UK | TopMBA.com

The UK is a heavyweight in the world of higher education, and one of Europe’s biggest hitters in the world of business. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that its business schools hold a level of international cachet matched by few nations among the world.

The MBA in the UK

While the country’s imminent departure from the European Union has caused a degree of uncertainty in the business world, it seems safe to say the country’s institutions of business education will continue to be esteemed among the world’s best, and that the nation itself will remain a significant business hub in Europe.

An MBA in the UK remains a favorite of prospective MBAs, according to the QS TopMBA.com Applications & Aspirations 2018 report, ranking only behind the US.

While London looms large over the nation’s business landscape, there are plenty of prestigious options across this island nation – all with connections to the myriad opportunities offered by one of only two Alpha ++ global cities (according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network).

The UK is better represented in the QS Global MBA rankings than any other nation in the world bar the US, with 24 UK business schools in the global top 200. Of these, six are included in the global top 50 (the same six all feature in the European top 20).

If you’re considering an MBA in the UK, here are your top options.

London Business School

Founded in 1964, London Business School has long been at the vanguard of European business education. It regularly ranks with the best business schools in the world; the QS Global MBA Rankings 2018, in which it ranks fifth, fit the trend.

The LBS EMBA program, and a joint program it offers in conjunction with Columbia Business School in New York, also feature prominently in the QS Global EMBA Rankings 2017. 

Unusually for a European Business School, the London Business School full-time MBA lasts for two years. After a funding round culminating in 2016, London Business School opened a new state-of-the-art teaching center in the old Marylebone Town Hall, not too far from the main campus in Regent’s Park.

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and one of the oldest in the world outright – and one of the most prestigious. Studying at Saïd gives students the opportunity to associate themselves with this august institution, and of course benefit from the exposure to some of the world’s most intelligent people in a range of disciplines.

As well as the MBA, EMBA, and a range of business and management MSc programs, students have the option of completing a 1+1 program – combining a master’s degree in a range of disciplines with a one-year MBA program.

Imperial College Business School, Imperial College London

Imperial College London is known for being one of the world’s leading STEM universities. It has, however, also offered management science programs for over 60 years in one form or another.

Imperial College Business School as it currently exists was founded in 2003, occupying a prominent position on the campus, reflecting the university’s dedication to business and management. As well as the full-time MBA, the school offers a range of highly-respected MSc programs (including a pioneering business analytics program), an EMBA and a global online program.

The school is known for fostering entrepreneurship, with students from the business school working in conjunction with pioneering scientists from the wider university.

Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

The other half of the UK’s most-famous pairing of universities along with Oxford, the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School offers another option for those looking to study at a business school appended to a preeminent UK university.

Cambridge is known for its entrepreneurial environment, to the extent that the surrounding area has come to be known as the ‘Silicon Fen’. With respect to this, as well as the MBA, EMBA and usual MSc programs, students can study a postgraduate diploma or master’s in entrepreneurship, and a master’s in social innovation. These programs are designed to be taken while candidates are working.

Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University

A postgraduate, technology-focused institution, originally specializing in aeronautical engineering (for which purpose it boasts its own airfield), Cranfield is roughly equidistant from the hubs of London, Cambridge and Oxford.

It’s a highly respected school, which thrives from close industry connections. The school of management is known for its large logistics and supply chain management faculty – the largest, indeed, in Europe. In line with the wider university’s focus, students can opt for MBAs specializing in defense and energy, as well as the general MBA and EMBA programs.

While a number of urban hubs are easily accessible, the schools offers a calmer environment than many other UK schools, an ideal space to explore England’s countryside.

Warwick Business School, University of Warwick

Warwick Business School is in fact not located in picturesque Warwick, but instead in the slightly larger nearby city of Coventry – chosen to be the UK’s next City of Culture, in 2021 – in central England, not too far from the UK’s second city, Birmingham.

The school also boasts a London campus in the Renzo Piano-designed Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe, from which it delivers it EMBA program. The school’s purported goal is to become Europe’s leading university-based business school, a status it hopes to achieve through research, teaching, and industry impact.

Notably, Warwick’s online MBA program ranked second in the world in the 2017 edition of the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings.

The UK is the world’s sixth-biggest economy, with services dominant. Given this, there are a number of potential career paths one might follow if targeting an MBA job in the UK.

Finance jobs in the UK

The most obvious place to start is the City of London and Canary Wharf, London’s two main financial hubs. The City is an essential cog in the UK economy, estimated to contribute £48.1 billion (around US$66.5 billion) – around 3 percent of GVA (gross value added).

Close to 500,000 people work there –  1.5 percent of the UK’s entire workforce, with the best part of 75,000 in Canary Wharf on top of this. It’s predicted that the overall figure will increase by around a third by 2041.

As you might be able to glean from this, finance jobs in the UK are one of the key draws for MBA students. While the process of the UK leaving the European Union following a referendum in 2016 has cast a certain amount of uncertainty over the largely pro-European sector, allowing for all but the most negative outcomes of the ongoing negotiations, London’s status as a financial titan will be hard to erode significantly.

