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UK MBA: What you need to know

Sonal D'Silva | March 08, 2006

The business and management studies seminar at the recent Education UK Exhibition organised by the British Council in Mumbai drew a full house; the audience included a mix of students, parents and professionals.

There are a multitude of avenues where you can find factual information about courses and qualifications required for studying in the UK. But what about the myriad questions that come to mind after reading all the literature already available on the Internet and in books?

That's what professor Dr Geeta Lakshmi from the University of Lincoln and Professor and Business Development Manager Anoop Patel from UCE Birmingham dealt with in the seminar.

We bring you some of the essentials.

Which business and management postgraduate degree do I opt for?

The options on offer for the one-year master's programme are the MSc, MBA and MA.

Here is the difference.

MA/ MSc: Greater specialisation

An MA/ MSc will go in depth into whichever area you choose to specialise in.

Explained Dr Lakshmi, "Should you pick an MSc in marketing, you will find courses related to international marketing, e-marketing, cyber marketing, etc. This is better for people who have already got an overall education in terms of a BCom or a business management degree. I think an MSc is suited for those people who want to specialise even further in one area."

Unlike the MBA, the MSc usually doesn't require prior work experience; however, do crosscheck with the universities you are applying to.

It is very rare, though, that a university would require work experience.

MBA: For more mature students

Says Dr Lakshmi, "An MBA is meant for someone who has done his/ her first degree or, maybe someone who hasn't even done his/ her first degree but has worked for a few years in some area in their organisation. For example, maybe they have been clocking receipts or have HR jobs, or maybe they are tourist operators who don't have a view of how the whole industry works. The MBA is meant to round up that individual and give him/ her idea of how the whole organisation works."

This degree works better for those who are mature in terms of job and age. The average age of the class for an MBA programme will be in the mid- to late twenties. But it is not surprising to also find students who are in their thirties and forties.

Speaking from experience, Dr Lakshmi adds, "Such students add tremendously to the class. At the end of the day, it is not about what we teach or what we do -- we teach you a little bit about everything. The MBA is about the skills you pick up from each other and the synergy which goes on in the class between people with experience."

~ In popular perception, it is the MBA that tends to sound the most impressive. However, in terms of practicality in the job market, what Dr Lakshmi stated is important to remember, "Don't be prejudiced by the name; the name doesn't mean anything other than the fact that they are all master's degrees. If you study for an MA in economics and don't do it well, you don't get a job. If you do an MSc in HR and do it well, you will get a job. At the end of the day, your qualification is as good as what you make it to be. It is what you can do for your employer, what you can prove you can do, that is most important."

Should I go to an old university or a new one?

The answer lies in examining the differences between the old and new universities in terms of:


~ Old universities are traditionally located away from town centres. New universities are usually found right in the heart of the city.


~ Explains Dr Lakshmi, "New universities, in order to compete, are willing to try more innovative courses. Old universities tend to stick to what they do very well; they excel in tried and tested courses. This distinction is just for knowledge; it is not to judge the universities."

Class size

~ New universities tend to have smaller classes, while old universities thrive on big communities.

Old and new universities have different strengths to offer; you should choose your university based on what atmosphere you think you would thrive in.

How does the ranking system work in the UK?

Students often place a lot of importance on the rank given to a university. However, the speakers cautioned that rankings could be misleading if you did not know what they were based on. 

Dr Lakshmi explained, "Rankings in the UK are usually constructed from three popular parameters -- QAA (Quality Assurance Agency), RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) ranking and the media ranking."

~ QAA is supposed to make sure the teaching is good at a university. It carries out an audit every couple of years and takes into account several factors like the computing facility, how many students they have, etc. This ranking is constructed from feedback taken from students and ex-students.

~ RAE reflects research ranking. That is, where do you publish and what proportion of the staff publishes in journals.

As Dr Lakshmi explains, "You could have a really good professor at your university, but you could end up with a bad ranking because that is just one [published] professor out of the whole staff. However, this published professor could be a Nobel Laureate. You can have some really good professors but, if only one or two of them publish, your ranking will be lower."

~ The third ranking is by the media, who have their own way of constructing where universities fall.

Bottomline: The ranking game is very complex; it is not as simple as being the fifth or the second or the first. Investigate the criteria that the ranking is based on before you decide what the rank stands for.

What about jobs in the UK?

~ As as student, you are allowed to work for 20 hours a week while doing a full time course. You cannot work more than this and you probably shouldn't anyway.

Says Dr Lakshmi, "I am very happy if my students get jobs, but remember at the end of the day you are there to do a good degree and that is what you should be aiming at."

~ Professor Patel is forthright about job prospects after you finish your education. "I don't want to paint an (unnecessarily) rosy picture -- getting a work permit in the UK is not easy. I personally think the work opportunities are much greater in India!" he says.

He also cautions, "I think the mentality is that you want a return on your investment (in your education) within one year after graduating. I'm afraid that is not going to happen."

~ If you do indeed want to look for a job in the UK (after you complete your course), start your search while you are still studying. Get online and scout internships and job openings.

Nervous about the informality of e-mailing a resume in? Don't be. The speakers explain, "It really is a virtual world now. Having said that, there are graduate fairs that go on but they may not take place at every university. There may be a central graduate fair that takes place in London. But no employer would mind if you send your CV and send it via e-mail because that is how we communicate these days."

What about undergraduate business and management studies in the UK?

There are undergraduate courses and you will get them in a whole spectrum -- from accounting, to finance, to marketing, to HR, etc.

"What I normally say to students and parents is, "The UK undergraduate degree is expensive. I think it makes more sense to do your undergraduate here in India and then come and do your post-graduation in the UK. However, if you can go, and you really want to the UK for undergraduate studies, I think the UK is a good destination," says Professor Patel.

The basics of how to choose

~ Contact the British Council for detailed information. They have lots of current brochures and literature on education.

~ Get online. All universities will have good Web sites. Go there and explore the details.

~ Most universities have good alumni associations. Get in touch with former students and ask about their experience.

~ Keep in mind the costing of the programme and match it to your budget.

~ Consider the location of the university you are looking at.

~ Don't get overly carried away with ranking.

Having studied, lived and worked in the UK, Dr Lakshmi's parting message to students is, "(Studying in the UK) is nice for Indian students who are leaving home, saying bye to their mums and dads and finding independence for the first time. Yes, it can seem hard -- you have to figure out your own living, cooking, opening of your bank account and things like that, but it feels good to be able to do that.

"As far as cultural differences go, of course they have their own customs in the UK, which I really like. I don't think the whole world should be reduced to a McDonalds, which is standardised. There should be some degree of culture in every place and the UK has a lot to offer. It isn't bland; it is an exciting place to be!"

For further information visit the following Web sites:

~ British Councel web site

~ Education UK

Share your comments

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 6

Sub: Study In UK and Getting JOB a daydream

Pls tell me is this true that, even if you have somebady in UK it is very difficult to get the job in UK

Posted by aditya

Sub: inquiry..........

cost of MBA and Work Permit Sir, Kindly tell me the approximate of doing MBA from a top institute in UK? Also please inform for ...

Posted by chandan

Sub: Double MBA at my age of 33

Hi, I am an BE+MBA from India. I have around 9 years of work experience in financial services IT industry. My MBA college is among ...

Posted by Ritesh Agarwal

Sub: MBA in UK

A list of top 10 shchools should have been provided and also the cost of the courses + other expenses should have been given which ...

Posted by sanjay

Sub: Cost of MBA and Work Permit

Sir, Kindly tell me the approximate of doing MBA from a top institute in UK? Also please inform for how long one can work in ...

Posted by Satish Pahlajani


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