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What Makes an MBA Worth It?

What Makes an MBA Worth It? main image

Sponsored by  Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (UAL)  

When it comes to the MBA, you’d be forgiven for thinking that boosted salary prospects, C-suite level roles and a flourishing network of executive-level contacts are what makes the experience worth it.

But over the last 10 years, social entrepreneurship as both a career path and area of study has skyrocketed in popularity, and as a result, has seen a different kind of MBA emerge – one which champions sustainability, social impact and ethics and encourages pursuing purpose-driven careers.

Championing social impact

Once upon a time, pursuing a career which brought positive change to society meant having to sacrifice some elements of personal success and academic ROI.

But according to a 2018 report, 64 percent of consumers expect brands to drive positive change – demonstrating the importance of bringing together creative practices and business disciplines to help solve society’s most pressing issues.

Now, MBA candidates are wanting more than to better their business knowledge and expertise – they’re seeking the tools to create change, while organizations are also seeking leaders who will incite and create positive social change.

Defying the status quo: MBAs with a mission

In 2016, Central Saint Martins, UAL and Birkbeck, University of London joined forces to create the 18-month part-time Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA.

The MBA was designed with an aim to “provide confidence with knowledge, so that today’s intractable problems, whether health, climate change, interplanetary science, or more societal challenges such as breaking dysfunctional hierarchies can be addressed with creativity and flexible mindsets that can lead to resolutions and better societies,” said Catherine Griffiths, Birkbeck’s Program and Research Development Manager.

In only four years, students from all over the world and various academic backgrounds have graduated from the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA, and have gone on to enjoy highly rewarding careers. Louis and Sammera are two of them – and here are their stories.

Using the MBA to overcome uncertainty and manage new challenges

Whether it’s coming up with a solution for your start-up, or injecting innovation into what is considered a strictly regulated sector, it’s important that future leaders are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to solve complex problems.

This is something which Sammera, Head of Development at the British Asian Trust with over fifteen years’ experience in the non-profit organization sector, hoped to achieve with the MBA.

She said: “Innovation and creativity are central to developing products or services in any leading organization, but in the fast-changing and highly competitive environment in which charities operate, it is essential.”

Sammera knew she didn’t want an MBA that was “too conventional”, and “wanted to bring in a creative angle.” She wanted to be able to customize the program to suit what really mattered to her, and to have the ability to take what she learnt in the classroom and apply it to her day-to-day management tasks and responsibilities.

It’s apparent that where there is space to experiment with innovation and creativity, new and disruptive business models and structures, products, solutions, and perspectives can emerge.

When it comes to the value of the MBA in a crisis, Louis knows all too well the difference it has made to the hospitality startup which he co-owns with his business partner, Matt, in London.

When the United Kingdom went into lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, Louis had just completed his final project for the MBA. He had enrolled on the MBA to enhance his business skillset and knowledge but putting his learning into use so soon to navigate his way through the crisis wasn’t what he expected.

Fortunately, the MBA helped Louis and Matt adapt quickly and make better sense of the situation.

“It feels like we’ve been given a swiss army knife of tools” he explained.

Within days, they had drafted a proposal to ask their bank for help, and it was one of the first to be approved for the government-backed loan scheme. When it comes to the value of social enterprise in the community, this is something which Louis firmly believes should be recognized.

“[The bank] made the decision to support a start-up emerging from its infancy because we’ve got a good story, the financial forecasting looked good and because of our commitment to community value. I think the scale of ambition to refresh the schema of the British pub appealed to them too,” he told us.

“We can sit in classrooms and learn the theory of why social impact is important, but it’s reassuring to see banks and the government valuing the kind of work we do.”

Lead image credit: Marcus Tate

Written by Stephanie Lukins

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopMBA.com and TopUniversities.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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