Last updated: January 30, 2013 2:04 pm

MBA 2013

Ask the Expert

As the economic uncertainty continues, prospective students and business school deans alike are increasingly nervous about the future of the full-time MBA.

So, what will 2013 hold? As the cost of study continues to rise, will fewer managers decide to return to business school to study for a full-time degree, preferring instead to study on part-time or online programmes? Will business schools be able to fill their classes? And the biggest question for prospective students, Is a full-time MBA still worth the money?

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IN Ask the Expert

On Wednesday 30th January, 2013, a panel of experts answered your questions about studying for an MBA.

On the panel were:

Sir Andrew Likierman, dean of London Business School – ranked number four in the FT Global MBA rankings 2013.

As well as his role of dean of LBS, Prof Likierman is non-executive chairman of the National Audit Office and a non-executive director of Barclays Bank. Before becoming dean, he was founding director of the school’s Executive MBA programme. He has also run a textile plant in Germany, been head of the Government Accountancy Service and was a managing director of the UK Treasury.

Deirdre (Dee) Leopold, managing director, MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School – ranked number one in the FT Global MBA rankings 2013.

Ms Leopold has been a member of Harvard Business School’s admissions board for more than 30 years. A graduate of Columbia University, she earned her MBA in 1980 from HBS, where she was co-president of the Women’s Student Association. Before attending HBS, she worked in New York City as a portfolio manager at Merrill Lynch.

Jeremy Lemer, MBA student at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania – ranked number three in the FT Global MBA rankings 2013.

A former Financial Times journalist, Mr Lemer is a participant on the first year of the Wharton MBA. He studied journalism at Columbia University in New York then moved to Japan for 18 months before joining the FT, where he worked as US business correspondent.

Jessica Henry

Jessica Henry, university relations manager at Electronic Arts.

Ms Henry is responsible for identifying and creating opportunities within Electronic Arts to support the recruitment of MBA talent. Before joining EA in 2011, she was director of employer development at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Della Bradshaw

Della Bradshaw, FT Business Education Editor

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I’m a 42 year old Nigerian working in a bank though not as a manager, with less than seven years in the industry. Prior to that, I have similar years in the capital market as a regulator. In all, I have 17 years experience. I’m a certified accountant and am presently undertaking a European masters degree in finance by distance learning.

I’m considering an MBA on completion of the masters, to boost my career and position me for a leadership role. Is the MBA all I need? I have been a regular admirer of the rankings since 2008 and have closely monitored and admired the top 100. What is your advice? Should I opt for the MBA either on a full time basis or by distance learning or think of leadership programmes? I even hold an offer from one of the top 100 schools in the 2011 ranking.

Mohammed Umar

Della: This is a really difficult question, but I think the one avenue you have have not explored is that of an executive MBA or EMBA, which would probably be more in line with your qualifications and experience. I realise there may be logistical issues here, but there are a growing number of strong business schools in Africa - Lagos Business School is one example.

If you prefer to study full-time then a further option might be a degree such as the Sloan Fellows programme, which is a one-year intensive programme for more senior managers. Then again, there are several one-year MBA degrees that enrol students with an average age of 30 or more, rather than the usual 27 or 28, though these would tend to be in Europe rather than the US.

Dee: The MBA programme at HBS is a full-time two-year programe conducted in Boston. We offer only one degree - the MBA. The programme is truly full-time and students should not expect to be employed while matriculated.

When considering a mid-career educational programme, applicants should do their due diligence about whether a programme can meet their expectations. Age is not a factor in the admissions process but we expect that candidates with more extensive experience will have a clear idea of whether this is a wise financial and professional decision.

Andrew: Different programmes at different schools can suit the needs of a huge variety of candidates. Choosing the right programme to suit your own needs is therefore critical. For a start, it sounds as if you should consider the offer you’ve already received.

At London Business School, we don’t offer a distance learning programme for a number of reasons. Our strengths, we believe, lie in our location in London, the personal interactions between outstanding individuals in the class and through our 80 clubs and the networks that are created.

While studying for an MBA seems to be very useful for one’s career as well as being personally fulfilling and occasionally fun, I have the impression it mostly considers younger people. Your MBA magazine, for example, mentions an average (!) pre-MBA age of 28 (and consequently an average 3 year post-MBA age of 33).

Being 48, with 20 years of investment banking experience under my belt, should I feel discouraged by this statistic, or are there even better reasons to take the opposite view?

