How To Choose A Business School

With over 100 different business schools in the UK to choose from, where do you start in narrowing down the field to the one that is best for you? Here are the main factors you should consider:

1. League tables

Postgraduate league tables can indicate a business school's reputation, but can give a very impersonal view.

The Financial Times rankings for business schools is a great place to start, which compares UK business schools with those across the world and also within Europe. The QS Top Universities rankings is also worth a look, too.

These ranking lists usually take into consideration quality of programs, faculty, research, student services and career support. However, you should think about what matters most to you, not everyone else.

Top business schools such as Harvard, Stanford, London and Insead may be the first to come to mind when thinking about good reputation, but if you’re looking for best value for money, you will find in the FT rankings that Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida is ranked number 1.

2. Subject choices

Business has many areas of concentration, and those studying it can choose to pursue business degrees with specialisation on specific areas or more general degrees that tackle majority of them at the fundamental level.

It is important for you to choose a school that has the subjects and majors that will address your goal in going through a business degree.

For example, if you are looking to start a business of your own, you can look for a school that offers a solid foundation of business courses and at the same time allows you to focus on entrepreneurship.

3. Faculty

Ask the tutors about their style of teaching and learning and how they develop and evaluate the course content to ensure it stays relevant, timely, of high quality and innovative.

A good business school will attract highly qualified teachers and researchers from around the world, as proven by the high percentage of international teaching staff in top business schools.

This top talent will have the knowledge and experience to effectively teach aspiring business leaders.

Aside from teaching, a good faculty will also give emphasis on the application of theory to real issues in the business world today.

The experience and connections in the industry possessed by staff will help them in advising students on their careers, connecting them to internships or other professional opportunities.

If you are interested in working in a specific field, sector or industry, you should consider the connections of the faculty and the school to that particular area, as this could give you a head start after graduation.

4. Fees

For all of us finances are a cornerstone of our life, but don’t be put off if your ideal course has higher fees than others; grants and scholarships, specific to postgraduate study are available if you search for them.

If you’re already working, your employer may offer funds to support you to study part time.

If they do, please be aware that some employers require you to remain with them for 1-2 years after you finish your studies so that they can gain benefit from the financial contribution they’ve made to your learning.

5. Career opportunities

Although you may only just have made the decision to start searching for a business school, don’t underestimate the importance of what happens after you’ve passed your course and how the business school supports you with career opportunities.

The staff at these business schools will have lots of in-depth career expertise, so make sure you ask them for advice and guidance, and use their knowledge to help you.

6. Flexibility

Flexibility is important for students who are already working or have other commitments and responsibilities.

If this applies to you, then you should consider business schools that offer programs that require less on-campus time, such as part time courses, or distance learning programs.

For employed prospective students, you can look into whether or not your employer will be willing to sponsor your studies.

There are companies who sponsor their employees’ distance learning, because a flexible program will allow the latter to stay with the employer and directly apply what they learn.

A good business school in this case will allow you to address your need for flexibility while keeping you engaged in your studies and connected to fellow students and teachers.

7. Location

Think about whether you want to study where you took your undergraduate degree, since you will already know the university and will feel comfortable there.

If not, decide if you want to be on campus at a business school or if you would be happier with a distance learning/online business course.

If you want to join a particular university, don't forget to look at how far away it is from where you live - would you rather be somewhere closer to home, or happy to move somewhere far away?

8. Open days

If you can, once you have a shortlist of 3 to 5 business schools, arrange to go and visit the campuses and talk to the tutors who you’ll be working with on you postgraduate course.

Nothing beats face to face discussions and walking round the facilities to help you make up your mind which is the one for you.

Don’t forget to ask to talk to students on your course this year or in the last couple of years to gain their first hand feedback.

If this isn’t possible, it may be worth an online search on both social media and online forums for course alumni, who you can contact via LinkedIn, etc.

9. Vision and leadership

A business school's leadership and administration is also worth looking at.

Leaders of the top business schools in the world are extremely experienced in both business and academia, which helps them to set a vision for their school as part of the business community.

They should have a collective vision that supports and balances the interests of students, faculty and alumni at the school, so make sure you research this aspect when looking at programmes.

10. Social activities and support

It’s not all about study; what’s available for social activities and support? Are there lots of postgraduate students? Is there a vibrant and fun student life?

Choosing a business school may seem like a daunting task but the more time and effort you commit to your research will pay off in finding your ideal course; one that offers you an awesome experience.

Remember that your chosen school should address your personal, professional and academic needs, so make sure it offers everything you are looking for before making an application.

11. Students

Take a look at the students that make up the classes at various business schools - do they contain students from a wide range of countries, backgrounds and perspectives?

It's important to realise that you won't just be learning from your tutors and textbooks, but from your peers too.

This means studying with students from across the globe can enhance your international business knowledge, as well as other valuable skills such as leadership, teamwork.

This will give an idea of whether it is a community and alumni network you would be happy to join.

12. Freedom

The top business schools in the world mimic the business environment by supporting healthy competition, scientific inquiry, critical thinking, innovation and creativity. However, not all business schools are like this, as some have restrictions in place due to government involvement and regulations or bureaucracy.

These restrictions impede the schools’ freedom to adapt to the fast-changing business environment and the community and field that it is a part of, affecting what and how the students learn and what they experience.

13. Rankings

An indicator of a school’s reputation is its ranking in league tables.

Most ranking lists assess:

  • quality of programs
  • faculty
  • research
  • student services and
  • career support.

However, you should think about what matters most to you when it comes to a school’s reputation. Reputable business schools such as those in the UK top 10 might be the first you think of.

However, if you’re looking for personal development while taking your business studies, you will find that in the Economist’s analysis of the top 100 MBA schools, Monash University in Australia is ranked #1 for personal development.

Try to think about all of these factors when choosing a business school, and try to shortlist only those that will address your academic and professional/career goals so you're likely to attend the right one for you.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for a business school course, please see: