The workload on executive MBA programmes continues to surprise many students. In a poll of 958 graduates from the EMBA class of 2012, the most common difficulty encountered was balancing studies with personal commitments, such as family.

About a third also found it tricky to balance study with work and said the course was more time-consuming than expected.

The good news is that some support was available. About 60 per cent of the group were allowed additional time off from work to focus on their studies. In addition, more than half received financial support from their employers.

Personal feedback shines a light on some of the problems that students can encounter.

Some said, for example, they had not anticipated how much reading there would be. Another said: “The team element of the EMBA required a considerable amount of effort to manage. Not everyone worked well together.”

One respondent said he wished he could have learnt the basics about finance and economics prior to starting the EMBA, adding that this would have saved a lot of time.

Despite all the hard work and sacrifice, only 7 per cent said they would have preferred to study for a full-time MBA and a majority of the respondents, 84 per cent, said the skills they gained during the EMBA had helped them improve their company’s performance. Some respondents said data analysis techniques had been useful in decision making and others said improved negotiation skills had helped win new business and secure cost-effective deals with vendors.

But for most of the poll respondents, who also took part in this year’s EMBA ranking, the main reason for choosing the part-time degree was so they could keep their full-time job.

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