While MBA programs in the US have experienced falling international applications, schools in Europe are bucking this trend. 63% of MBA programs in Europe saw a rise in international applications in 2018.
And, even with Brexit, the UK is drawing in significant numbers of international students to its business schools too. One school proving a draw for international students is Aston Business School in Birmingham. Of this year’s full-time MBA class, 90% of the cohort are international, with 85% of the cohort coming from outside Europe.
As the second-largest city in the UK, Birmingham has plenty to offer MBA students. Last year, it was named the best city in the UK for entrepreneurs, and for industry professionals, areas such as manufacturing, retail, and the food services industries experienced significant growth between 2016 and 2017.
To hear exactly why international students are choosing Aston for their MBAs, we spoke to three current full-time MBA students at the university about their career journeys and how they came to be at Aston.
A practical approach
Mani Teja Noone started his career in India as a systems engineer, but eventually found himself leaning more towards project management than the technical parts of his IT development role.
Mani initially decided the UK would be the best place to broaden his skill set, and was specifically drawn to the MBA at Aston Business School because of its focus on practical skills.
“Not many MBAs at other business schools get the chance to do marketing strategy for a real startup—we got that opportunity here,” Mani explains. “I realized that many of the other business schools don’t have this direct approach.”
In particular, Aston’s innovative simulations have piqued Mani’s interest. Instead of teaching students modules such as strategy in a traditional way, they take part in online simulations which allow them to practice their business skills first-hand. “It really makes learning interesting and fun,” says Mani.
Already, just six months into the program, Mani is encouraging his friends in India to come to Aston. “When I told them about the simulations we’ve done and the different modules, they were so excited that even they want to apply to Aston now!”
Experiencing cultural diversity
Ling Chi Wu (pictured) has a background as a sales manager in Taiwan and China, and was looking for an MBA to broaden her managerial knowledge.
Though initially, it was the Aston curriculum that attracted her to the school—Ling Chi turned down multiple other offers from UK business schools to attend Aston—the international atmosphere she’s experiencing turned out to be a bonus.
“I’ve been on business trips before to Europe and also the United States, and I definitely like it here better,” Ling Chi says. “Both in Birmingham and on our MBA program, I feel the cultural diversity. It’s really global.”
Jessy was also impressed by Aston’s approach to the process of applying to business school—“the core value of Aston is about human interaction,” she says.
“At the very beginning of the application process I felt like I was highly valued,” Ling Chi adds.
“When I had communication with other schools, it felt like they had many other options, or they just thought I was one of their customers. Aston makes you believe you are the ideal candidate for them.”
Getting the Aston Edge
It’s a similar story for Waranya Chaijaraspong (pictured), from Thailand. She pursued an MBA to broaden her horizons, and give her the necessary tools to develop her career in the finance sector. Waranya received eight offers to UK business schools but chose Aston out of them all. Why?
“The course modules seemed very different than at other business schools in the UK,” Waranya explains. “Aston is focused on real practice combined with academic education.”
Part of this practical experience is Aston’s professional leadership development program, dubbed the ‘Aston Edge’. Since starting six months ago, this has been a stand-out part of the MBA experience for Waranya.
The Aston Edge runs alongside the one-year MBA program at Aston Business School, and offers students workshops, seminars, and a mentoring program aimed at enhancing students’ soft skills for their future careers.
“I’m very impressed with the Aston Edge,” says Waranya. “I got an absolutely amazing mentor—they’re chief data manager for Santander bank.”
Overall, Waranya has experienced the same welcoming atmosphere at Aston as her peers.
“Before I came here I had financial problems,” Waranya recalls. “It almost stopped me from being able to come here, but Aston were very helpful in terms of deadline flexibility.
“I was still in Thailand, but they kept contacting me and helping me in every possible way so that I could get here, and I’m very grateful for that.
“I’m certain that after graduating this course the doors to senior management will open for me."
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