to choose which business schools to apply to:

Official MBA Handbook
Author: The Association of MBAs
Publisher: Financial Times Prentice Hall
Which MBA?
Author: George Bickerstaffe
Publisher: FT Prentice Hall
Date: October 2007

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The application process for MBA courses is thorough and time-consuming. Often you have to pay an application charge. Students often apply to several business schools - perhaps between 3 and 6. It can be counter-productive to apply to many, because applications require a lot of individual attention. In the UK, you should generally try to apply at least 6 months before the course starts (for example, by April for a course starting in October). The most popular schools will be able to fill their places quickly, but they may keep some places available for late candidates of particular high quality.

The academic requirements for MBA courses vary according to the school, but in general:
- A good quality university degree is usually expected.
- If English is not your first language, you may be asked to demonstrate your English ability by taking TOEFL (see: English/Exams/TOEFL) or IELTS (see: English/Exams/IELTS).
- A high GMAT score is needed (not all business schools require you to take GMAT, but many do). The test needs a lot of preparation, so start studying for this early. Books/CDs which can help you are shown below. For further information about the test, see:

Cracking the GMAT 2012 (or: Cracking the GMAT 2011)
Authors: Geoff Martz, Adam Robinson
Publisher: Princeton Review
Date: June 2011
Kaplan GMAT 2011: Premier Program
Publisher: Simon & Schuster International
Date: July 2010

The personal statement is your chance to market yourself to the school. You will need to write a different essay for each application you make. Research the course and school thoroughly before you write your essay. Think about the types of people the business school may be looking for, for example:
- People who have experience which they can share with other classmates
- People who can work well in teams
- People who are good at expressing their opinions
- People who have demonstrated leadership
- People who have thought clearly about their future aims
- People who are enthusiastic about studying at their particular school
- People who show a high degree of motivation and commitment

Your references are important. Normally they should be from people who are independent (not members of your family) who have supervised and been responsible for evaluating your work. They are more useful if they are about two pages long, and should contain specific examples of ways in which you have demonstrated your abilities.

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Keeping up to date with current affairs, business stories and economic theories is important for anyone taking an MBA. If you are studying in Europe, you can subscribe to the magazines below (at student rates) by clicking on the title links.

The Economist (weekly magazine)
(Magazine's website:
Business Week (weekly magazine)
(Magazine's website:
Harvard Business Review (monthly magazine)
(Magazine's website:

If you study in the UK you may want to subscribe to the daily newspaper the Financial Times (if you are in the US, the Wall Street Journal).

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Becoming an entrepreneur: Work/Entrepreneur
Other postgraduate courses: Course/Postgrad
UK immigration issues: Prepare/Visa

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