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Delivering MBA courses – the case of Warwick Business School

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The Warwick brand

Warwick Business School was recently ranked 10th in Europe for its MBA and is in the top 1 per cent globally. Howard has trebled its turnover, which has risen from 15 million pounds in 2000 to around £40 million in 2008; the building programme is largely being funded from reinvestment of surpluses.

To what can this success be attributed and what is the Warwick brand?

Howard believes that WBS is:

"...highly entrepreneurial, with top quality students and faculty, a great place to study, one of the best campuses with excellent facilities at both the Business School and the University as a whole".

In fact the University of Warwick, in the UK's top ten and just behind Oxford, Cambridge and some of the London colleges, adds great value to the WBS brand. There are strong links with the rest of the campus, with a number of joint programmes: you can combine business studies with German, law, physics, chemistry, computer science, engineering or mathematics. Warwick boasts one of the largest sociology departments in the UK, and the approach to management is very social science oriented.

WBS offers programmes at all levels: as of December 2008, the website quotes current student registration as: "1,410 undergraduates, 170 research students, 957 taught postgraduates, and 2,603 MBA and MPA participants", coming from a total of 143 countries. Howard believes the undergraduate programme to be the best in the country (it is ranked in the top five by The Times Good University Guide).

He also talks enthusiastically about the fact that the WBS doctoral programme is one of the largest in Europe; the profession needs more doctorates if it is to address the threatened shortage of business school faculty. The MBA can be taken full time over 12 months, or executive and modular over two years, or by distance learning. There are also a number of specialist master's degrees.

The School clearly has a strong theoretical foundation and excellent research credentials. But what about the ability to link theory to practice and tackle applied research questions? Howard points to the executive programme which has been developed from a relatively small programme to 10 per cent of the School's turnover, and whose clients have included blue chip companies such as McKinsey, IBM, TNT, Prudential and Network Rail.

"If you are teaching executive programmes on strategic change, you need to be able to understand the problems of the marketplace. I see it as absolutely essential that people are out there, at least for part of their time, confronting the environment they are teaching about," says Howard. Howard also encourages faculty to write, for every academic article, one that has a practical relevance.

The School also boasts very strong advisory, alumni and corporate foundation boards, not to mention the opinions of 25,000 alumni:

"...all of which feed back into the fibre of the School, so we can claim not only to be academically rigorous, but also practically relevant, through our executive education and consulting".