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It has been a year of successes and disappointments for European business schools and their students. While many of the top schools are coming out of the recession in a stronger position than before, others have fallen by the wayside. From MBA programmes to executive short courses and Masters in Management degrees to corporate programmes, all have come under close scrutiny over the past year. What will 2010 hold for European business schools?

Are you a business school student or are you thinking of applying for a full-time MBA, an EMBA or a Masters degree? Is your company planning to use a European business school in the coming year for executive degrees? If so, put your questions to two of Europe’s top business school deans.

On Wednesday December 9, our panel of experts answered your questions here:


The panel were:

Della Bradshaw, business education editor, Financial Times

Bernard Ramanantsoa, dean of HEC School of Management in Paris, France, and one of Europe’s longest-serving business school deans

Arthur Francis, dean of Bradford University School of Management in the UK

I’m 25 years old and I’m in my final year of my bachelor degree in business administration. I have applied for a masters course in international management for next summer. My problem is that I have been told by many friends that a masters is a waste of money as it will not improve my salary when employed after graduating.

I have 5-6 years work experience as an administrator but 3 of those years are part-time. I was told to do an MBA instead of a masters but many universities would like to have work experience in a management position. I am so confused and I would really appreciate your advice.
Tugba Seckin

Arthur Francis: If you want some indication of salary after graduating with a masters in management go to the FT ranking of these courses on their website. This tells you the average salary of graduates from each school three years after graduation. It also tells you about career progression and aims achieved. I think you will find these data impressive and persuasive. If you do you’ll be in good company.

Masters in management are the most popular degrees of any subject area in the UK. In our School only, we recruit about 300 a year and we are by no means the biggest recruiter of Masters students. If you do choose this route you’ll be in good and multitudinous company.

If you would prefer to do an MBA you are likely to find a good school who will take you with the level of experience you have - if your first degree is good enough and you meet all their other entry requirements. It will likely cost you more and you will get a more general management education than you would on a specialist masters in international business. It depends what you want to do when you graduate, how much money you can spare, and, to an extent, what kind of business school you want to go to. Either way you are likely to have a stimulating experience and learn a lot. Best of luck.

Della Bradshaw: I suspect from the way that you have framed the question that you must be British, in that you assume that the bachelor and masters degree system is widespread across Europe. In France, for example, I think that most people finishing an undergraduate business degree would automatically assume that they would go on to a masters degree.

So, what I would say is that if you are at university in the UK now and intend to continue to work in the UK, then the masters degree would be useful. If you want to work elsewhere in Europe it would be essential as most of the managers you are competing with for jobs will have a postgraduate qualification.

You could, of course, work for a couple of years and then go on to an MBA programme. Just a warning, though, if you wanted to do this in North America, business schools there usually require you to have four years of university education (the US bachelor degree is generally four years in length).

Bernard Ramanantsoa: In many countries, and therefore many business schools (as is the case at HEC Paris) there is a clear segmentation of business education programmes. Masters programmes are pre-experience degrees intended for students with limited work experience. MBA programmes on the other hand are designed for students who already hold a degree (usually a Masters degree) and can justify at least 5 years full-time work experience. This ensures that each student population makes the most of their coursework and interaction with fellow participants.

What is the best choice for my international career? A better business school in my home country or a top 50 business school in a foreign country to improve my international background? Are the Scandinavian business schools competitive (Copenhagen, BI, NHH, Stockholm, Helsinki)? Why is the St Petersburg Graduate School of Management does not appear in the European business school rankings?
Julien L, USA

Arthur Francis: Hard for me to be objective, UK schools typically are very international in orientation and have many international students from all over the world. I’m bound to say that a top 50 business school in the UK will give you one of the most international experiences as well as hone your English language skills.

However, as you can see from the FT league tables the better business schools in many people’s home countries are also excellent and also have a very international orientation. Check out for yourself the competitive position in these FT tables of those schools you mention.

Della Bradshaw: I think nothing beats study abroad for both profession and personal reasons. I guess you are looking at masters degrees, because BI and Stockholm have deferred or cancelled their MBA programmes, and the Scandinavian schools rank very highly in these masters degrees. One thing to look out for though......at masters level, many business schools require an undergraduate degree in business or economics, so check that out.


On the St Petersburg Graduate School of Management ........for schools to participate in our degree rankings they need to supply us with contact details of alumni who graduated three years previously, and therefore needed to have started their programme four or five years ago. So new entrants in the market - and established business schools who have launched new programmes - have to wait for the programme to be well-established before they can be included.

Bernard Ramanantsoa: The Scandinavian schools are definitely very strong (I happen to know them well as many of them are partners of HEC Paris, either through exchange programmes, double degrees or through the CEMS network which combines the finest institutions from across Europe). In today’s globalised world, I feel some kind of international exposure - either from your studies or work placements - is invaluable to gain personal insight, and will make you competitive in the job market. But obviously you should first concentrate on the quality of the programme you are applying for.

What is the Dean’s vision on the present advantages of European business schools in comparison with the American business schools from a European perspective?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

Arthur Francis: An obvious advantage to the student who is concerned about both costs and getting into the labour market quickly is that many European MBA programmes are shorter, often only a year in duration, than the standard two-year US programme. Also many European schools are much more international than many US schools in terms of composition of faculty and student body and, arguably, ethos. As a European business school dean I’d argue that in a European school you get the best of both worlds – you get access to the rich depth of US business research and experience through the US-based literature (texts, cases, and leading journals) that dominates our field, and you get access to a European and rest-of-world perspective on business from your tutors and fellow students.

Bernard Ramanantsoa: Globally speaking, the best business schools in Europe are more inclined to promote diversity of backgrounds and cultures. In other words, in schools such as HEC Paris (and many European business schools are doing the same) we don’t try to teach a ’one best way’ approach, and take into account the fact that a Singaporean consumer does not have the same behaviour as a Brazilian, a Canadian, or a Danish. Similarly, a Japanese executive does not behave the same way as a Senegalese executive. I think globalisation does not equate with uniformisation but with diversity.

Do you think the President of the EU has a vision on the development of European business schools during globalisation? What can we expect to be changed in European business schools by the President of the EU in the coming months in 2010?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

Arthur Francis: Now if Tony Blair had been appointed President, I could have answered this question! He was famously committed to the three priorities of “education, education, and education” and this included universities and business schools. So he would have seen business schools to be at the heart of the globalisation process and, I hope, would see them as providing the tools to globalise intelligently and providing a sense of corporate social responsibility to globalise in a moral manner. I hope that Van Rumpoy will take the same view.

As for him changing anything in business schools, I hope not. We need to preserve our autonomy. Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who said that the most frightening nine words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”?

Della Bradshaw: I think the answer is probably no and nothing

Bernard Ramanantsoa: I just hope Europe will invest or support higher education and research in greater scales than before as Europe’s competitiveness depends on this.

What do you think differentiates the one-year European MBA programmes from the two-year American MBAs? How do you envision European schools competing with American schools that are increasingly adopting the one-year programmes?

Della Bradshaw: I don’t believe US schools are adopting the one-year MBA programmes in any systematic way, and I think that will be their downfall. If you look at the data from a school such as Harvard, where half the students receive needs-based funding from the school, the ”average indebtedness” of the class of 2009 on graduation was $76,958. At schools with fewer scholarships, and a less professional career development office, the situation is probably even more scary. Is this model sustainable? For Harvard, yes. For lesser schools?

In light of the financial crisis and the issues surrounding climate change, what should business schools be teaching nowadays to address these issues?

Della Bradshaw: They should teach what they have always taught - strong analytics, management skills and how to make good decisions.

Arthur Francis: The financial crisis and climate change pose two different kinds of challenges, though issues of corporate social responsibility do apply to both. There are lots of technical issues posed by how the financial crisis was allowed to develop and how it was dealt with. It wasn’t all down to overweening arrogance and greed by masters of the universe.

Business schools need to continue researching and teaching the technical issues to do with assessing risk, decision-making, organisational psychology, etc. etc so that management practices at the technical level can be improved. This is true of climate change issues too, of course. However there are many other issues regarding the financial crisis and climate change that are to do with corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development (SD) and of course businesses schools should be teaching these topics too. There’s quite a debate in our school at present about whether CSR and SD should be embedded in existing modules in the core disciplines or whether there should be a stand-alone module on this topic and, if so, should it be optional or compulsory. My own personal view is that the issues are so important that they should be both dealt with within each module AND, because there is now a coherent body of knowledge relating to CSR/SD, there needs to be a compulsory module on this topic as well.

But I’m not sure this is what the students want and how much we should take account of their views!

I come from Germany and I plan to do my MBA in my home country. Do you think that is a good choice? How would you rate German business schools in comparison with those in UK or France? Thank you!
Markus Nonninger, Germany

Della Bradshaw: If you want to work in Germany on graduation, then it will be a good choice for you.

Arthur Francis: Although business and management education has a very long history in Germany - going back to the nineteenth century - it has taken a different form from in France, where it also has a long history, and the UK, where university-level business education only really began in the 1960s. Thus there are still as yet few MBA programmes in Germany and so the FT rankings don’t help you much. There are good programmes in Germany and I am sure you will be able to seek them out.

