Séan Rickard Director Full Time MBA Program Cranfield School of Management

British MBA courses benefit from the support of one of the most established university systems in the world, and some of the worldTMs best business schools, says Séan Rickard, Director of the Full Time MBA Program at Cranfield School of Management.The UK has many advantages when it comes to studying for graduate qualifications and this is particularly the case for the MBA qualification.

Stop and think for a minute of all the elements that contribute to a respected MBA and the quality of the learning experience when studying. Having drawn up your list, I believe you will find that the UK, uniquely, possesses most if not all of them. Below I set out the elements that would be on my list together with my reasons for believing the UK is the best place in the world to deliver them.

The first element that a good MBA program must possess is a challenging and relevant curriculum. In part this comes with experience and the UK has a number of highly ranked  management or
business schools that have been developing their programs for more than forty years. Moreover, because these MBA programs have been established within Britainâ€TMs University system they have been able to draw on the experience and knowledge of one of the oldest and most respected educational systems in the world.

A challenging and relevant MBA curriculum depends on three criteria: good research; content that is closely aligned with the practices and needs of contemporary business; and first class teachers who make the classroom experience exciting and enjoyable. In regard to research, British universities have an unrivalled tradition, particularly in areas such as economics, psychology, strategy, marketing and management. Research informs the subject matter of MBA programs but as important, arguably more important, is the need for MBA studies to be rooted in the practicalities of business life.

A good MBA program will have close links to businesses and business leaders. British universities and UK businesses have a long tradition of partnerships, particularly in the area of business studies. The UK economy can not only boast a superior performance for an industrial country over the last 25 years, but also it has a wide range of world class industries ranging from farming to financial services. One reason for the countryâ€TMs superior performance is its emphasis on markets and competition. Students attending business schools in the UK can observe at first hand the functioning of a mature, efficient and market orientated economy. This helps place learning in context and at the same time affords valuable insights into the conduct of efficient relationships between governments and businesses.   

A wide range of successful businesses means that British business schools can draw on a broad cross section of business leaders to visit their schools to deliver lectures and seminars. My experience here at Cranfield has led me to believe that students attach a high importance to learning directly from successful business leaders in areas such as innovation, corporate responsibility and strategic management. Of course close relationships with business leaders is also helpful when it comes to finding post MBA employment.

Research, informed content and a close association with a wide range of world class businesses is what underpins a good MBA, but of equal importance is the way the content is delivered; in short, the quality of the teaching and the classroom experience in general. British teachers are amongst the best in the world. They are typically approachable, have a keen sense of humour and are very professional. British classrooms are open to wide ranging views and debate, the UK tradition of fairness and tolerance is much in evidence, all of which contributes to a lively, broad based and informed learning experience.

Another important element when considering an MBA is the quality of the students themselves. In the UK the average age of an MBA student, at least in the best business schools, is around 30 which is significantly older than in many other countries. As a consequence, British MBA students have several years of business experience. Indeed, the British approach to the MBA is to view it as a post-experience rather than a post-graduate qualification. What UK MBA business schools offer therefore is the unique combination of mature, experienced students coming together in open, relaxed and discursive environments to learn about the business of management. In short, UK business schools offer a richer, more rewarding learning environment than is found in other countries.

Another important element is the length of the typical MBA program. The maturity and associated experience of UK MBA students mean that internships are not much in evidence in British business schools. Internships are an American device where students are typically much younger (many have never worked) and the MBA with a six month internship is viewed as a post-graduate route to employment. The advantage of the British post-experience approach is that full time MBA programs are typically completed within one year which makes it easier for students who have had to give up employment in order to study for an MBA.

Fellow students, the classroom experience and a schoolâ€TMs links to real businesses are key, but an element that is easily underestimated is the social life and cohesion of the student cohort. The UK is a friendly place to study and there is a tradition of social and sporting activities. I know from the extra curricular activities that Cranfield students engage in that UK business school students relish the opportunity to take part in business competitions and sporting events.

Another very important element concerns postgraduate employment. I never forget that the reason mature, reasonably successful individuals decide to study for an MBA is to give their career an important injection of knowledge that will open doors to a senior, strategic management position. A major advantage of studying for an MBA in the UK is that the government is keen to support British businesses that are eager to employ MBA students. Certainly if Cranfield is any guide a significant proportion of our overseas students stay on and work in the UK, if only for two or three years.

The final element I would offer to justify my belief that UK business schools stand out as a place to study for an MBA is the British value system. Our universities welcome and revel in their overseas students. We enjoy their cultures, their customs and the diversity they bring to our programs. In turn, they learn from us the benefits of open debate, the enjoyment of studying and the importance of high quality education.

Séan Rickard
Director Full Time MBA Program
Cranfield School of Management