There is no question why MBA students and graduates from all over the world are drawn to London. The UK capital is a global centre for business and finance, an international travel hub and world-class social and cultural activities catering to even the most niche interest. Not to mention that it is home to three of the top 20 business schools in Europe, according to the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report 2009.
The city bore the brunt of the recession in the UK leading to a reduction in the job market, particularly in financial services and consultancy, and a significant loss of confidence across all sectors. However, there have been signs of cautious optimism in recent months as recruiters and MBA students alike have seen more potential jobs in a variety of markets. Is this optimism well-founded, or is it still to early to see if MBA recruitment in London has turned the corner?
TopMBA.com's Caroline Parry spoke to students, recruiters and consultants and Business Schools about the appeal of London and how the city is faring in 2010.
Don Leslie, founder, BLT
There is cautious optimism in London. Demand for consultants in the first few months of 2010 has been better than expected, and there are signs that hiring will show a steady improvement over the next few years. But it remains to be seen whether we will return to the robust recruiting levels we saw in 2004 to 2006.
I specialize in management consultancy, which saw a big drop in recruitment in 2009. The prime reason for that was that the large London-based consultancies cut back when the economic situation got sticky. So last year, for example, we saw boutique consultancies taking one or two MBAs rather than the larger companies hiring 20 - 50.
Management consultancies generally hire four to five months in advance of need, based on the pipeline of work they have and the skills required for projects. Consultancy thrives when Economy does. Many sectors are still fragile in the UK and a likely reduction in government spending may put the brakes on hiring again. It is too early to tell whether the level of recruitment will improve this year.
Francesca Sloan, Director, Moloney Search
There is still caution in the market but it is more positive than it was this time last year. We are seeing some companies pressing 'go' for graduate recruitment in September but we expect that it will improve further in 2011.
There has been a reduction in hires from the traditional MBA recruiters, such as the major financial services companies, but this has opened up recruitment opportunities to SMEs and big FTSE companies that had less presence on campus in the past.
That said, there is still a demand for talented candidates and, in some cases, companies have become more reactive and are hiring throughout the year rather than just in September.
People are nervous about leaving their jobs and that does have a knock-on effect. MBAs that have the chance to return to their old companies are doing so because it is a safe option; in the past it was used as springboard to a more senior role or a new sector.
The recession has made MBAs more pragmatic and more creative in their approach to job hunting. The careers services and alumni networks at business schools have also become a lot more proactive and we are now being invited to show them how we can help with recruitment.
Christina Stampfli, full-time student, Imperial College Business School.
Nowhere was left untouched by the recession and as a self-funded student, who gave up a job, the right course and the right institutional reputation were always going to carry the most weight.
But London remains London. There are downsides. It's expensive and the food is not as good as it is in the rest of Europe. But there is the history and the culture and having lived and worked in London is important to resumé building.
Going to an American school after Berkeley and after working in the States might have given an impression of parochialism. None of us is under any illusion other than the global market for MBAs is tight and is going to remain so.
Showing you are comfortable working in such a vibrant, cosmopolitan and multi cultural city - that's got to be a plus.
Cassie Gilbert, Head of Careers and Professional Development at Imperial College Business School
The recession was a truly global phenomenon and no country and no city was insulated or isolated from the effects. But in London, businesses are now directing increasing energies to post-recession growth strategies.
For MBA students that means entrepreneurial skills and an understanding of how to make innovation effective are in demand. Innovation is what smart firms do to grow out of recession and research shows entrepreneurial businesses move out of recession more rapidly.
There are also more subtle changes that forward-looking schools such as Imperial have responded to quickly and positively. Institutional reputation and alumni and academic staff networks are again important differentiators when choosing a school.
And what may once have been regarded as 'nice-to-haves' such as alumni development services, personal continuing learning initiatives and indeed a connected and switched on careers service are now key offerings in an MBA package.
The way I look at the London jobs market, especially in banking and finance, is that while it did shrink globally through the recession it did so fairly evenly, so London is still the biggest player.
It is very much a recruiter's market though and that is unlikely to change quickly so prospective MBA students and those further along in their post-MBA career need to wring every possible advantage from their course, their institution, and that institution's post-graduation services.
Gustaf Leksell, full time MBA student, Cass Business School
I have lived and worked in the US, UK, China, and in South Africa and, in my experience, London is the only global city where the world really connects.
London's role in the financial crisis was on my mind when I applied. The large financial institutions among others have gone through serious local and global turmoil and this has affected MBA students negatively since in the short-term jobs dry up, as they do everywhere during a recession. This slowdown is a challenge for MBA graduates who wish to stay in London for work. However, times of recession do generate a clearing out of the bad parts of businesses, which in turn can create new opportunities for smart job seekers.
The job market in London is improving now as the City revives itself. In addition, there are always top jobs available for individuals who are persistent and can leverage their unique skill sets.