Yuk-fai Fong, Associate Dean (Taught Postgraduate) and Professor of Management and Strategy at The University of Hong Kong, on why it’s important to look beyond the rankings of MBA programmes
Reasons for doing a master of business administration (MBA) differ from one candidate to another, depending on their profile, experience and background. Given this, you need to find an MBA best-suited to your needs rather than the “best MBA.” Here are some key elements to consider when choosing an MBA programme:
Full-time or part-time
If you are looking for a change in location, industry and function, a full-time MBA is a better fit. Studying full-time allows you to completely immerse yourself in a new environment, which could help maximize learning, facilitate networking and help you benefit from a well-structured career service. Going part-time is a good choice if you don’t want to step out of full- time employment and prefer to continue building your knowledge while enhancing your skills and network in order to get ahead in your career. Most leading programmes offer both full-time and part-time MBAs to suit the needs and aspirations of professionals from all occupations.
The starting point for many candidates, especially full-time students, is location. Knowing where you want to pursue your MBA is crucial because not only would you get knowledge related to the industries thriving in that location, but you would also be able to grow your network and understand the local business environment and culture.
Matching aims and objectives
You should match your reasons for doing an MBA with the expertise, curriculum, faculty and resources of business schools. First, you should evaluate your own reasons for doing an MBA and know what you want to achieve from the programme. This then needs to be measured with the offering of different schools. For example, if your prime objective is enhancing your knowledge in the latest trends in a particular discipline, then curricula need to be evaluated in terms of faculty, subject area expertise, choice of electives and industry interface, etc. Be sure to do your research on the MBA programmes you are considering. It is important to get first-hand information from students, alumni and staff members. It is equally imperative to attend information sessions, admissions talks, webinars and even a school visit to understand and get a better feel about the school and its offerings.
Ranking and reputation
Rankings can be taken as a reference point, but it is important to keep in mind that different rankings follow different methodologies. This makes it good practice to study individual parameters to match your objectives and aims. Most of the rankings provide a breakdown of these parameters and evaluation of schools based on their individual criteria.
As there can be large variation among different rankings, it is important to match your objectives with parameters within the rankings, rather than just look at the overall rank. Instead of concentrating on one ranking, looking at different rankings can provide a more accurate overall picture. An MBA programme that is consistently highly ranked in all major rankings is attractive, as this makes it a consensus-leading programme. Reputations of both the university and the business school are built over a period of time, and hence should be considered along with the MBA ranking, as ranking is one element of a reputation.
A strong alumni network allows graduates and existing students to gain career opportunities, attain knowledge, stay updated on other industries’ latest trends, and give back by helping others. When choosing an MBA programme, you should not only consider the MBA alumni network, but also the wider alumni networks of the business school and the university. A proactive MBA graduate can gain access and benefit from these larger alumni networks. It is also important that after you graduate from the programme, you actively engage with your alumni network and stay updated on business knowledge and trends.
Choosing an MBA programme best for you is only half of a potentially career-changing decision. The other half is how you spend your time in the programme. To maximize the return of investment on an MBA study, set clear goals early on, and work hard towards those goals every day, utilizing all the resources your business school has to offer.