MBA course guide

    What is an MBA?

    Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees are aimed at management professionals with a number of years of experience. Intensive, expensive and demanding, they are designed to create the successful business leaders of the future.

    How long will an MBA take?

    Usually 1 Year to 18 months Full Time or 3-6 years part time. Some Executive MBAs can be as little as 2 years part time.

    How much does it cost?

    Fees for MBA degrees are higher than other Masters qualifications. They vary considerably between institutions. Typically a full time MBA in the UK can cost anything from £10000, rising to over £50000 for an Executive MBA at one of the top business schools.

    Funding your MBA

    Those fortunate enough to have an understanding employer can often secure financial support from them. This may take the form of a grant or an interest free loan towards the cost of course fees.

    In the UK the Association of MBAs offer the NatWest MBA Loan with preferential interest rates (you can borrow up to two-thirds of your gross annual pre-course salary plus course fees). Alternatively, professional and career development loans are offered by a number of UK banks. You’ll need to be under 40 to qualify, and the maximum loan amount is £10,000.

    Most institutions will have a small number of scholarships available, but competition for these will be fierce.

    What is an Executive MBA?

    Often referred to as an EMBA, the Executive MBA is usually aimed at professionals with a higher level of business experience. Typically EMBAs are part time, spread over 2 or 3 years, and allow you to continue your current employment. Some courses offer weekend and weekday course options.

    Course work may involve looking at issues within your own organisation and many EMBA students have the support of their employer. This may include financial backing, low interest loans and/or flexible working.

    What is the Application Fee?

    Many business schools charge potential MBA students an application fee. This is an attempt to reduce the number of speculative applications that they receive from unsuitable candidates, and reduces the risk that any offer of a place will be turned down. The fee is usually between £100 and £200.

    MBA League Tables

    There are a large variety of league tables rating the top business schools. They take into account a number of factors, including admissions criteria, salaries of past graduates and feedback from students who have taken the course. The criteria used vary from one league table to another, and the business schools take these tables very seriously, as do future employers.

    MBA Course Structure

    Your MBA will be a mixture of seminars, tutorials, individual and group project work, case studies and a final dissertation

    What are the Entrance Criteria for an MBA?

    Entrance criteria will vary from one school to another.

    1 – English Language Qualifications

    A high proportion of MBAs are taught in English, and if you are not a native English speaker you will be required to have a good score in one of the internationally recognised English language qualifications. These include IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge CAE and CPE and the new Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic.

    The exact English requirements will depend on the business school and course, but typically range from IELTS 6.0 to IELTS 7.5 (TOEFL 550-625). IELTS is a UK test and is preferred for entrance to Business Schools in Australian, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. TOEFL is run by the Educational Testing Service (who also run the GRE tests) and tends to be preferred by schools in the USA and other countries. In practice either qualification should be sufficient.

    Students who have been educated in English are often able to submit high school English qualifications (eg. IGCSE or O-level) instead of IELTS or TOEFL. Most universities would require the equivalent to a grade C at GCSE level to satisfy these conditions.

    2 - Academic Qualifications

    Admissions criteria will vary depending on which School you apply to. Some will require a degree equivalent to a UK 2(i) or a GPA of 3.3 or above whereas others are open to applicants with a 2(ii) or equivalent or a GPA of 3.0. Qualified membership of certain professional organisations may also be taken into consideration for those without an undergraduate degree. A poor degree grade can be offset by a good result in the GMAT test.


    The Graduate Management Admissions Test is run by the Graduate Management Admissions Council and is recognised by most business schools worldwide. Whilst a good GMAT score is a prerequisite for entry to most USA MBA programmes many European programmes do not require you to have taken the test. The GMAT test is a mixture of multiple choice and essay questions. After you’ve taken the test your score will be valid for five years.

    >> Visit the GMAT web site

    GRE Test

    The GRE test is run by the Educational Testing Service in the USA (they also run the TOEFL English language tests). It is the most widely recognised international test for entry into postgraduate programmes worldwide. In recent years a number of Business Schools have also begun accepting good GRE scores for entry onto their MBA programmes.

    >> Visit the GRE web site.

    Application Tests

    Many Business Schools set their own entrance exam or will request that you submit a piece of work as part of your application. All will require a detailed personal statement

    3 – Professional Experience

    Admission to MBA programmes with no professional experience is possible in exceptional circumstances (e.g. you have extremely good grades and references), but it is unusual. Two or three years experience is usually the minimum and EMBA programmes will often require more. A strong career history and accompanying references can help in gaining admission for those with lower academic qualifications.

    Who Accredits MBAs and Business Schools?

    AACSB – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International

    Based in the USA, AACSB accredits business schools both inside and outside the USA. Visit the AACSB web site.

    AMBA – The Association of MBAs

    Based in the UK, the Association of MBAs accredits MBA programmes both inside and outside the UK. Visit the AMBA web site.

    EQUIS – The European Quality Improvement System

    Run by the European Foundation for Management Development, EQUIS accreditation is sought by Business Schools throughout Europe. Visit the EQUIS web site.

    FIBAA – Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation

    Based in Germany, FIBAA accredits MBA programs in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Visit the FIBAA web site.