During the Access MBA Spotlight on the topic of doing a full-time MBA in Europe, potential applicants had the chance to get valuable information about the MBA journey directly from the representatives of four renowned business schools.

The live chat welcomed Henley Business School (UK), Ecole des Ponts Business School (France), Westminster Business School (UK), and Birmingham Business School (BBS) (UK) in February 2016.

Here is a detailed transcript of the Q&A session regarding full-time MBA programmes in Europe.

Q: What qualifications do applicants need to have to be accepted in your MBA programmes?

BBS: You need to have a first degree and three to five years of work experience with evidence of management to be eligible for the Birmingham MBA.

Henley: For Henley's Full-time MBA, you will need to have a good first degree (equivalent of a UK 2:1 or higher) and a minimum of three years' work experience to be eligible. If you have at least three years of post-graduation experience (after your undergraduate degree), then you meet the minimum entry requirements for Henley. Unfortunately, we do not consider work experience prior to your undergraduate experience nor do we include internships.

Westminster: At Westminster we look at your overall experience and it is quite common for important experiences to be left out of applications. Remember that we look at how you are likely to perform within an organisation and so please don't leave anything out.

Q: What is the cost of each full-time programme presented?

Ecole des Ponts: The cost of a full-time MBA at Ecole des Ponts is EUR 32,000.

BBS: GBP 22,590 is the cost of the Birmingham MBA.

Henley: GBP 33,500 is the cost for Henley's Full-time MBA.

Q: What criteria do you use to select which students can receive a scholarship?

Ecole des Ponts: To be awarded a scholarship, you need to meet the school's criteria, both in terms of merit and financial needs. A scholarship is always considered in parallel with your application, since we first need to assess your potential. Our scholarships are available only for MBA programmes and for candidates who have a minimum of three years of work experience. Attribution of scholarships is based on three primary eligibility criteria: merit, financial need, and adherence to school values.

Henley: We consider scholarships as part of our admissions process. They are competitive and awarded to candidates with a good first degree (roughly those with a first or Masters), plus strong work experience and who perform well at the interview with our programme director.

Q: Which admissions test should prospective students take to get admitted to a full-time MBA in your schools? GMAT or GRE?

BBS: We don't require GMAT or GRE for entry to the Birmingham MBA.

Henley: Henley does not require the GMAT or GRE.

Ecole des Ponts: Both GMAT and GRE are fine with us. For the GMAT, we require a minimum score of 550. Alternatively, you can take our internal test if you're only applying to our school.

Westminster: GMAT is of course an important element to demonstrate you have the capability to study but it is not the most important aspect of recruitment decisions for us. We are far more interested in what you bring to our classroom and how you are likely to work with peers. For us your performance during the interview is more important along with your work experience.

Q: When do your MBA courses start?

Henley: We have one intake per year, which begins in September.

Westminster: At Westminster our MBA begins in September and January.

BBS: We have entry points in January and September.

Q: What is the salary increase after graduation from your MBA programmes?

Westminster: Salary increase data can be found for all MBAs via the GMAC website. Generally, there is consensus that an MBA is not just about salary increase but about personal development. At Westminster 98% of graduates from the MBA report an improved career situation.

Ecole des Ponts: Salary increase is dependent on many factors, including your pre-MBA career and the industry you're in. For documented feedback on your MBA potential ROI, you should take our profile assessment here.

BBS: 84% of our cohort was in employment three months after graduation according to our Financial Times Global MBA ranking, where we rank 92nd in the world. In addition, our salary increase was 71%.

Henley: We see an average of 25% increase in salary after the programme, but this will depend on your industry/sector, etc.

Q: Do your MBA programmes have specialised courses with a focus on marketing?

BBS: Our MBA programme includes modules in marketing, but I'm afraid we don't specialise in a Marketing MBA. Our specialisations are International Business and Banking.

Westminster: All accredited MBAs will have marketing covered within the curriculum. There are opportunities to take an elective and specialise via your final business project and consultancy work. My personal view is that a generalist MBA is more valuable in the long run and you demonstrate your speciality via the transcript, not the overall certificate.

Henley: Henley has one required module in Marketing, one elective module in Marketing, and you can specialise in this field during your dissertation stage.

Q: I have a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering with almost 10 years of experience in the telecommunications industry on various positions (R&D, pre-sales, and sales for professional services). What is the best MBA programme for me that capitalises on this experience?

