What to consider when choosing an MBA programme
POSTGRADUATE education is a significant investment of both time and money for individuals and their employers. Making the right choice of institution and programme is important, but it is also challenging, as is in the case of MBAs.
The number of available programmes has grown dramatically; there are now one and two-year programmes, offline and online options, specialist versus general programmes, standard and executive versions, full-time and part-time study as well as domestic and overseas opportunities.
So what really matters? What factors should you take into consideration when choosing an MBA? Ultimately, you (or your employer) need to think about value – what benefits does the programme deliver in relation to its tuition fee and time requirements? A shorter course may appear cheaper but it is not necessarily a better choice. An option like part-time study may divide up the financial costs of an MBA but result in a longer duration of study.
Besides this, students need to consider the impact of the MBA programme on their managerial capabilities and performance. Although a subjective topic to judge, one can assess the MBA based on the chosen institution’s reputation, ranking, reported salary enhancement of graduates, accreditation and longevity of the programme.
For example, rankings of the MBA — whether specific (like The Economist) or generic (QS, Times Higher Education) – are a useful starting point, particularly if you focus on disaggregated information. However, bear in mind that MBA rankings typically only include the top 100 programmes and university rankings. This is less than 10% of universities worldwide and may not include institutions that you have considered.
Accreditation is useful information to use as well. The three main accrediting bodies to consider are Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), Association of MBAs (AMBA) and European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) that lend confidence to the expected quality levels of MBA programmes.
MBA previews provide valuable opportunities to assess the quality of programmes. You can find out about the staff involved, the number of alumni members and their career success. It is also an opportunity to find out about the number and quality of students since you will be learning from each other in your course.
In many respects, choosing an MBA is like making an important business decision, and a good choice depends on your research, analysis and resourcefulness. The information you find may not be perfect but will at least provide you the foundation to make a good decision among the many MBA options available.
Professor Christine Ennew is the Provost and CEO of The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.