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Forged in Europe but now offered around the world, masters in management (MiM) programmes offer students with an interest in business but little or no prior work experience a specialised, practical degree with broad appeal.

Despite the continued dominance in the US of the MBA, the number of business schools offering the MiM is growing even there, as Jonathan Moules describes (see article). That may partly be a response to stagnating demand for MBAs, but also as a stepping stone to another qualification after an undergraduate course of study and before entering full-time employment.

The latest masters in management report explores topics we hope will be of interest to students and managers alike. Simon J Evenett, professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, analyses an area of growing concern to business: the Sino-US trade wars. He explores the prospects for the world’s two largest economies to pull back from their escalating rhetoric and tariff tit-for-tats (see article).

Masters in management students are typically keen to acquire core expertise in fields such as accounting, finance and marketing, as well as digital skills. Many go on to jobs in consultancy, banking, investment and, increasingly, technology. But some are inspired to start their own companies immediately, and a growing number are drawn to social purpose and business ethics. That is being reflected in teaching provision for MiMs and opportunities on and off campus. We describe a not-for-profit training company for refugees launched by students at ESCP in Paris (see article); and the Cems alliance of business schools’ Model UNFCCC course on climate change negotiations (see article).

In this year’s report, we offer practical guidance to prospective and current students (see article). We ask for tips from some of the top schools’ careers counsellors, who provide far greater support and provision through individual discussions, events and presentations than undergraduates will typically have received.

Their advice? Explore careers other than the ones you have initially considered; take full advantage of activities outside the classroom to demonstrate soft skills and to explore job options; be honest about your personality and skills; and be selective in your applications.

Alongside traditional interviews employers increasingly use online recruitment tools, games to identify personality types and team projects requiring presentations. They are keen to find employees who can demonstrate resilience, teamwork and flexibility as well as more traditional and technical knowledge.

We also spoke to leading schools’ admissions officers (see article). They recommend that candidates start to prepare their applications well in advance, carry out thorough research, including on schools’ websites, and talk to student “ambassadors” or track down graduates through social media to gain different perspectives.

They are looking for academic rigour but also evidence of motivation and a sense of potential career paths. Students should ensure they can explain their choice of school and are prepared to detail their motivations for why and where they want to study. Some candidates still make basic errors, copying and pasting standardised answers or omitting required documents.

One important tool in deciding where to take a MiM — and where employers should look to recruit — is the FT’s rankings published in this report. Given the history, it is no surprise that Europe still dominates. St Gallen retains its longstanding, clear lead this year, followed by HEC and Essec in Paris and London Business School.

Many schools now offer opportunities in multiple countries. ESCP Europe does so across its different EU campuses, while Skema in France provides a global MSc with study options in Brazil and China. In emerging markets, Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Antai ranks highly, and schools in Russia and India, for instance, perform well.

These rankings must be interpreted in context. All 100 schools on the FT list meet high standards, accredited by the leading international bodies. The overall aggregated score is a benchmark weighted for factors such as post-study salary. But it should be considered alongside detailed scrutiny of the component parts that go into the scores and other broader information, including international options and diversity of faculty.

Different students will have different priorities and their decisions may be based on many factors, such as location, cost, programme focus, cohort size and mix of types of students and placements on offer. Data collected by the FT also includes aims achieved, the quality of the careers service, gender split and the share of faculty with PhDs — a measure of academic excellence.

Detailed analysis of the data, combined with wider reading and discussions, offers a strong starting point for those ready for the next stage in their business education.

Andrew Jack is the FT’s global education editor

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