FYI, I am no longer actively involved in investment banking and am not sure I desire a return to the industry for now for several reasons. However, I also think it is too early for, what is effectively becoming, a retirement. I would think my sales and financial experience provides valuable transferable skills that should find good use, so I am tempted to look into doing an MBA. And the GMAT test sounds like an interesting start. I am just not sure about my age gap and how this, and my (nowadays probably rather common) career background would affect my own marketability?

Frank Leopold

Jessica: Hello Frank. Studying for – and completing – an MBA should be fulfilling both professionally and personally, though it is often the decisions you make now that will ensure it is indeed fulfilling for you and for your personal situation.

You have the averages and statistics; now put those aside for a moment and ask yourself what you are seeking to get from an MBA programme. Perhaps, even before that, ask what you are seeking from your next career path. You have got part of the way there - you want to leverage your sales and financial experience – now finish that sentence and think about where you want to leverage those skills. What function, what industry is the next stop on your career journey?

Once you have that goal you can then take another look at what gaps you might have in your skill sets and experiences. It is when you have a clear goal and when you have those skill gaps determined, that you can determine how to fill those gaps. Maybe you will determine an MBA is the way to fill those gaps and support your next move and your next step is exploring programmes and options; you will have a much richer experience if you ensure you define your purpose and goal for getting an MBA if that is the case.

Now to talk briefly about the averages you mention: a large number of students in MBA programmes do have a few years of work experience behind them and are indeed seeking a career change, whether that change be function, industry or geography. As such, there is much attention paid to that career exploration during many MBA programmes, almost working from a blank sheet of paper to ask the question: “Where are my skills, where is my passion, what I have learned, what do I want to continue to learn?” - as well as exposure to various careers paths, industries and functions.

This reflection and exploration is critical to ensuring that all individuals who go on an MBA programme go with a goal in mind, refine that goal as they are in the programme, and thus truly invest in their own personal goals and journey. Whether you decide to do a part-time programme or full-time programme – and there are now so many ways in which you can study and be part of the MBA community – ensuring you are doing that reflection and exploration is key to ensure the MBA is fulfilling to you.

Della: Yes, full-time MBA students are around 27 or 28 on average, but executive MBAs are designed for managers with your level of experience and can be completed in two years or less. One to consider, perhaps?

Jeremy: A couple of people have asked about whether it makes sense for them to apply for an MBA given that they are a little bit older and MBA programmes tend to focus on younger students. In general, you are absolutely right – MBA programmes are increasingly taking younger students with only a couple of years of work experience. Harvard for example offers a 2+2 programme aimed at undergraduates.

For what it is worth, I see this as a mistake. Younger students have less to contribute in class and get less out of the course because they don’t know what they want to learn. Conversely, older students have extensive real-life experience and know exactly what they want to learn.

The big issue for you is less whether you would get into an MBA programme but what you might hope to get out of it. Here I am thinking of two points: earnings power and job opportunities.

First, MBA’s are expensive and with less of your career ahead of you, you stand to benefit less from the boost in earnings that normally accompanies such a degree. Also, as an older applicant you are probably starting from a higher base which would also dampen any earnings effect.

Second, potential employers might view older MBA candidates differently than they do younger MBAs. Perhaps one of the other panelists has a view about whether they would be willing to take someone in their 40s into a post-MBA graduate programme.

If you do decide to apply I would encourage you to look closely at an executive MBA. The advantage of an executive MBA is that you can work while you study. That might be more comfortable given the gap since your last college experience.

I would also tackle the issue of your age head on in your personal essays – laying out the reasons why you would be a valuable candidate. Strong points in your favour include: a wealth of practical experience, professional maturity and real commitment. Good luck.

Andrew: Have you considered programmes specifically aimed at people in senior/leadership positions? For example at London Business School, we offer the Sloan Masters programme for people changing their careers and a range of executive education programmes aimed at people who are further into their career than most MBA students.

It is also really important that you select a programme with a peer group that you can learn from who have similar levels of experience.

With so much economic uncertainty and world shrinking when it comes to places with good work opportunities, do you think that business schools need to formulate full-time MBA programmes with lesser classroom credits and more hands on experience, thereby giving more time to students to devote to their careers post MBA and bring down tuition cost as well?

Abhishek

Andrew: The two are not mutually exclusive. Good business schools will have a combination of teaching and opportunities to gain experience. You need to find the programme that suits your own needs. We’re proud at London Business School to be able to offer many opportunities of this kind. For example, our MBA global business experience give students the opportunity to go to one of five cities around the world to get under the skin of doing business in another culture.

