What good is an MBA?


Earlier in the year I met up with some of my MBA year group of 20 years ago.  We were at a weekend event run by Bath University Alumni for graduates from all disciplines some going back many years well beyond our twenty.


We toured the campus looking at all the new facilities, state of the art library, Olympic swimming pool and sports facilities, new arts centre and new Chancellor’s building and impressive lecture theatres.  Bath seems to be number 1 in the country for student experience and it’s not surprising because its set in wonderful grounds above one of the major tourist city attractions in the country.


It was also a chance to catch up on news of what had happened in our personal life and careers since attending the MBA.  Like many people, we hoped that doing a masters degree would lead to career progression and help us find new skills we didn’t have.


We reminisced about the tutors we had had and the projects undertaken.  Two things stuck in our minds the most: the lecturers who really challenged us and secondly the real life projects we carried out as part of our research. One Operations management exercise involved visiting the Sumo Wok restaurant in Bath where we studied Service Templates.  Even now, every time I go into a restaurant, if I get bad service what I learned then comes to mind. The Sumo Wok is no longer in business!


Probably the most beneficial real life task was the entrepreneurial ‘Claverton’ project, where we worked in multi-cultural, mixed nationality teams to come up with a new business idea over the whole academic year.  We had to create a business plan, draw up marketing strategies and present it to an expert panel of external judges who awarded 3i funding to the winners. Just like Dragons’ Den. We spent many sleepless nights either terrified or excited about it.  We all said we’d learnt more about business and group dynamics on that project than everything-else.


So what difference had the MBA made in our lives?  Well, many of us certainly received a hike up the career ladder as a result. Interestingly, even though we aspired to move out of our functional disciplines, at least in the early days, people went back to what they knew, yet with a wider context and vocabulary behind them on which to draw on.  Some students were being funded by their companies to do the degree and therefore had an agreement to go back into that company as part of the deal. Those of us who funded ourselves, were certainly pleased we had invested our MBA money.  Even twenty years ago it was still a major amount of money to find but now when degrees have tripled in price, I think we got off lightly. You have to think of it as an investment and especially for women today with the pay gap still 20% below what their male counterparts are being paid,  I think it’s good to develop yourself.  Even if the skills you pick up are not immediately applicable you never know in future when they might come in. More and more of us are crossing over disciplines and it’s transferrable skills and rounded business knowledge that makes you a valuable prospective employee.

So how have my MBA year group fared over the years?  Well, they are indeed spread all over the world working in many different industries. Banking, NHS, Voluntary Sector, IT, and now more recently we’re proud to say one has become an MP.


Would I recommend anyone doing an MBA?  Yes I certainly would, even if it’s only for the experience of meeting and working with people from other organisations and countries.