MIT Sloan vs Imperial: Why I Chose To Study My Executive MBA in the UK | TopMBA.com

MIT Sloan vs Imperial: Why I Chose To Study My Executive MBA in the UK

By Niamh O

Updated February 23, 2021 Updated February 23, 2021

Struggling to decide on where to study? Here's why Angela chose to study an EMBA in the UK:

  • An EMBA program that met her needs
  • Less time spent travelling
  • Career connections

The UK or the US? That’s the million dollar/pound question on the lips of many prospective MBA students on both sides of the Atlantic.

Take a look at any MBA or business school ranking (including ours!) and you’re likely to see US business schools named as the best in the world, but there are still plenty of reasons why a lower-ranked business school in the UK might be a better fit for you — as Angela Duffy knows.

Angela is currently studying an executive MBA at Imperial College Business School, having turned down a spot at MIT Sloan School of Management.

TopMBA spoke with Angela to see why she chose to stay on this side of the pond, how she’s finding the EMBA program, and her hopes for the future.

Angela’s background

Angela has been based in London for 20 years and for the past four years has worked as an independent strategy consultant, contracted by digital agencies, advertising agencies and management consultancies. Prior to that, she was Head of Strategy at a London advertising agency.

She said: “In my career, I’ve led global strategic projects for Unilever, JP Morgan, BASF and Audi. I’ve worked across 12 different industry verticals so that’s definitely helped in deconstructing the numerous case studies!

“My current project is with an American company in the construction sector. I’m leading their route-to-market strategy for the UK – driving a new digital customer experience for both their B2B and B2C audiences.”

Why Imperial?

Swayed by Imperial’s proven track record in digital learning, the Imperial Exec MBA offered Angela the opportunity to take on electives she felt were highly relevant to her current role.

She said: “Imperial has an outstanding reputation as a university – in the top 10 globally.

“I’m an independent strategy consultant and compete for projects against other international consultants, so a world-renowned university was a key factor for me.

“In undertaking an executive MBA – with all the challenges and sacrifices it brings, not to mention the financial commitment, it had to be at a top institution to offset the high opportunity cost.

“The electives offered by Imperial around subjects such as Corporate Innovation, AI and Organizational Change were highly relevant to me as I support clients who wish to establish stronger competitive positions via improved digital customer experiences.”

Imperial’s annual intake is only small, with only 24 candidates selected, something Angela says makes the program quite unlike any other.

She said: “In approaching my final decision, Imperial allowed me to ‘sit in’ for an hour in one of their lectures. I witnessed first-hand the heightened level of interaction on offer in a much smaller setting – it sealed the deal for me!

“All EMBA programs require high participation (every candidate is graded for input in every lecture), but I heard anecdotally that it’s especially intense at Imperial – a curious bunch of executives from different backgrounds who bring their diversity of thinking to the table. It’s great to be exposed to this and it helps to avoid the concentration lulls as it’s fast-paced even in the four-hour lectures.”

Angela says she wanted to become more financially astute to help in her work, and the core finance modules of accounting and corporate finance at Imperial are filling her knowledge gaps.

She said: “This is fundamental in leadership. You’ve got to understand the effect of the strategic choices to the bottom line and get your head around the numbers, and understand it fast.”

Why the UK over the US?

Once Angela completes her EMBA, she says she wants to focus on strategic innovation – which was one of the reasons she contemplated attending MIT. But after speaking to the admissions team, she realized there would be too much traveling for her at present with 30 transatlantic trips over a 20-month period.

She said: “Even though the post-graduation EMBA salary rises quite considerably, the travelling and accommodation costs are an additional financial burden to factor in.”

Looking back, Angela’s not sure how she’d make time for her studies if she was having to travel so often either: “There’s no denying the workload is really quite significant and to undertake it on top of your day job plus maintain some sort of resemblance to family life is an achievement in itself!”

“Also, part of the experience includes hoping to meet future business associates, so location becomes an important factor in maximizing those possibilities.

“Whilst I’m more than happy to travel for work, I need to be based in the UK for the next five years due to family commitments. After that, I’d be open to working in the US on the west coast or anywhere in Asia.”

Was it the right decision?

So far, Angela has been completely vindicated by her decision to choose Imperial. She said: “I’m now halfway through, having just completed my first-year exams. It’s had its challenges of course – our program started last February and in March the UK went into lockdown. This meant lessons switched to online delivery for four months.

“I’m one of the class chairs and we’ve worked through a good number of scenarios and compromises with the college who’ve worked incredibly hard to get us back on campus.

“While some of our lecturers and classmates have not been able to travel since last March, I think we’ve all managed well in dealing with a fair amount of ambiguity along the way.”

Looking ahead

Angela told us any prospective EMBA students hoping to follow in her footsteps should make sure they start the program at the right time for them and leave enough time to be prepared for the start of lessons.

She said: “Only you will be able to judge when that time is; consider your job, boss, team, and a partner or family if that’s an extra dimension. With back-to-back assignments and exam blocks, it really is a bootcamp in terms of tenacity.

“For a practical tip, I would also recommend making your final decision of school at least a month before the program starts.

“With a fair bit of admin still to complete even after signing up, there’s also background reading and math primers if applicable. Once it starts, it picks up pace, so give yourself a few weeks to get everything in order to give yourself the smoothest start.”

This article was originally published in February 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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