What Makes the UK a Prime MBA Destination?

The UK’s rich traditions in business and finance have made it a top destination for MBA studies.

What Makes the UK a Prime MBA Destination?

What’s the first thing you imagine on hearing the word ‘UK’?  London? Big Ben? Four o’clock tea with the Queen, or with Benedict Cumberbatch? Hamlet? Indeed, the UK has many faces. And one of its most abiding internationally is the silhouette of the Gherkin as the symbol of the City of London, which has been the world’s primary business centre since the 19th century.

Many different businesses gravitate to London, lured by its status as an international strategic hub, and gateway between Europe and America. The British capital is boosted further by the unrivalled status of English as the world's most widely spoken language. All these factors have helped to reinforce the attraction of the UK, and London in particular, as a decades-long primary destination and chart-topper for leaders in business education.

Many UK schools offer top quality, world-renowned MBA programmes. Indeed, UK-based business schools are usually among the top 100 in rankings of respectable business publications such as the Financial Times, the Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek.

According to the latest data from UK-based accreditation agency, the Association of MBAs (AMBA), 43 UK schools have been accredited by the agency. And, as of September 2015, 20 UK-based schools have received a triple accreditation from the most sought-after international accreditations: AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS. According to theFinancial Times Global MBA Ranking for 2016, two UK-based schools are among the first 10 b-schools worldwide – with London Business School (LBS) in third place and University of Cambridge’s Judge School of Business in 10th place.

UK business schools certainly live up to the adage that an MBA at a top business school equates to a costly MBA. LBS’ MBA, which takes 15-21 months, costs 70,800 GBP in 2016. And if you want to go for a shorter, 12-month programme this year, from Oxford or Cambridge, be ready to splash out 50,200 GBP or 49,000 GBP, respectively.

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The high cost is a major concern for many MBA aspirants. And those coming from non-EU countries face additional difficulties such as visa requirements and regulations stipulating they must leave the country within three months of graduation if they are still unemployed.

Fortunately, most MBA graduates don’t have problems landing a job and usually within three months of getting their diploma, especially in the City of London. Hence the high cost of the programme shouldn’t be a concern because, in fact, MBA salaries easily offset the degree’s cost.

And the figures, especially for the most expensive degrees, clearly prove this. According to the latest Financial Times MBA Ranking survey for 2016, 93% of London Business School MBAs graduates found a job three months after graduation and their average weighted salary three years after graduation was 154,150 USD. Eighty-two percent of graduates from the University of Oxford’s Said Business School found a post within three months of graduating and their average weighted salary three years later was 136,959 USD. Figures also show that 89% of students from the University of Cambridge Judge Business School found a job three months after graduation and their average weighted salary three years later was 156,323 USD.

Is a top school the only choice?

But does acquiring an MBA diploma in the UK have to be so expensive?  The good news is that it’s not only LBS, Oxford or Cambridge where you can get an MBA.

Many small and private colleges, especially around London, offer low-cost MBA programmes to international students, a high number of which have university-affiliated MBA degree programmes. Tuition fees at these schools are 10,000 - 15,000 GBP on average. The programmes are cheaper and shorter, around 12 - 18 months; students can work up to 20 hours per week during their studies to support themselves; and the MBA is obtained in globally respected universities. The list of b-schools offering relatively inexpensive MBAs include Anglia Ruskin University, University of East London, Coventry University, Leeds Beckett University and many others.

An MBA course from one of the above schools is affordable and a good choice, particularly because of their proximity to London. Why is being in, or near, London so important? Because the city is unique. London is a cosmopolitan, multicultural city where people and businesses from different nationalities, regions, religions and cultures all converge. LBS expresses it well: “London is a cultural and financial hub, with 99% of the Earth’s business activity. Every leading financial institution on the planet is there, as are a third of the world’s largest companies, and a quarter of businesses based there are foreign-owned. The city is a shining beacon for the creative, technology, media and telecoms industries where new, flexible organisations can make an immediate impact.” London motivates, entertains and surprises. It has culture old and new, sport, nightlife, exciting cuisine, festivals and parks. On every level, London delivers.


It would be remiss, however, to disregard the implications of the British public’s decision to leave the EU in what is now known as Brexit, especially since London voted to remain. The consequences of the referendum will be felt for months, even years, and many may be wary of committing to the UK, especially EU passport-holders.

Check out: Will Brexit Undermine a Top MBA Market?

For everyone else, it’s business as usual, and the old rules still apply. In the short term, education in the UK will become more accessible in the wake of Sterling’s devaluation. As long as Britain’s currency is weaker, tuition fees for non-British students will be lower. However, nothing is certain in the medium or long-term. When and how will Sterling rebound? Will tuition fees be adjusted to make up for the weak currency? And what will happen once the Pound stabilises, and the UK leaves the EU? Will students from the EU who had previously been considered “home” applicants, now have to pay higher tuition fees, just like students from outside the EU? At least the last question has a sensible answer. Unlike universities which offer classic Masters degrees, business schools do not differentiate between “home” and “away” students. This means that tuition fees are the same for British, EU and non-EU students. That should at least offer some short-term consolation.

The value of a UK MBA

But back to London. Of course, the capital is important, but the City of London is even more so. The City, which many future business professionals aspire to work in, has been an international primary business centre for centuries, attracting corporations worldwide. Seventy-five percent of the top 500 global companies are based there; 100% of leading financial institutions and 264 foreign banks have offices there; 1,000+ tech start-ups are formed every month and it represents 37% of the global foreign exchange market and 80% of the world’s metal trading.

Naturally, professionals with top-quality education have always been prized. The list of recruiters on the hunt for MBAs in the City of London is very long. It includes companies from various business sectors, ranging from banking, accounting and financial services, through to hedge funds and private equity, investment services and all type of consultancies. To name a few – HSBC, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Co, British American Tobacco, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deutsche Bank, etc.

An MBA from a UK school isn’t only the key to a career in the City, of course. An MBA from a UK school opens doors to a career worldwide, especially within businesses with a global outreach and international exposure, whether Silicon Valley start-ups or other businesses striving for fast growth. Ranked highly for its quality, due to the strong traditions in the British business education sector, a UK-based MBA is a “game changer”. The success rate of British MBA graduates over the decades testifies to that.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “The British Legacy”. An online version of the Guide is available here.

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