What Can an EMBA Do For You? Oxford Saïd Q&A | TopMBA.com

What Can an EMBA Do For You? Oxford Saïd Q&A

By Dawn Bournand

Updated February 16, 2021 Updated February 16, 2021

Oxford SBS
We speak to Kathy Harvey, director of Oxford Saïd’s executive MBA program, to find out the what, how and whys of an executive MBA.

How does an EMBA help expand an executive’s global horizons, and open them to new opportunities?

The Oxford executive MBA has a global outlook which is reflected in both the diversity of the class and the content, design, and delivery of the program. The Oxford EMBA is one of the most international programs in the world as it brings together participants from over 25 nationalities to collaborate, understand cultural complexities, and debate and discuss global issues. EMBA participants have a unique opportunity to understand the challenges and advantages of globalization from a range of cultural perspectives due to their international classmates. They also gain the ability to operate and communicate successfully across different cultures and languages. The global mix of EMBA participants is extended by EMBA alumni network and the wider Oxford Business Alumni Network who operate across the world; this strong international alumni network allows individuals to share insights and make connections.

Oxford Saïd Business School’s community is dedicated to understanding and solving world-scale problems and the EMBA program exemplifies this sentiment. The EMBA program is designed to equip participants with the skills to operate in an international environment, as well as an awareness of the challenges facing business leaders across the world. We have identified several themes that will significantly impact business in the future, such as demographic shifts, increasing global competition, and technological changes, that we purposefully address within the curriculum. We also have a dedicated online problem-solving platform, GOTO (Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford), which allows EMBAs to interact with Oxford Saïd Business School’s wider community and draws on expertise from the University of Oxford. The discussion topic for 2015 is environmental challenges and resource scarcity.

Do you have any specific course content or additional speakers that you bring in to work on the topic of globalization, doing work in a global marketplace, and/or culture sensitivity?

The Oxford executive MBA program incorporates modules taught abroad, one in India covering operations management and another in China that looks at business in emerging markets. There are also optional electives on entrepreneurial finance, delivered in Silicon Valley and an elective on doing business in Africa. The modules and electives draw on the deep expertise and networks of Oxford Saïd Business School faculty in these specific regions and subject matters.

The program also includes a module specifically focusing on the complexity of managing multiple stakeholders in a global environment. This module, called ‘Global Rules of the Game’, acknowledges the importance of managing relationships with governments and regulators as well as competitors and customers. The ‘Global Opportunities and Threats’ initiative, which allows students access to teaching from across the university, focuses on complex global problems such as water management, big data and demographic change. All the modules and electives combine lectures, case studies and insights from local organizations and alumni of the program. They provide an invaluable learning experience in a context that relates directly to the subject matter, as well as allowing participants the opportunity to network and see how different business cultures operate.

Throughout the course we draw on the expertise of globally renowned experts in a wide variety of disciplines, from traditional business school subjects to the humanities and science. We also bring in senior business leaders from a range of international organizations to be guest speakers and to co-teach with practitioners. The exposure to these senior business leaders allows our students to fully comprehend the current and future challenges facing corporations.

Women are having a larger impact on business than ever before and yet we are still a long way away from gender parity.  How can an EMBA help a woman create change in her career while creating a positive impact on her colleagues and business in general?

Global corporations are tackling challenging world-scale problems on a daily basis and it is vital that they utilize the skills and insights women offer in order to be successful now and in the future. Business education helps women progress to more senior levels and helps to address imbalance between men and women at senior levels in business, allowing businesses to operate more effectively and responsibly. Women have the power to be truly transformative at board level and there is growing evidence of the value that they can bring.

An Oxford EMBA program provides women with the access to knowledge, insights, resources, networks and mentoring that enables them to reach senior leadership positions. We work with each participant to build a professional and personal development plan to manage career acceleration up to board level. The EMBA class is diverse both in terms of gender, nationality and professional background, meaning that women learn to communicate effectively across these different groups and benefit from an enhanced global and cultural awareness. The discussion and debate that is traditional on an Oxford University program provides a rich, collaborative learning environment that is often confidence boosting for many women. Oxford Saïd Business School is committed to increasing the numbers of women in business education and we have partnered with the 30% club to raise awareness of the benefits of business education for aspiring women leaders. The first Oxford Executive MBA Scholarship for Women in association with the 30% Club was recently awarded to Arefe Khosravi, a commodity trader at TMT Metals AG.

Ultimately, we want to inspire and enable EMBA participants, whether male or female, to succeed as individuals and as leaders in their desired careers. By developing each participant’s personal and professional skills, the EMBA program equips them with the best skillset for success.

EMBA programs are known for being on the upper end of higher education offerings when it comes to the cost. How can a candidate justify the five to six figure investment to him or herself and to those around (including one’s boss)?

The Oxford executive MBA program is a transformative experience that allows senior managers to stop and take stock, while gaining the knowledge and resilience needed to make a more significant impact within their organization. By learning about themselves as leaders, about the role and responsibilities of corporations, and about the increasingly global and complex environment organizations are operating in, EMBA participants are able to develop new ways of thinking and heightened self-awareness. EMBAs can bring these fresh insights back to their company, along with confidence, thoughtful decision making and global connections. Earlier this year we surveyed EMBA alumni to identify the impact the program has had on their careers, 61% cited the greatest impact coming from the development of their leadership capabilities and self-awareness.

All of the teaching on the Oxford EMBA revolves around real-world situations and challenges which are applicable to the participants’ current positions. EMBAs often use their assignments to analyze issues facing their company and report back their findings and conclusions to the company in order to inform decision making.

Do you have specific EMBA scholarships?

We have three types of specific EMBA scholarships: the Oxford Executive MBA Scholarship for Women in association with the 30% Club, the Alumni Annual Fund Forte Foundation Fellowships for Women and Oxford University Alumni scholarships.

For further information see the funding section of our EMBA site.

Other than scholarships, what other funding opportunities are out there for candidates?

Saïd Business School has partnered with Prodigy Finance to provide affordable loans to EMBA and MBA students to help fund their studies. These loans are funded mainly by the alumni network and are assessed on applicants’ future earning potential, based on the past achievements of similar graduates, to determine loan affordability. The rate of interest varies and is dependent on each individual’s profile. The loan scheme is open to students from over 150 countries and provides a good source of funding for EMBA participants.

What top tip would or do you give to candidates to see if an EMBA is right for them?

An executive MBA is more than the sum of its parts. Take a careful look at the culture and aspirations of the schools you are applying for, and go for something which fits your own ambitions. If you think you can really make a difference to your organization and are looking for the knowledge and confidence to be a leader in your field then you are probably the kind of candidate we are looking for.  The ROI of any good executive MBA is personal and organizational transformation, so seeing this simply as an investment to help you get your next promotion is too simplistic. Ask yourself if you want to make a big step change in your understanding of global business. If you’re sure you are at a crossroads and are intellectually curious and ambitious then an EMBA will serve you well.

Can you suggest a book or two that you find especially significant for today’s executives and potential EMBA students and briefly explain why they are of value?

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries are all good. I also recently read Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone, which is an entertaining rendition of what it’s like to be behind a startup which turns into a worldwide phenomenon.  

This article was originally published in February 2015 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by

Dawn Z Bournand is associate director of the Executive MBA department at QS and handles editorial content for the department which includes serving as editor-in-chief of the QS TopExecutive Guide. Along with two of her QS colleagues, she recently wrote the book, QS TopExecutive Passport - Your essential document for entry into the world of Executive MBAs.  One of her favorite parts of the job is serving as an MBA/EMBA expert on webinars and panels, at conferences and in the media.


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