Della: I think the key is to give both a rigorous academic experience and hands-on experience, isn’t it? The issue is how to do that in as little time as possible, thus keeping down both tuition and opportunity costs. Many of the top schools are very experienced at building this into their pedagogy; groupwork where students discuss academic topics while learning persuasion techniques and how to work in a multicultural team is very common these days, particularly in the accelerated one-year programmes.

Jessica: Your MBA experience can be both – practical experience in the form of an internship, project, or cooperative opportunity – as well as classroom experience. I encourage you not to underestimate the classroom experience. This is your opportunity to dive into problems, debate, question, try and fail and try again…in a relatively safe environment.

The classroom (however you may define “classroom” whether it is physical brick-and-mortar, an online experience, or even just a quick chat in the hallway before the professor starts to talk) is where you learn to question, ask the right questions, and thus devise the best, most creative solutions.

And just as the classroom supports the work experience, work experience should support the classroom. You gain a network in internship. People who can speak to the skills you have developed because they were working alongside you as you put them into practice. The work experience is almost like the final performance while the classroom can be a bit of a dress rehearsal as you tweak, rethink, reevaluate, revise. You need both the preparation and the performance for a successful run.

So in short: No, I do not think that business schools need us to tell them to reformulate. The schools on this list are known for innovation and adaptability and again – thought leadership – both in teaching and management. I know the leaders of all programmes continue to evaluate future direction and immediate path, and I have no doubt will continue to tailor offerings and programmes to continue to offer excellent educational experiences for the myriad professionals that can benefit from an MBA.

Would you recommend an MBA for somebody who has no background in business? Is an MBA a good choice for somebody who is unsure of what they would like to study?

Ariha Setalvad

Dee: We have students in the MBA programme at HBS who come from a wide variety of previous experiences, including the military, education, pure science and government, for example. What they have in common is a desire for a general management education which will ground them in all the areas of business.

The majority of our cases will be about for-profit enterprises. Our students can then apply this learning to many different fields. We seek students who will be enthusiastically engaged in classroom discussions about how businesses thrive or flounder. We want them to dig in to the case about the company they have never heard of in the industry they don’t particularly care about – and find this to be enjoyable. We are preparing students not just for their first post-MBA job but for a long career which may span multiple industries and functions.

Della: I think the short answer to that is no. However, Masters in Management degrees have been specifically designed for those with no previous business experience. A more general concern.....these degrees are very expensive and may not be particularly useful to anyone who is unsure what they want to study.

Andrew: To start with I advise prospective students to talk to current or past students because they are in a great position to give you the best picture. Over the years, I have seen how coming to business school has been a life changing experience for so many of the students. Many come having an objective in mind but discover whole new worlds of which they were not aware. That is on top of the learning experience, the activities outside the classroom and the valuable networks they join.

Diversity in the classroom is not just welcomed, it is sought after. Together with bankers, consultants and engineers, we take students from very different walks of life. For example, a few years ago, we admitted a concert pianist without any experience in corporate life. He went to Goldman Sachs on completion of his MBA.

Current students include an astronaut, a professional American footballer, an oil tanker captain, many people who come from military backgrounds in several different countries and a woman running an NGO in Afghanistan.

Jessica: While you might be unsure of what you want to study, spend time thinking more about why you want to get your MBA and what your ultimate goal for getting your MBA is. You do not get into your car and not know what your final destination is; you get in, and while you might take a linear or circuitous course, you eventually make it to your final destination, or you redefine the destination during the course. But you got in that car with a purpose.

While such a simplified analogy – driving to the store versus investing in an MBA – think of it similarly. What do you want to get out of this journey and then does an MBA programme fit that ultimate goal? There will be plenty of time for flexibility and exploration when you get into the programme, but knowing your core values and core reasons for attending will ground that flexibility in action and success.

And there are many students who enter an MBA programme without a background in business – that is part of the dynamics of an MBA community! In my role at Electronic Arts, we meet students with backgrounds in engineering, sports and fine arts. That is probably one of my favorite aspects of an MBA programme – whether it be full-time or part-time – the diversity in experience that you and your classmates will bring.

Jeremy: I think the MBA is a good choice for somebody who doesn’t have a business background but is keen to learn more about the business world.

For my part, I was a journalist for five years so the course has been a great introduction to the tool kit that you will need to succeed in business: accounting, finance, marketing and so on. My general impression is that an MBA is a hybrid degree – combining some interesting ideas, practical training and a great networking opportunity.