The UK tech sector 

The UK is also a hotbed of tech entrepreneurship, with 589,000 startups founded in 2017 – which is actually a slight drop compared to the year before, when a huge 660,000 companies were founded. The UK government actively encourages entrepreneurship with financing options, tax incentives, and even various forms of guidance.

Would-be entrepreneurs will also find a good deal of support from the nonprofit and private sectors, as well as schools, with the business of fostering entrepreneurship a sector unto itself – with advice, incubators, and investment in healthy supply.   

Again, much of this activity is based around London, with the east end of the city home to a growing tech cluster – with investment coming in from tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook, as well as venture capital investment. The 2017 total was a not inconsiderable £2.99 billion (US$4.14 billion).

London is not alone in this, however. The area around Cambridge, for instance, has come to be known as the Silicon Fen, closely connected with the technology research that occurs at the University of Cambridge. Unlike London’s big names and large-scale ambitions, companies around this area tend to be of a smaller, R&D-led nature (though Microsoft and Amazon do have local bases in the area, and some of the bigger names have been bought by foreign investors). Scaling such companies up might well be an interesting challenge for an ambitious MBA

Beyond these two southern tech outposts, there are a whole host of clusters scattered across the UK – from the large urban centers of Edinburgh and Manchester, to more specific concentrations, such as the videogames industry in Dundee or the e-commerce and SAAS in Belfast.

Other UK MBA job opportunities

As with any other highly developed economy, there are numerous other opportunities for MBAs to find work. The ever-popular professional services sector, for instance, is worth £9 billion (US$12.5 billion).

It’s not just big-name firms either. Though these command the lion’s share of revenues, smaller boutique consulting firms are driving confident growth in the sector, currently at around 5 percent.

A huge number of multinational firms are either headquartered or have a significant presence in the UK. It serves as the European base for a number of companies from North America or Asia. While some have expressed concern or even revealed plans to move to the European mainland as a consequence of Brexit, the UK will remain an important market in its own right, and a potential gateway to Europe.

MBA salaries in the UK

According to the QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2018, UK MBA salary levels are among the highest in the world. MBA employers report average salary levels of US$92,400, supplemented by an extremely healthy bonus of US$30,500 – a figure no doubt elevated by the generous bonuses paid out in the finance sector.

MBA tuition fees in the UK

As is predominantly the case across Europe, the one-year MBA is prevalent in the UK – with the notable exception of London Business School. Opportunity cost is lower as a result, meaning that one can enjoy a return on MBA investment much quicker than they might in the US.

Generally speaking, UK fees are around the same level as you’ll find in other established Western European MBA markets. To attend a top school, it’s likely you’ll be looking at fees somewhere in the range of US$50,000-75,000. There is certainly some scope to shop around if you are looking to save – it should be noted that it’s considerably more expensive to live in London than the rest of the country.

It should also be noted that a weak pound means it’s a potentially advantageous for international students to opt for the UK.

Study visas in the UK

While the UK remains a member of the European Union, students from the EU/EEA/Switzerland are free to study at one of the nation’s schools without a visa.

Other students will require a tier 4 student visa. This will allow you to study in the UK, accompanied by any dependents, for the duration of the study period. You are permitted to work full-time outside of term time, and up to 20 hours a week outside of this.

In order to gain a student visa, you’ll need proof of acceptance into a higher education establishment, that you can financially support yourself for the duration of the study period, and that your English is up to the level required of an MBA.

Post-study work visas in the UK

As above, students from the EU/EEA/Switzerland don’t currently face any restrictions when it comes to taking up a job in the UK. For MBA graduates from nations outside of this area, there are two main ways to gaining authorization to work in the UK.

The main route is the employer-sponsored tier 2 visa, which allows candidates who have been offered a role to remain in the country for a maximum of five years – after which time they must apply for permanent leave to remain if they wish to continue working and living in the UK.

Budding entrepreneurs can also apply for a tier 1 visa to get their business off the ground, which lasts for one year with the possibility of an extension of the same length. This requires endorsement from either the business school or UK Trade and Investment.

UK MBA Scholarships and financing

Individual UK schools offer a range of MBA scholarships to candidates who fulfill certain criteria – be it a certain level of academic achievement, belonging to an underrepresented group, or in possession of certain professional ambitions. 

International students can apply for a loan from Prodigy Finance or Future Finance, and private loans are also available from banks. EU students can also apply for government loans, if they meet certain criteria. You should also research financing options in your own home country.

Life in the UK

Two warnings should be issued to those considering studying in the UK. One, the comparatively high cost of living has been (for now at least) offset by the weak pound. The other, however, will forever be the bane of any visitors from any but the world’s northernmost climes – the cold, wet weather.

Luckily, many other stereotypes don’t persist to the same extent – you can actually eat pretty decent food in most places in the UK these days. You’ll also find cities which are cosmopolitan, diverse and welcoming.

While the UK may not boast the world’s most spectacular scenery, its humble natural beauty – rich in greens due to the damp climate – has no shortage of admirers.

Football (soccer), rugby, cricket and tennis dominate the sporting landscape, while London boasts some of the world’s finest museums, concert venues, and other cultural establishments. There’s plenty of the same to be found outside of the capital too.