It’s been said often enough: To get ahead in the world of business, a college education is often no longer enough.
Whether one aspires to be a corporate titan or a successful entrepreneur, the theory and practice acquired from a graduate business degree can spell the difference between success and failure.
However, in a world where time is a luxury—where taking two years off to school for a masters in business administration degree is becoming more and more difficult—the question faced by many MBA aspirants is which program can give them the best “bag for their buck” while allowing them to continue their work.
Enter the United Kingdom’s Bradford University Executive MBA program which recently began its course offerings in Manila, in an effort to give Filipinos more choices in their quest for quality MBA programs.
“We started our first class in January 2012,” says Jonathan Muir, Ph.D who is the school’s director for distance MBA learning. “It’s a relatively new program, but our professors who fly here are very impressed with the quality of the student body.”
And therein lies one of the best selling points of the Bradford MBA program in Manila: Muir—who travels around the world regularly to visit the university’s distance learning partners—says that the learning environment offered by the UK school at its offsite campus in Makati City provides a potent mix of Bradford’s best business professors and some of the brightest middle managers and entrepreneurs in the country today.
“The program seems to be attracting a real quality cohort,” he tells SundayBiz.
But the common impression that a distance learning MBA is a “come one, come all” for anyone who can afford it is the farthest thing from the truth, says Muir, who also teaches marketing as part of the the Bradford curriculum.
For full-time students the cost is between P980,000 and P1.6 million.
“We insist that applicants should have at least three years of relevant experience if they are to join the program,” he says, explaining that, unlike in many traditional classroom-based programs, the Bradford MBA scheme draws as much learning opportunities from its students as much as it gives to them.
“We’re quite choosy [with students],” the professor adds.
And they have the right to be choosy with students, based on the program’s credentials, it seems.
According to the school’s officials, the Bradford executive MBA program is the only one offered in Manila that is listed in the Financial Times’ Top 100 MBA programs.
In addition, it is the only one offered locally that is accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and the European Quality Improvement System Accreditation (Equis). Bradford is also in the final stages of getting itself accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Once completed, Bradford will be one of only 57 MBA schools in the world that hold this trifecta of quality control accreditations—a particular point of pride for the program’s officials.
“That’s only 0.4 percent of all 13,070 business schools that have this accreditation,” Muir says.
Under the university’s distance learning scheme, its international faculty fly to Manila regularly to conduct classes at its campus at the Makati Stock Exchange building along Ayala Ave. in Makati City. In addition, the international faculty is also supported by Filipino professors who bring their local knowledge and experience to the table.
The MBA programs are divided into three stages, namely the core and elective modules, and the management project. Teaching is done in blocks of three days every five to six weeks using a variety of learning and teaching approaches, including lectures, case analyses, group work, and individual and group problem solving research.
One unique aspect of the program that makes it very attractive to busy executives and entrepreneurs is the fact that its classes can be taken online, in the event that the MBA study has to miss class for work reasons.
Muir explains that full online resources are available to students which nearly duplicate the classroom experience, including close monitoring by professors of the students’ progress online.
More importantly, Manila-based students may also choose to take courses at any of Bradford’s partner educational institutions in the UK, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“If you realize that the course you want is not offered here, you can go to wherever it’s offered anywhere in the world and join them just like a regular student,” he explains, adding that the matriculation in Manila guarantees an MBA aspirant access to the entire Bradford system worldwide at no extra cost, except for airfare and accommodation.
So why the sudden interest in the Philippines by an educational institution in the UK?
Muir says executive MBA programs often go to where the market demands them most. And the Philippines is a growing hotbed of economic activity where advanced management education is needed.
He cites the fact that British banking giant HSBC recently predicted that the Philippines would be one of the most dynamic economies in the world over the next few years—including a young population that is approaching the 100-million head count—as the key drivers for Bradford’s decision to start a local program.
“We see the Philippines as a center of education in the region,” he says. “English is a key advantage, and there is a demand for MBA programs here.”
With the Bradford executive MBA program now firmly established in Manila, expect the quality of education (and the competition among MBA schools) to heat up—to the benefit of Filipino business executives.
At present the top three schools in the country—University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University—have MBA programs. The regionally acclaimed Asian Institute of Management also has its Masters in Business Management program and others.