The MBA alternative report from the class of 2011

An FT poll reveals how graduates rate the social and culinary aspects of their schools

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Studying for an MBA is all about getting a better job, but there is nothing wrong with having a good time along the way. In the second FT alternative MBA survey, we asked alumni from the MBA class of 2011 to tell us how they rated categories such as food, accommodation and the social life of their business schools. More than 1,860 respondents worldwide took part.

Social life and local amenities

The good news is that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of alumni were impressed by the social life they enjoyed during their studies. US schools, such as NYU Stern School of Business and Wisconsin School of Business, were the front runners in this category.

Insead, in France and Singapore, lived up to its reputation as the party school. As one graduate from the school put it: “You can never expect a more interesting party outside of Insead.”

When it came to the best on-campus clubs, there were big hits on both sides of the pond. The poll shows that Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business in the US and the University of Strathclyde Business School in the UK won top marks in this category.

For those who appreciate a more cultured social life, some 60 per cent of respondents highly commended nearby art galleries, museums, bookshops and concerts. Top of the pile here is Imperial College Business Schooll and others in the major cities of London and New York.

For MBA students who like to travel, University of Hong Kong and George Washington University in the US are among several schools to be ideal for overseas trips.

Food and accommodation

For those looking for a square meal after an evening of clubbing or the all-night study of an MBA assignment, it paid to study in Europe. The cuisine at IMD in Switzerland, the EEuropean School of Management and Technology in Germany and SDA Bocconi School of Management, in Italy, reigned supreme.

As well, nearly 70 per cent of graduates highly praised their local restaurants. Out of the top schools with the best eateries in the vicinity, 53 per cent of those institutions are in North America, about a third from Europe and the remainder from Asia.

As expected, reviews on accommodation were mixed as graduates rated the location and quality highly, but only about half reported that where they lived proved outstanding value for money. The Lisbon MBA in Portugal achieved first place for location, quality and cost of lodgings.

The worst places for accommodation in terms of value were the cities of Sydney, London and New York, according to the data.

Networking and romance

Business schools may be famous for boosting connections on your LinkedIn profile, but about half the respondents to the survey gave top marks to the networking opportunities available at their alma mater.

The best schools for networking, according to the poll, tended to be in the US, with Columbia Business School in New York taking first place, followed by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. Schools in Europe and Asia did not make it into the top 10.

The gender balance was one of the categories where alumni believed their schools could do better, with some individuals pointing out the need to create a strategy to recruit more women on to MBA programmes.

It also appears that business schools can double as dating agencies as several students met their spouses on their programme.

According to one graduate, it seems that some women decided to study for an MBA with the express purpose of meeting their future husbands. At one school, with a cohort of about 90, four couples were engaged by graduation.

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