If you are looking for a real intellectual challenge or in depth technical training, I think it probably makes more sense to pick a specialist degree or a professional qualification that you can take while working.

I would think about one final point before applying. While students often choose to do an MBA in order to change careers, it can be more difficult to achieve in practice, particularly for those without math-heavy backgrounds. In my experience, an MBA by itself is not enough to convince employers of your business acumen. They look at your resume, your undergraduate training, etc quite closely. So if you are hoping to shift industry or function or both, be prepared for plenty of setbacks and a lot of hard work.

Do employers favour a full-time MBA over a part-time executive MBA programme?

Joseph Markowski

Andrew: For many schools, such as London Business School, the qualification is the same, with only the format being different. Most employers know about business education qualifications and are clear who they are hiring and why. Executive MBAs give participants the opportunity to apply what they’re learning immediately back into their job.

Jessica: Your question illustrates that schools, particularly now, offer many ways in which to achieve an MBA. Full-time programmes, part-time programmes, executive MBA programmes, distance/online learning are sometimes all offered under the same school umbrella, and for good reason: these options allow potential students to think about their own purpose and goals for an MBA, as well as their own personal life situation, and find an MBA offering that fits all of those. As with many things, having a choice is fantastic, though it does put more responsibility on you as the applicant to really do your research and make the right choice for you.

To address specifically your question on employer interest: If we were having a live conversation, I would ask you what industry or functional subset of employers interest you. There are industries and companies that are known for incredible post-MBA programmes, and those programmes are the primary MBA feed into the organisation. They bring associate classes into their organisation and have strong development tracks that then foster individual growth. The recruitment process then reflects the company and companies will often look to hire an intern class that will eventually convert into their full-time class post-graduation, and start their recruitment process very early.

If you are seeking to transition into investment banking, for example, I would encourage you then to look at MBA programmes that have strong partnerships in the investment banking industry and a strong recruitment partnership, which will often include networking events, on-campus recruitment and on-site visits or treks.

Also, think about the career track of particular industries or organisations. To transition into a career in investment banking, for example, a full-time internship is often a traditional part of that path, both to gain critical skills and a network within the investment banking community.

Think about your personal situation as well as the MBA programmes you are seeking; doing a full-time internship on top of a part-time MBA programme…on top of another full-time career that the part-time programme really facilitates seems, well, just exhausting and nearly impossible. Know your goals when applying, and find the right school – and right programme within that school – when you apply.

Within the interactive entertainment industry, Electronic Arts is an example of an organisation that seeks analytical talent and future leaders that are often found in an MBA graduate. While some of our positions might be identified early in the year – on par with our colleagues in investment banking and consulting – still many roles will be developed and determined throughout the year.

We are a changing industry and thus a changing organisation and we seek talent to help us lead that change. The recruitment process for many of our MBAs will seem similar to that of a traditional or experienced hire and we then do not necessarily look at how you got your MBA, but what you got out of that MBA and why you got it.

Does our organisation and position for which you are applying fit those “what” and “why?” That is what we are seeking in candidates. In addition, we know that an executive MBA will perhaps not be looking at the same role as a newly minted full-time MBA – and we seek both skill sets in the organisation. It is then your responsibility to tell your story in a way that connects your story to where EA is going and what talent we are seeking.

Della: An MBA and an EMBA are intended for managers with different levels of experience, and the latter usually only happens if the student’s company is supportive. Therefore, I think it really is a question of horses for courses.

How would you describe what doing an MBA is like?

Ariha

Della: Well, if you want to find out the sort of subjects you might study, take a look at the FT’s MBA gyms.

I work in education management and I am interested in studying for an MBA but don’t know if an MBA is geared towards / relevant to someone in my field? In your experience do many people from education undertake an MBA?

Jessica Monkivitch

Jeremy: I don’t have the exact statistics to hand but personal experience suggests that it is quite a common move. In my year group at Wharton there are a number of people with a background in education – either as teachers, administrators or policy wonks.

My impression is that for some of them, the math component of the course can be a little challenging but they often bring a lot to the table in other areas: teamwork, project management, emotional intelligence, etc.

And it seems as though they are enjoying the course as well as getting a lot out of it. One or two friends are interested in developing educational IT / software businesses while others are looking to change careers and move into consulting or other professional sectors.

Andrew: I can give a specific example. When I was director of the Executive MBA a head teacher applied for the programme because she felt that this would be very important in her ability to work in education management. She went on to become head teacher of one of the largest schools in the UK and then to be chief executive of the NSPCC. Her name is Dame Mary Marsh and I’m proud of the contribution London Business School made to her career path.

