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Having decided to study for a masters in management degree, the next and possibly most important hurdle is to determine where you want to study.
What is the right school for you? One close to home, further afield or even in another country? No matter how highly ranked the programme, if you are studying in France when you would rather be in Italy, the experience will not be all that you hoped for. Would you be happy to learn another language or be immersed in a different culture while tackling a management programme?
Perhaps the school is in the right location, but lacks research expertise in the fields of your interest. Does it have the cachet, the high-value brand, that you require? Is its alumni network as glittering as you would like, and does it have a healthy recruitment record? Maybe a top-drawer school ticks every box, but with a top-dollar price tag to match. Can you afford it?
It is worth spending time on choosing the right school, says Catherine Plichon, director of the grande école programme at Rouen Business School in France.
Even though it might be a tiring and expensive exercise, Plichon urges potential students to visit a variety of business schools offering MIM programmes to get a feel for “the spirit of the school”, its location and what it offers.
Emma Soane, programme director of the masters in management programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), also emphasises this point. “The contextual background adds to the student’s experience,” she says.
For example, world leaders regularly attend the LSE as guest lecturers – an obvious plus for students, as it enhances their learning experiences. Taking the time to understand the bigger picture of what the university can offer will help MIM students get much more out of their programme.
But choosing a business school does not end there, Soane says. There are other factors to be considered, one of the principal ones being the faculty. Students should take the trouble to discover all they can about the faculty that will teach them. For example, what is their reputation and their research interests?
“While an MSc in management has certain core areas, if you want to specialise in some areas, as most students will want to, then [you need to consider] where faculty publish and what kind of reputation they have in their field. That will matter for the specialisations they will get and can tap into as students,” she says.
International diversity also needs to be taken into account, Soane adds. If a student wishes to pursue an international career, then international faculty are an obvious plus. Such diversity should also extend to the student body. “Again, I think this is something that really adds to the classroom experience, as you are learning from students as well as classroom faculty,” she says.
Accreditation also has a role to play. Jean Charroin, director of the MIM programme at Audencia Nantes School of Management in France, believes it is an essential factor. “Even if it can be considered red tape, accreditation ensures the quality standard in our activities,” he says.
According to Charroin, accreditation proves that a school has reached a certain standard of research and academic quality. “We have to make sure that our pedagogical alignment is relevant and consistent, and if we want to maintain our ranking, we must take into account accreditation and consider it as leverage to improve our efficiencies.”
Accreditation, adds Plichon, offers a certain guarantee of programme quality. But beyond that, she stresses that all management programmes are not the same.
The design of the programme is crucial, she says. Is internationalisation part of the programme? Does the school have global partnerships, and are these a feature of the learning experience? Are there opportunities for specialisation, and do research topics cover the areas that students are keen to explore?
Students should also consider their future needs before pinning their colours to the mast. Soane advises discovering what career guidance is on offer and looking at the alumni network, which could be useful to students at a future date.
It is also worth investigating a school’s corporate links: determine which recruiters visit the campus, what opportunities are there for internships, and with which companies does the school work.
With such a wide range of points to consider, potential students could be forgiven for finding the decision-making process alarming. But Plichon urges students to take their time and find the “right fit” for them.
Above all, she says, students need to be well informed about what is true of all business schools and what is specific to a single school. All schools are not the same, she warns, but a student armed with the right knowledge will make the right choice.