Ecole des Ponts: Our MBA has a strong focus on Innovation Management. It will be important for you to consider MBA programmes where you can further develop your soft skills toward leading innovative organisations. Consider the network and reputation in high-tech industries as well.

Westminster: Any MBA should capitalise on this level of experience. For you it would be a question of which MBA would best fit your learning style and personal situation. The best approach is to really do your research into what different schools offer.

Henley: It depends on what you do - do you want to specialise further in Telco industry, or do you want to develop leadership and strategic skills to move into senior management or across industries. Henley's MBA might be the right one for you as we specialise in Leadership and Strategy.

Q: How important are the soft skills?

Westminster: Soft skills are essential! We have a strong stance on this at Westminster. As MBA Director my view is that understanding how you can perform effectively in a variety of contexts can only happen when you understand yourself and how you and your team work at their best.

BBS: Soft skills are really important. It would be good to include these in your CV/resume and Personal Statement when making an application to your preferred MBA course.

Q: How should candidates start their research on different MBA programmes?

Henley: You might want to start by looking at rankings. You can view rankings via The Economist or the Financial Times. This will be a good place to start as you will be able to look at the top-ranked schools and learn a bit more about the programmes.

Westminster: My advice would be to look at the AMBA website to understand which schools are accredited and what the MBA stands for.

Ecole des Ponts: If there is an Access MBA event taking place in your city, they'll advise you which schools you should meet. I also advise you to really think about your future career project and study both the academic interest you have and also the professional exposure you would get through the MBA programme you'll choose. This includes the location, the network, the personal development, etc.

Q: I have a question for Henley Business School – I can see you have a mentoring programme. How does it work?

Henley: Each student enrolled in our MBA programmes receives a personal tutor (who is either an alumnus or alumna from our programmes or is studying on the Coaching Masters programme). The personal tutor serves as a mentor and gives personal and professional advice to our students. Additionally, you can work with the Henley Careers Centre to also find a mentor during your job search.

Q: Are any of your MBA programmes offered online?

Westminster: Currently our programme is blended which means part of the work is online but it is mostly campus-based.

BBS: We offer a distance learning MBA which takes place mostly online but it is also a campus based MBA. Find out more here.

Ecole des Ponts: Some schools offer online MBAs with a few residential seminars. I can't advise you further on that as we believe developing leadership is the most important part and this is difficult to achieve online.

Henley: We don't have a distance learning programme, sorry.

Q: I can see that the MBA programme at Ecole des Ponts is an alliance between two schools. Does this mean students receive two diplomas upon graduation?

Ecole des Ponts: Even better – students receive a joint diploma that gives them access to both networks. What you write on your CV/resume depends on your career strategy.

Q: Is there an age limit or age-related constraint for getting an MBA degree?

Westminster: I have been a director of a couple of MBA programmes and I can honestly tell you one of my best MBA students was aged 80! Experience counts for so much.

Ecole des Ponts: There is no age limit at Ecole des Ponts Business School. We even offer a special scholarship scheme for senior professionals. We have many examples of professionals leveraging an MBA or DBA for the last part of their career.

Q: Can applicants visit your campus whenever they want?

Henley: We arrange visits for any eligible student. We also attend loads of events internationally and in the UK. You can see our full schedule of events here.

Westminster: We have a number of online and on-campus information events but you are also welcome to make an appointment and come to visit. We try to ensure these are at times when you can speak with our students and/or alumni.

BBS: You're welcome to come to campus and I'd be happy to speak with you. Likewise, we run many open events throughout the year which you could also join.

Ecole des Ponts: Ecole des Ponts offers the possibility to get personal advisory sessions. Everyone's welcome on campus. What's more, I strongly advise you to attend a trial class before you decide on your school. If you cannot travel to the school, we can put you in touch with participants/alumni for first-hand feedback.

Q: Do you have any networking events throughout the course of the programme?

BBS: We have many opportunities for students to participate in networking events with top employers and multinational companies throughout our MBA programme.

Henley: Absolutely. Students on the course are welcome to enjoy our HenleyAlumni meet-ups in Reading and London (or anywhere in the world, really), and we have sessions between our Full-time MBA students and our Executive MBA students. Additionally, we also have lectures by alumni as part of our events schedule, as well as meetings with alumni who give talks during our Careers experience weeks.