Della: Hi Jessica. Yes, indeed. What all business schools are seeing these days are more applicants from non-corporate backgrounds but where good management is increasingly valued - health services, education, charities and government departments, for example.

At Stanford, for example, one in six of its MBA students are now studying on a different Stanford degree at the same time as studying business, and at Oxford University the Saïd school now has a 1+1 system with the education department where participants study one year in the department of education and then a second year on the MBA.

Jessica: I would take a look at the number of MBAs who are in education management to perhaps answer your question and I do think you will be pleasantly surprised. Education, whether it be for-profit or not-for-profit, needs the core skills that are foundational to MBA curriculum including leadership, management, finance, economics, marketing, communication and this is evident also in leaders in the educational industry.

Electronic Arts – an interactive entertainment company with a structure that would (and does) obviously lend itself to the MBA skill set – boasts many brilliant leaders from many of the programmes listed on the FT rankings. Similarly, I worked alongside educational leaders at Chicago Booth who also had an MBA in their professional repertoire, and thus put to use the same guiding foundation and skills that my EA colleagues do on a daily basis in order to make strategic decisions.

The MBA is thought leadership. It is a powerful network and community. It is cutting edge research and both immediate and long-term application. I cannot think of many industries that would not benefit from this.

I would like to know about the opportunities available for international applicants in funding their MBA in the UK. I have heard that due to the market situation and changes in UK immigration rules, it is very difficult for an MBA-aspirant (non-UK permanent resident) to secure a student loan within UK.

I would appreciate the thoughts of the panel members on how this will affect international students aiming at b-schools like LBS? Also, what steps are taken (or incentives given) by these UK b-schools to still encourage/attract international applicants?

Della: A few years ago there were several banks that funded MBA students in the UK but all these schemes have now closed down. This is a particular problem in the UK as most business schools do not have the scholarship schemes in place like their US counterparts.

Some schools have negotiated loan schemes for their schools - several use the company Prodigy, set up by two Insead alumni, that uses a bond scheme to finance students on the top programmes. You would need to contact individual schools to find out what provision they have in place. This article on finance might help.

Which school, in your collective opinions, has the best reputation for venture capital or offers a good programme or speciality in that field?

Jamie Rowles

Jessica: While Electronic Arts is not under the venture capital umbrella, your question can be related to many industries, as students with a defined career goal in mind then look to find the right programme that will facilitate that goal.

I have mentioned previously that the recruitment process of a firm often reflects the industry and/or company, and this is incredibly true with venture capital. Know that you need the core quantitative and analytics skills for a career in VC, and seek a programme that has the curricular offering to fill gaps you might bring into the programme in that space.

How much control do you have in determining your curriculum throughout your studies? Do you have the flexibility to choose a course that will essentially create a VC track for yourself, or is there a defined VC track within a programme that is more appealing to you? When looking at MBA programmes, look not only at curriculum strength, but how it is then offered and packaged to you.

This is also an excellent time to talk about the network that you are joining when you join an MBA programme, and again reference that the recruitment process reflects the industry. You are joining a powerful network and community when you choose to accept an offer of admission to an MBA programme, and hopefully via your research and perhaps campus visits, you have made the decision that it is the right community for you.

You will network heavily to get your first job in venture capital (and network heavily once you are in the venture capital industry!) Is the MBA programme at which you are looking a good pool for that networking? What student organisations exist that will help build not only peer-to-peer connections, but industry connections? What is the school doing with partnerships in the VC industry?

And, to briefly mention geography, there are simply some regions that are headquarters of industries. While networking can always be done globally, it is incredibly easier to grab coffee with someone for a quick networking conversation when they are within 50 miles of you. This does not mean you are locked in a geography for the venture capital industry, but may mean you’ll want to earmark a bit of money for some travel to support your networking.

Dee: HBS alumni and faculty were early participants in the venture capital space and thus have engendered a tradition of HBS leadership. We are the only programme to require a first-year course in entrepreneurship and our new required course, FIELD, has a module in which students work in small teams creating an operating micro-business. 25 percent of the partners in venture capital firms worldwide are HBS alumni.

I’m contemplating studying for a post-graduate business course and I would like to run my own tech start-up in the future. I am really interested in entrepreneurship. What is more important when it comes to making my choice - should I go for a top ranked MBA school with a well-known brand name or should I go for a Masters in Entrepreneurship?

