Published: 29th May 2019
MBA for the win: Why University of Essex' constantly 'updated' programme is awesome
Prof Nicolas Forsans talks about the MBA programme at UoE and what criteria the students must satisfy in order to pursue it
You've got two choices after you graduate - plan for higher studies or look for a job. Now, many students in India prefer to get jobs soon after their graduation and a few years later, look to go abroad and pursue an MBA degree. If you are one of those students, then the University of Essex (UoE) might just be the perfect place for you. This UK university's one-year programme is for applicants who have at least three years of experience in the industry.
UoE's MBA Director, Prof Nicolas Forsans explains, "We are one of the very few universities who support our students' entrepreneurial inclinations. The university also has the privilege of a UK visa pilot scheme that was launched last year by the UK immigration department. It'll now be easier and faster for students to get a visa if they apply to the University of Essex. They need not submit financial proof documents to the immigration department. Instead, we check their financial documents and issue a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to the students. The government trusts us to do this check and they further issue a visa." Excerpts from the interview:
Are there any particular undergraduate programmes which students have to pursue in order to take up the MBA programme in UoE?
We look for people who have a minimum of three years of work experience in an industry, whether its engineering or non-engineering. We don't look for any particular undergraduate degree. Even a BTech or a BA graduate can take up an MBA course at the University of Essex. We take in students with all types of degrees. Our job is to make sure that the MBA degree they pursue is helpful in shaping their career. For example, if an engineering student pursues an MBA degree, then it will be easy for them to start their own business. They will learn management skills for their business and the kind of money required to invest in any particular sector. Usually, our students are aged 27 to 45 years old.
What is the event 'Shark Tank' about?
Shark Tank is a first-of-its-kind programme in India. It the most innovative way to offer scholarships to people who are interested in entrepreneurship and management studies, but lack the tools, skills and methods required to follow. At UoE, they learn the skills and techniques needed to convert an idea into a real business. The students who take part in Shark Tank pitch their business ideas to us. Meanwhile, our panel analyses if the idea is feasible, viable and sustainable and subsequently, offers a scholarship. Our panel includes two people from the administrative section, one from our teaching faculty and a representative from Leverage, an EdTech company. When the panel assesses these ideas, the best one will get a 100 per cent scholarship and the second best will get a 50 per cent scholarship. The criteria that we look for in ideas is feasibility, sustainability, innovation and impact on the society and the target market. I think that there is no better way than Shark Tank to create business models of tomorrow. Hence, we provide scholarships, so that they build on their skills and take their business ideas to the market.
As an expert on Brexit, what difference do you find between today's situation and the time when it was imposed? There have been complications when it comes to students going to the UK for studies or even settling there for a job.
I think there are a lot of changes that are likely to happen soon as the prime minister is going to resign. The next milestone for the UK is probably by October 2019. Brexit is a good thing for Indian students who want to come to the UK. For instance, I am from France but I am an EU national. I've never had to apply for a visa. I am free to live and work wherever I want to. But Indians can't do this as they are not EU nationals. But If Brexit happens, then only a few EU nationals or possibly none of them will be allowed in the UK. But there will still be a huge demand for skills like engineering and medical from foreign countries. Students or job applicants will be treated in a positive way because they have the skills. Brexit is probably a good thing for students.
What is the importance of an online MBA programme and how much value does it have when getting a job?
An online MBA is meant for a different category of people in the market. Those who wish to do an online MBA get a duration of five years to complete it. Most of the students who choose online MBA courses are from South Africa and South East Asia. Usually, people who don't look for any job profile but do it for their personal satisfaction or development take up these online programmes. There are some advantages because the person need not move to another country and they can manage their finances without quitting their job. Online classes are conducted twice a month.
How do you keep your MBA courses up to date?
Every year, we review and update our curriculum. This year, we will be launching an MBA in Data Analytics. Data is empowering a lot of start-ups now. We have got another course related to MBA in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Business Models. It deals with all kinds of business models and innovation required in the market. We also teach them how to empower the business through technology.
While two students will be offered 100 per cent scholarship of up to Rs 18 lakh, 50 per cent scholarship is up to Rs 9 lakh. Other scholarships include Rs 2.7 lakh and a waiver of tuition fees
What kind of support do you provide budding entrepreneurs after they finish an MBA?
Unlike other conventional colleges that ask students to submit a dissertation after the completion of their degree, we ask them to submit a business plan. If the idea is worth investing in, then they can take support from the university. We help them convert their Tier IV student visa into a Tier I entrepreneurship visa. With this, they can continue to stay and establish their business in the UK. On campus, we have an Innovation Centre where they can establish their start-ups or business. They will have access to all the technology required for their work.
Do you believe that Indian start-ups should get investments from foreign countries?
Yes, The investment from foreign countries depends on the type of start-up and target audience. Apart from this, the money that is coming in should not be suspected by the countries. It also depends on the policies of each country to attract funds from foreign countries. The policies should be flexible and that's the direction in which two countries can work in confidence with each other.
Why do you think students should take up the one-year MBA programme instead of the regular two-year programme?
I feel that the demand for a one-year MBA programme has grown recently. Most of them have families to support and they can start working after the 12-month course. When it comes to curriculum, there will be a lot of work for students in 12 months including the classes, group work and projects which they have to complete. Most of the master degree courses in the United Kingdom are for one year.
What is the craze for MBA like in other countries when compared to India?
While India is a bigger market, where we see a huge number of students taking up an MBA, it is the same with countries like Europe, Latin America and Gulf countries. And the craze will continue to remain the same. It is because industries require their employees to upgrade their skills for new types of jobs. Hence, ours is a tailor-made MBA for such people who work and when they want to upgrade their skills, they can come back and study at UoE. This helps them update knowledge and skills that are relevant in a drastically changing world.
What is the male to female ratio of students pursuing MBA in UoE?
I have observed that a majority of MBA programmes or even the start-up culture in India is male-dominated. It is exactly the opposite in UoE. The ratio of female to male is 50:50. Most of our competitors in the UK also don't have this ratio. Women are more interested in setting up start-ups that are sustainable. I think it is in their DNA and it is good to see Indian women coming abroad for studies. That's a sign of development and women empowerment.