Flexibility is the word of the day in the MBA market. And the kinds of programs on offer to MBA candidates have become intertwined.
Whereas MBA programs were once clearly distinguished by full-time, part-time, and online formats, schools are now increasingly combining these elements, providing people who work full-time with a variety of ways to pursue their MBA education.
For Kyle Winchester, a current student on the Kelley-Manchester Global MBA, flexibility was key. With a senior international role at multinational company Ingersoll Rand and three children under six, the program needed to fit both his personal and professional life.
The Kelley-Manchester MBA—a dual degree offered by both Alliance Manchester Business School at The University of Manchester and Kelley School of Business at Indiana University—offers a two-year blended learning program, which combines online learning with three residential sessions in locations around the world.
While half of the learning—including core courses in Strategic Management and Business Planning—is delivered online, students visit Indiana and a choice of Manchester, Dubai, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, and Washington, for residential workshops.
The program can be categorized as a Professional MBA, defined by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) as including aspects of part-time, flexible, executive, and online MBA programs.
A Professional MBA demonstrates your bandwidth
This flexible structure of the Alliance Manchester Business School MBA program was not only useful in facilitating Kyle’s learning—he says that the program’s blended format in itself prepares candidates to stand out from the crowd in job applications.
“Demonstrating you have the bandwidth to perform in a demanding job, whilst studying a challenging MBA curriculum and balancing this all with family life highlights how impressive you are as a candidate,” he explains.
Kyle keeps a disciplined schedule in place to ensure a healthy work-life balance: between 8-to-10pm Monday to Thursday and 1-to-4pm at weekends is when he studies.
“Without this structure I’d miss key aspects of my kids’ life, whether it’s sports games or just reading them a bedtime story,” he says, “And I wouldn’t have time to maintain a strong relationship with my wife.”
In today’s digitalized, global work environment, Kyle says that the skills that students pick up by having to apply themselves in group settings virtually is pivotal.
“Tech can augment in-person interactions very well through video chats, so body language and facial expressions are still crucial,” he affirms.
Networking on international learning trips
While the online courses deliver key digital skills, the program’s in-person elements nurture other skillsets.
When the program launched, the whole cohort travelled to the Kelley campus in Indiana to experience introductory workshops and classes.
Kyle’s class recently returned from a trip to Manchester, and he cites his favorite experience of the MBA so far as a three-day trip to Singapore where he worked in a group to develop and apply a business model to an Asian company.
From the strategic pricing module taught by the Kelley, Kyle says he could directly apply what he was learning on the course in his job back home.
“The passion that Professor of Marketing Rockney Walters brought to the class has really stuck with me,” Kyle recalls. “Outside of coursework, I’ve reached out to him and his insight has benefited business decisions I’ve made in my job.”
Applying your learning to your current role
Students on the Kelley-Manchester MBA experience both British and US-style business and management education and receive an MBA from both institutions, which can benefit professionals working for multinational organizations.
The program involves two applied learning modules: The Simulation Project where candidates learn to think and act like a CEO, and the Live Business Project which gives MBAs the opportunity to pursue an entrepreneurial venture.
This exposure to varied business problems helps students diversify their skillset and have a more rounded view of how a company runs—a clear asset for future employers when they do seek to change role.
Chris Healey, head of MBA recruitment at Alliance Manchester Business School, says professional experience is the key area the school focuses on when recruiting for the program.
“Both the face-to-face and online classes are highly interactive where students not only learn from academics but also from each other. That can only happen when you have students who are working in senior roles, across different industries and functions from around the world,” he explains.
“Students typically have 10-to-15 years of experience on average, but we are seeing less experienced but still very high calibre applicants apply as they question the opportunity cost of full-time MBA programs,” he continues.
Alongside the Kelley-Manchester MBA, Alliance Manchester Business School offers a standalone Full-time MBA and a blended delivery Global Part-time MBA which comes in a 24-month format or 18-month accelerated formats for professionals with at least eight years work experience or specialized backgrounds in finance.
MBA degrees will always be intense, and it’s no mean feat to juggle work, study and family life, but Professional MBAs support candidates on that journey.
Combining online and offline study, Professional MBAs have emerged as a strong option for those in middle management positions who don’t want to take time out of work, but also have an eye to move upwards.