I am currently working for a bank in London. I am interested in undertaking an MBA programme. I am in my late 20s with 7-8 years work experience and see myself staying in finance/banking after the MBA.

For someone who wants to stay in the same industry, what are the benefits of an MBA?

What type of MBA would suit someone like me - Executive MBA or full-time MBA?

Should I leave it till later in my career? Thanks.
Ola Adesakin, London

Della Bradshaw: If you know you want to stay in the same industry, then you might want to consider a specialist degree such as a masters in finance programme:


Apart from that, it would seem to be sensible to study on either a one-year programme, with no internship, or wait a little while to study on an MBA. The decision should be based on your career today, and whether you think it has stalled and an MBA would help to kick-start it.

Arthur Francis: I guess it depends a bit on what you are actually doing at the bank, and what you want to do in the future. If you are already in a significant management job or think you will move into general management an MBA is a good idea. It will give you an invaluable education about business generally and all the management functions and the experience of being with a group of other managers of similar ability working on assignments and in seminars will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Whether to do this full-time or part-time is partly a matter of cost – can you afford to give up your salary for a year – and how you value your work-life balance! And do you want to be totally immersed in the student experience again. Some really relish this – we’ve just graduated a mid-40s lawyer who chose to take a year out and do the MBA full-time and he loved it. For others, the opportunity to put into practice at work, the next day, the stuff you learnt that evening is a compelling reason to do an exec MBA.

Regarding when you should do it – think about what you see your career progression to be, what your next career moves are likely to be, and where you can best leverage the MBA.

We are two students studying international management at Buckinghamshire University and we will graduate next year. Afterwards, we will work for two years and our future plan is to get into one of the top ranked MBA programmes in the world. What do you think are the necessary skills to get into one of the prestigious MBAs available today? Which MBA better prepares you for a career at McKinsey?

Della Bradshaw: To be frank, I am not sure US MBA programmes are designed for those with business undergraduate degrees. However, my advice is that academic qualifications really count, as does a good GMAT/GRE score.

As to McKinsey, they recruit from all the top schools.

Arthur Francis: Most of the top-ranked MBAs want at least three years relevant experience after graduation and to get the most benefit from an MBA you might think of getting even more experience on your CV than this. What selectors for MBA programmes are looking for are the quality of your work experience, your motivation for wanting to do an MBA, your potential to contribute to the programme, and of course the quality of your first degree. McKinsey, like any potential employer, will be impressed by the research you have done on their organisation, how you think you can fit in and add value, and by the quality of your previous experience and qualifications.

I am an undergraduate student at Bocconi (Italy) who is going to graduate in July 2010 with outstanding academic results.

I am currently applying for the MSc in Management at London Business School, the MSc in Management and Strategy at LSE and for the Masters in Management (Grand Ecole) at HEC.

Which school would you advise me to choose among the above? Is there any other EU Business school which I should apply to? Thank you very much.

Della Bradshaw: They are three brilliant schools. Bernard?

Bernard Ramanantsoa: First of all, congratulations on your outstanding academic results! You will understand that I am in a tight spot to answer your question (but you may guess what answer I might come up with).

Arthur Francis: All three are excellent in their own way. It’s a very personal choice. Look at each of the programmes to see what modules are taught and which appeal to you. Are there academics you have grown to admire through your course at Bocconi that are on the faculty of any of these institutions? Is it important to you that the School is closely linked to business. What can you find out about styles of teaching and learning and which you prefer? And what is going to be the whole student experience? Where each school is located will make a difference here – in the heart of a city or in a pleasant leafy campus in its own setting. And do you prefer London or Paris? It’s a bit like having to choose between an Audi, Mercedes or BMW. None should disappoint.

I am CIMA qualified and have a financial management degree from the UK. I have also worked for 4 years, mainly in industry in the UK as a Management Accountant and Analyst. I also work in a bank in Pakistan as a risk analyst. Now, I am looking for a masters programme. Please, can you suggest which programme and schools are suitable for me and what are my chances. I am also involved in politics and I’ve set up the organisation of a national political party in Pakistan.
Rana Atif

Arthur Francis: You sound like a good catch for any school’s programme but far too busy to do a Masters at the moment. However, if you think you can do a demanding full-time job, help organise a new national political party and do a masters programme part-time you need to work out why you want to do the masters and what you are looking to get out of it. Is it general management education and training or further specialist knowledge in risk analysis? Or can you afford to do this full-time, and overseas?

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