Westminster: We have our MBA Tuesday Club which is specific to the MBA students, faculty, and alumni. At university level we also have Westminster Talks which is typically closely linked to very established MBA alumni. We also encourage networking within the AMBA Community and host AMBA refresher events. Furthermore, on the matter of networking, our school approach is to keep class sizes very small but to mix cohorts of students so that throughout the entire programme they are encouraged to work together on a number of different projects and with organisations we bring in.

Q: Are there any internship opportunities during the MBA?

BBS: We don't offer internships though we do offer four enterprise projects where you have the opportunity to conduct consultancy exercises with national and international companies.

Henley: Since our full-time MBA programme is only 12 months, we don't have a formal internship as part of the programme. However, most of our students do an applied research project for their dissertation where they consult a company to explore a new opportunity or solve a problem. It's a great opportunity for the student to take what they've learned on the course and do a consulting project, as well as gain work experience in the UK. It's also useful when applying for a job at a later stage. We also have an International study visit to our campus in South Africa. It's a great experience where students do a consulting project for an NGO, non-profit or start up as part of their Ethics course.

Ecole des Ponts: Yes, you can do an internship after the 10 months of courses for a duration of five months.

Westminster: We do offer internships and encourage full-time students to participate in these during the summer period after returning from the International Study Trip. We also bring live case studies into modules where you work with clients and of course, we have our consulting skills module which is where you work as a team of consultants. The final project can also be linked to a specific organisation and can be a good opportunity to target an organisation you wish to work for.

Q: What are the typical sectors or industries in which your students get jobs immediately after graduation?

BBS: Our graduates commonly enter jobs in the finance, consultancy, and technology sectors. However, we have alumni across all industry sectors!

Westminster: As we are a generalist MBA which encourages our students to really understand themselves and where they would like to take their careers, there is such a variety of industry sectors represented. There are too many to mention here. To get a flavour it would be best to look at the alumni profiles on our website.

Henley: Our students go into a wide range of industries including healthcare, marketing, IT, telecoms, finance (we have partners with several healthcare, telecom, finance, consulting, and IT multinational companies based in the UK). We also have students go into non-profit and entrepreneurship.

Ecole des Ponts: A typical European MBA is a general management programme. It means that it fits the needs of all types of industries. Of course only internationally accredited MBAs with a top notch reputation will open the doors to senior executive positions

Q: Should candidates hire an MBA admissions consultant for the application process?

BBS: Many of our applicants apply by themselves, but some value the assistance of an agent representative working with the university and managing their application. It's up to you. However, if you were to apply to Birmingham, you'd be welcome to contact me with any questions during the application process.

Westminster: My advice would be to speak with the schools you are interested in directly. Each school will have a different culture and fit for you so don't outsource this to someone else. The key element to narrow your search would be to look for accredited schools where you are assured that the MBA is of good quality.

Henley: Most of our applicants apply directly, but we do have representatives globally that can assist with this process. You can email us directly at mba@henley.ac.uk We'll be able to give feedback on your CV/resume, as well as personalised assistance about the application and interview process.

Ecole des Ponts: We provide personal assistance to each of our candidates.

Q: I have one last question for Ecole des Ponts – what is the cost of living in France and can I work next to doing my studies?

Ecole des Ponts: The cost of living in Paris would be around EUR 1,500 per month. I would also add that it would be quite difficult to work alongside your studies. If needed, we could also help you to finalise your financing mix.

Q: How do you work with students to support them in their job search, especially during the full-time programmes?

BBS: There are a multiple bespoke careers activities taking place across the full-time MBA programme to support the career development of our students, such as one-to-one meetings with our MBA Careers team, networking sessions, company visits, practice interviews, and assessment centre workshops

Henley: The Henley Full-time MBA has a structured personal and professional development component as part of the course. The Careers Centre gives formal and informal professional advice, as well as structured CV/resume reviews, cover letter writing seminars, mock interviews. There are Careers weeks throughout the programme that offer alumni talks, keynote lectures, and careers and internship fairs.

Westminster: We help students in a variety of ways. As we have a large MBA team, we work with our students in a supportive manner on an ongoing basis outside of the modules we teach. We also have specialist MBA careers advisers within our team and we encourage as many links as possible within AMBA careers services. Within the MBA we have a module on Personal and Professional Development which also ensures that the MBA is seen as a programme to help develop your overall career. In this module we bring in other external careers experts to work with the students.

