Apart from being home to some of the most prestigious MBA programs in the world, the UK boasts many MBA programs that are a fantastic fit for those coming from, or heading towards what some might call a non-traditional business path. That is to say, you don’t necessarily have to come from a finance or marketing background to be a great MBA candidate, and despite also being home to one of the world’s premier financial centres, some of the most renowned UK MBA programs have helped to launch people’s careers into fields well beyond the typical spheres in business that come to mind.
In the last several years, no less than nine UK business schools regularly appear on the coveted Global MBA Rankings list, produced each January by the Financial Times, showcasing the top 100 MBA programs in the world, according to a rich and complex methodology they annually employ. Interestingly, those schools that regularly feature on the list offer a diverse range of programs, in terms of content and specializations, innovative ways of delivering education, and cultivating a powerful global network.
If I were to choose one word to describe what an MBA is, that would probably be “transformative”, and British schools are some of the best in the world when it comes to such transformations.
Just ask Brandon O’Dell, the Cambridge Judge alumnus from the United States, who had a fantastic career as a dancer, but since his MBA, now leads a non-profit organization in the Netherlands, in the health care sector.
Nearly all top-ranked MBA programs around the world commit to rigorous admissions practices and strive to attract as diverse a pool of participants as possible into their programs. Academically, the nuts and bolts of an MBA are largely what you’d expect anywhere: courses in finance, strategy, marketing, management, accounting, and the like. There’s usually a consulting project of some type, perhaps including some international travel, and of course the promise of career services support to help connect you to your next job upon graduating.
But what about UK MBA programs makes them so fantastic?
Taking a closer look at several MBA programs in the UK, it comes down to a few recurring themes - top MBA programs in the UK are extremely well-connected to every industry and every country on Earth (likely do to with a mix of geography, history, and reputation), they’ve long been open to non-traditional profiles they welcome into their cohorts, and they offer some of the most cutting-edge specializations and classes you can select during your course.
The possibility to specialize in one’s MBA is often a very attractive feature, and the strategic concentrations of many business schools in the UK makes them some of the most sought after schools in the world. Just north of London, in the beautiful hamlet of Cambridge, Judge Business School (of the eponymous university) is home to one such top ranked MBA program, offering 10 concentrations from which their students may select one during their program. Two such examples are “Culture, Arts, & Media” as well as “Energy & Environment”. Or if you prefer the urban centre of the British capital, you’ll find another titan of English education, Imperial Business School, offering an array of specializations of their own, including “Leading Social Innovation” and “Climate Change & Business Strategy”. For MBA candidates with a clear focus on the career path ahead of them, the possibility to specialize has major appeal, and makes such graduates more appealing to employers.
At its peak of dominance, in a famous phrase of British bravado, the Crown declared itself “the empire on which the sun never sets.” Although this empire no longer exists, the global reach of the English language, culture, education, and it’s many businesses and institutions remains incredibly impressive. So it’s certainly not surprising that fantastic MBA programs like the one at Bayes Business School (formerly known as Cass) offers students the opportunity to take classes with a focus on specific countries around the world that present strategic opportunities in hot markets, including Cuba, China, Kenya, South Africa, and Israel-Palestine. In many cases students have the opportunity to spend time on the ground in these countries, making connections with key stakeholders that give them a foot in the door for business opportunities and paves the way for their global careers. Young professionals less interested in a traditional career in banking, but wanting to explore developing markets or with a penchant for a more socially responsible career that has a real impact on improving the lives of those less fortunate will find such opportunities much more fulfilling.
Speaking of great positioning, the UK is both geographically and culturally between Europe and North America, and London is about as global a city as you can find.
Nearly all the MBAs in the UK are either conveniently located in central London or are just an easy train ride away, which makes it super convenient for MBA participants to conduct projects with companies or get to interviews.
It also makes it pretty easy to convince alumni and industry leaders to show up at networking events, which is one of the most valuable components of the MBA - developing your network. In one such effort, Bayes regularly organizes the London Symposium, where current students can learn from and exchange with senior business leaders and influencers from a broad variety of sectors that help drive the British economy. Just across town, you’ll find the week-long Imperial Innovation Challenge, where MBA students will encounter STEM researchers from Imperial College, who help frame a business challenge for students to apply innovative thinking to complex international issues and generate business solutions. It’s all about hands-on experiences that engage students and connect them to the next chapter in their careers.
Deeply rooted in tradition, ESCP, which opened its doors in 1819, is considered the world’s oldest business school. Beyond London, the school boasts five other campuses on the European continent where students can move between while pursuing their MBA, giving it a uniquely European feel with a global reach. Students usually select two campuses to spend most of their time during their 10-month program, but also have the opportunity to do two company consulting projects in two different countries. At the same time there is the potential to obtain additional degrees at their campuses in Paris or Berlin, which, depending on the unique career path of the student, could unlock massive potential.
And what about after you graduate?
There seems to be a pressure among UK MBA programs to keep services to students and alumni high, long after they graduate.
Many schools in the UK (including most of those mentioned above) offer lifetime learning opportunities, where alumni can take a certain number of elective courses for free each year.
This helps alumni stay fresh and up to date on some of the latest important trends in business and society. Not only that, alumni are often entitled to lifetime career support, in the form of multiple individual career coaching appointments each year. As you continue to evolve over the years and make moves to new opportunities, a career coach and active network are massive benefits to have in your corner.
When all is said and done, the benefits to an MBA in the UK run far and wide, which makes UK MBA programs among the most desirable - and therefore most competitive - in the world. This also means that a solid application will be key! If you’ve got a strong professional background, particularly with a unique profile and the desire to take your career to new heights, the UK is worth a look for some exciting transformations in your professional future.
Author: Eric Lucrezia
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