Choosing a business school and choosing an MBA programme are two related matters. So, in addition to these notes, read the article on choosing an MBA programme.
Remember that getting an MBA is one thing – getting one that is respected and recognised may be a different thing. The respect and recognition that a programme has is obviously related to the status of the School that provides it.
How well known is the School?
You will probably need to check on this in several ways, rather than relying on one. Here are some of them:
- Ask around – particularly in the communities that are of interest to you. So, if you are planning an MBA to get a job in a particular industry or sector of business, ask around in that sector.
- How long has the School been established?
- Check the press – most major papers and journals carry regular features/surveys of management education etc. See how frequently the School is mentioned. Perhaps you can also do searches for a School in the online versions of major papers/journals to see how frequently it is mentioned.
- Check the quality of the School’s “brand name”. Check through online searches. Ask people and see how often they mention the School’s name.
How well respected is the School?
Prominence may not indicate respect, or vice versa, so check what people think about a School. The rankings will give you some indication, but remember that the criteria used in assessing Schools in this way may not be relevant to you. Also, does the School belong to the main representative/accreditation bodies – e.g. CHE? Additionally, is the School a member of any grouping of Schools – e.g., running joint programmes, arranging student exchanges, etc? If so, what is the standing of the others in its group? (Good Schools tend to work with other good Schools).
Does the School have a good reputation in other things?
The obvious things to check are: research and publications.
A major School will have a commitment to research, and research tends to result in publications. Be careful about both of these things since a School which is primarily a research establishment may not give much attention to “teaching” – but you will expect to find that at least some of the faculty are engaged in research in their subject area. You might also hope to find that at least some members of the faculty have published books. (Well known books do a lot for the prominence of the School from which they come, but as a student, don’t expect to see a lot of faculty members who are also well-known authors!)
What does the School do?
This might seem a rather odd question – as obviously it runs an MBA.
But does it just run one – or several? Does it also offer non-qualification executive programmes, short courses, etc? Check out the School’s full prospectus, not only the MBA literature – for in general, the broader the range of activities, the more established and the better known the School will be.
The above points relate to the status of the School, but there are other things which will be important to you:
- Is the School a separate entity?
Does the School have its own separate and dedicated facilities or does it share facilities with other activities in its parent Institution (e.g., University)? This will have a significant influence on what it will “feel like” to be a student in the School.
- Will the School provide good service?
- There are two aspects: the academic quality and the customer orientation of the School. The first is difficult to check without asking others who have some experience of the School and its programme. The latter is easier to get a view on – and remember, if the School does not treat you well when you are a potential customer, will it improve if you go there?
How easy does the School make it for you to contact them? How do they respond when you do contact them? Write, fax or e-mail the School and see how long it takes to get a reply. Phone them and ask to speak to the programme director or administrator, and see if they put you through. Ask some difficult questions (See above as well as the checklist on choosing an MBA programme) and see what response you get. Ask if you can speak to some recent graduates, and will they give you names or contact details? Some may have a policy of not giving out names and addresses, but will they pass your name/details to one of their Graduates in your area and suggest that they might be willing to contact you? Ask if you can call in to see them – do they welcome this – will they arrange for you to see someone?
- Will the School take an interest in your future?
If you are looking to change your job as a result of your MBA, you will want to know if the School will provide help to its students as they reach the end of their programme – e.g., through placement opportunities, recruitment fairs, etc. Does the School make arrangements for recruiters to meet/get details on new graduates? Does the School maintain an active Alumni association? Does the Association provide support for graduates seeking new jobs?
- What will the School expect of you?
Will you need a laptop computer? If you do not have one, does the School provide adequate facilities? Will you need to find accommodation – if so, to what extent will the School help you? Will the School advise you on potential loans or scholarship funds?