Dee: An entrepreneur needs to be a general manager on day one since start-ups will not have the resources to hire functional expertise in all areas. You may wish to explore general management programmes v specialising.

Della: If you are convinced you know exactly what you want to do then go for a specialised masters degree - entrepreneurship, finance, marketing. If you want to hedge your bets - go for an MBA.

Andrew: Delighted to see this question. In starting your own business you need the tools as well as the examples of what has happened to other start-ups. We have many people at London Business School who go on to start their own businesses on the MBA programme and the knowledge they gain in finance, risk analysis and the management of people has proved to be invaluable.

In the first year of the MBA, all students take a class called ‘Discovering Entrepreneurial Opportunities’ and there is the opportunity to take other entrepreneurship courses and participate in the Entrepreneurship Summer School where they can test out ideas with other entrepreneurs and investors. To add to that, we have recently set up an incubator for those just graduated to help put those ideas into practice.

Jessica: Rankings support the MBA decision but – with all due respect to my hosts – they should not drive the decision. As with any decision, you want to gather the full picture of an MBA programme, including the rankings and the “why” behind the rankings, and apply it to your own personal situation. So use the rankings as a factor in your decision making, but not the factor; you need to then create your own personal rankings that will not likely mirror exactly a published list.

MBA programmes do house incredible start-up incubators. I hesitate to even call them “programmes” as these are almost a business-within-a-business-school that supports students and alumni thought leadership and supports their start-up ventures (full disclosure: I worked closely with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship while at Chicago Booth and have a strong affinity for that programme).

Remember to get from your MBA studies the core skills you need in your entrepreneurial ventures, which might include organisational leadership, negotiation and contracts and business development. But if you are truly ready to start your own business, why not look at programmes that will support that from day one and beyond.

I am a CPA from India with 11 years of experience in finance, accounts, audit, taxation and treasury across various industries under the banking and financial services sector. I feel my career has stagnated. I would like move into corporate finance and consulting, hence I want to go for an MBA. I am 36 years old.

Given the average age of MBA students ranging from 27 to 29 at top business schools, do older ages play a crucial factor for admission into a top business school? I am looking to specialise in a Masters in Finance at London Business School as well.

Mahesh Joshi

Della: One of the recurrent themes in many of today’s questions seems to be whether an MBA is an appropriate degree for those in their thirties and forties. What is clear is that for most managers, education is front-loaded, for those in their twenties.

Increasingly though, as retirement ages increase and we all work longer, business schools are going to be faced with these issues. Twenty years ago, those in their fifties were on the steady slope to retirement; these days they may have another 20 years to work and may need to reskill at least once along the way. I think this is one of the most pressing questions for university-based business schools.

The Financial Times rankings always evaluate research as part of the MBA. How will this help get me a job?

Jeremy: To be honest, a school’s research rank won’t have a direct effect on your ability to get a job. No-one is going to hire you because they read a great paper by a professor who teaches on your MBA programme.

But research indirectly affects your ability to get a job in two ways. First, research is important in building up the prestige and reputation of a business school. And the Harvard or Wharton MBA brand certainly makes you more attractive to employers.

Second, at the margin better research may translate into better teaching. It is possible, although I haven’t seen any data on this point, that a faculty that conducts cutting edge research may be able to better prepare their students in the latest business strategies and techniques.

Jessica: You – yourself - will inarguably play the largest role in shaping your MBA experience; your professors will take the next largest role. Just as I have talked about finding your own passion in determining your MBA programme and career path (I will likely ask about your career passion if I interview you for a role at EA!), you want to learn and work alongside professors who are passionate about their field, and spend time inside and outside the classroom investing in that passion.

So when looking at schools, certainly look at the depth of research of its professors, but also the passion towards teaching that can be seen by sitting in a classroom. You seek a balance of pedagogy, practicality and research.

Della: That’s one of those questions that really divides people. To begin with, the FT has been ranking MBA programmes for the past 15 years, and every year we ask alumni why they chose to study for an MBA. The answer is always the same - effectively to get a better job. Therefore I think it is justifiable to ask why business schools invest so much in academic research, possibly at the cost of career services.

My answer is threefold. First, business school professors usually conduct research with companies. This forges links with the corporate world that can be invaluable when students are looking for jobs. Second, this published research can enhance the reputation of the school, and reputation, however you define that, is one of the attributes prospective students and recruiters look for in a business school. Third, I have no doubt that the best teaching is that informed with the latest research, rather than that taught from a textbook. This is the difference between a good business school and a REALLY good business school.

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