Ecole des Ponts: Our Career department works closely with mentors who are both alumni and career professionals. We encourage our students to move ahead in their careers all throughout their MBA by working with our alumni community and the school's connections. Building a project for their next career move is a long process and it has to be part of the MBA experience from day one until our students find their dream jobs.

Q: A question for Birmingham Business School – how important is the interview in the application process?

BBS: Interviews are not a compulsory part of the admissions process here at Birmingham. If you present a good application with a strong CV/resume that meets our entry criteria and a strong Personal Statement, you stand a good chance of being made an offer. Of course, during the application process you're welcome to contact me directly with any queries. If you'd like to send me your CV/resume I'd be happy to look it over, please email mbaadmissions@contacts.bham.ac.uk

And to be more specific, interviews are conducted by a member of our Careers team over Skype or by telephone.

Q: What is the best way to get the necessary funding needed for an MBA? What is the average student loan interest offered for an MBA?

Ecole des Ponts: It depends on your country of residence. In France, we have a number of very interesting financing schemes, and negotiated bank loans with a 0.9 interest rate.

Henley: The average loan interest rate will depend on the loan financing company in one's home country. If there are loan service providers, loans for higher education will usually be lower than private interest rates.

Westminster: There are a number of ways funds can be raised but also please do consider that many schools do not require the full fee upfront and offer instalments.

BBS: Some of our students obtain loans in their home countries and others finance their studies through a sponsorship with their employer. Others manage to secure a scholarship so it really is different for each student.

Q: Another question directed to Westminster Business School – what is a "must" for getting in your programme?

Westminster: There are two key “musts” for our programme – firstly, relevant managerial experience and secondly, the right attitude. Why are you seeking an MBA and what will you offer to your peers that makes you a valuable person to bring into the classroom? The key thing about MBA classes is that although we formally represent the faculty, we expect our MBA participants to think of themselves as quasi-faculty and not as students. They must never forget that they are the experts in their area of expertise and they must be willing to share this for mutual competitive advantage.

Q: How does the current economic situation in Europe affect MBA education?

Westminster: For as long as I have been involved with MBAs there has always been a discussion about economic or political issues globally. The point is that many believe that the global issues we now face are actually the “new normal” and therefore, preparing yourself to perform in a volatile and uncertain world is something that the MBA should be helping you with.

Ecole des Ponts: Actually, career prospects are quite good for MBA graduates in the European Union. EU companies are massively investing globally and need qualified managers and executives with an international background and an innovative mindset. In addition, in the EU there is professional mobility from one country to the other, which creates many opportunities for managers.

BBS: We cover this in some depth in our interview section on this platform. However, for your information the modules of the Birmingham MBA engage with changes and challenges in the world economy from a variety of perspectives.

Henley: Our faculty integrate all current economic/political/social changes into their course materials. They look at historic issues and try and draw correlations between prior environments and current environments. When it comes to how our graduates fare on the global job market, we have a very good job placement rate. More than 93% of our graduates are employed within three months of graduation, depending on the year.

Q: How big are the MBA classes of the presented schools?

Ecole des Ponts: A typical class in Paris is composed of 30 participants.

BBS: Our full-time MBA cohort this year is composed of 47 students.

Henley: Our Full-time MBA is capped at 40 students, with the ideal class size being between 30 and 35 students to ensure maximum contact time with faculty, staff, the Careers Centre, and for getting to know the other students on the course.

Q: In which month is it advisable to apply for an MBA?

BBS: If you are interested in applying to Birmingham I'd recommend you submit your application by late spring.

Henley: Most schools have rolling application acceptances and also give scholarships on a rolling basis. Sometimes earlier can be better, although the bulk of our applications come in between February and April.

Westminster: We have a rolling recruitment. As we would never expand our classrooms to groups above 25 in one module at the same time, we bring together our full-time and executive cohorts together. If we are at capacity we work with you in the interim to ensure you are prioritised in the next intake (September or January).

Ecole des Ponts: During the winter your application will stand out more effectively. You can also benefit from Early Bird rates in many schools. At Ecole des Ponts, you need to submit your application in early March to benefit from a 10% tuition fee reduction as well as a free study trip to Silicon Valley.

Make use of the rest of our learning tools such as articles, interviews, and videos prepared specifically to help you in choosing your academic path.