The European Master of Business Administration (Euro*MBA) has been rated among the top four program-mes of its kind worldwide. This according to the recent distance-learning education survey carried out by The Economist and published in its special WhichMBA (on 24 February 2010).
The programme is a consortium MBA owned by six leading European universities/business schools, and is based in the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE).
Stuart Dixon, who has been the programme director for 12 years, is understandably enthusiastic. “We actually receive a higher rating than schools ranked in the world top 20. For a small programme like this, it gives us great confidence to know that we can compete with the world’s best.”
With a current student population of 43, the programme is indeed compact. This makes for a close-knit community in which each individual student has a highly personalised experience. “In the last 14 years, I know the name of every single MBA student,” says Dixon.
“They are not only following an MBA, they are also joining a special club of international professionals. We care about them and their education, so we do everything we can to make sure the experience meets their needs.”
And this, in Dixon’s view, is also the reason why the programme has done so well in the ratings. The Euro*MBA came 4th overall, with a rating of “excellent” for programme content and “good” for quality of fellow students and effectiveness of distance-learning elements. But what does this mean?
Rating distance-learning MBAs
The survey is based on student ratings, which for the Euro*MBA are consistently high, and this makes student satisfaction the key to scoring well. It looks at three broad areas, each of which was assigned a percentage score: programme content, student quality and what the survey designers describe as the ‘quality of distance-learning elements’.
The latter category focuses on factors specific to distance-learning programmes, such as didactic effectiveness, the students’ sense of connection with the school and value for money.
The top-rated programme (or programmes: in this case Florida’s Internet MBA and the International Executive MBA offered by the IE Business School in Spain) is given a score of 100% and is then used as a benchmark against which the other schools are rated.
Importantly, the survey covers only those institutions which feature in The Economist’s ranking of the 100 full-time programmes and is therefore not exhaustive.
As both the survey report and Stuart Dixon point out, this makes it a rating and not a ranking, a fact which distinguishes it from other MBA rankings.
The Euro*MBA differs from other SBE MBAs in that it is rated as a distance-learning programme. Alongside its six residential weeks, introductory seminar and thesis, it also offers ten core e-learning business modules.
With its combination of distance and face-to-face learning, making it a “blended learning programme”, it is subject to different criteria from those used in ranking other types of MBA.
For example, career service-related metrics (the percentage of graduates finding work, their salaries, etc.) are not so relevant, and the areas surveyed must necessarily include elements that are specific to distance-learning.
The value of blended learning
Yet, it is its blend of distance and face-to-face learning which seems to have proved particularly successful with the students. “I could feel the passion of team and the group to start an exciting journey. Teambuilding was an occasion for me to fine-tune my relation with peers. Facing challenges together suddenly confronts you with the need to get to know each other in order to overcome adversity,” says Sekou Kaba, a Cluster Deputy Finance Manager in Maersk, Angola, who joined the programme in September 2009.
Eric Holl, a Sourcing Quality Engineer with GE Wind Energy GmbH, Germany, who was part of the September 2007 intake, focuses on efficiency and effectiveness: “I would have to sum up my main learning aspect that I see as most relevant for the managerial perspective as being that of face to face meetings. Having met a person face to face makes group work much more efficient and productive especially for those people that are more introverted. If one would simply work via on-line meetings without prior having met each other the level and quality of work would be significantly lower.”
Interestingly, both testimonials suggest that student satisfaction is built not only on the quality of the knowledge and skills acquired, but also upon the quality of the personal experience and the opportunity this affords for growth at a human level. As Sekou Kaba also says, “Care and Pro activeness will be the words to define Euro*MBA.”
An international outlook
In Dixon’s view, however, it is its international character which makes the programme so special. “We have 43 students at the moment and about 18 different nationalities. I have a French hotel manager living in Malaysia, a Canadian manager for War Child living in Afghanistan, a Guinean petroleum engineer working in Congo, a Portuguese rocket scientist (yes a real rocket scientist), living in Germany, a German bio-physicist working in the US and a Swedish IT manager working in Iran…and so the list goes on. The programme really brings people from all over the planet together. It really is an inspiration.”
The six partner institutions involved in the programme are the Audencia Nantes School of Management, France; the Escuela de Alta Direccion y Administracion in Barcelona, Spain; the Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Germany; the IAE Aix Graduate School of Management in Aix-en-Provence, France; Kozmisky University, Warsaw, Poland; and Maastricht School of Business and Economics in the Netherlands.
All six partners are responsible for running the programme, but the core staff work in Maastricht and are employed by the Euro*MBA Foundation, which is separate from Maastricht University.