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What Is Studying For A 100% Online MBA Really Like?

The first class graduated from the University of Birmingham’s 100% Online MBA this year. Gayan Sirimanne reveals whether it was worth it


Mon Dec 10 2018

The dust has settled on the first graduating class from the Online MBA at the University of Birmingham after two-and-a-half years of grit, stress, and by the sounds of it, very early mornings.

Gayan Sirimanne (pictured below) graduated earlier this year from the program, and he says that time is of the essence when you’re balancing work, study, and family life.

He chose the program—recognized as being the world’s first AMBA-accredited 100% Online MBA—because of distance learning’s ability to offer students the best opportunity of work-life balance.

He was in full-time employment at the end of 2015—when he began the degree—and that was something he couldn’t give up.

Studying for the degree has already paid dividends. Gayan was a production manager for UTC Aerospace Systems when he started and has worked his way up the company ladder while studying. He was promoted first to the position of group leader for Aero transmissions before becoming a project manager in May 2018—his current role.

It wasn’t without hard work though.

“For a year or so I woke up at 03:30, or 04:00 in the morning,” he says. “My wife was unhappy about that, but I had to do it, it was the commitment I had to make.

“I had to have strict rules with my time management,” he continues. “I had two hours in the morning three days per week, and I aimed to finish everything within that time frame.”

The University of Birmingham’s Online MBA students work together throughout the two-and-a-half years in groups of peers from around the world. There are fortnightly live sessions that connect them with tutors, lecturers, and other groups of students in an interactive, online learning environment.

The sessions are two-and-a-quarter hours long, and discussion takes place between student groups over that time which is purposely designed to be as diverse as possible.

On top of that, students are expected to get through a wealth of reading material between classes. That, says Gayan, was one of the biggest challenges.

“For a year or so I woke up at 03:30, or 04:00 in the morning”

“I think I underestimated a little bit the research aspect of the MBA,” he asserts. “I had to read and understand a lot of literature, and that was one of the challenges, to absorb everything in that little timeframe.”

“I had two weeks in the beginning where I slipped with my studies,” he adds, “but I realized that if I do that over and over, I’m not going to [make] it, so then I made myself targets to hit week after week.”

Gayan explains that the most useful thing he learned, and a major aspect when looking at the return on investment of the Online MBA, is the development of his critical analysis.

He admits a lot of the modules he had covered superficially during his past studies, but the MBA specifically forced him to think in a much deeper, analytical way.

“Everything might have looked simple, but you can dig deeper through critical thinking,” he says.

What that means is that Gayan was able to directly impact his career with deeper analysis and creative thought when overcoming challenges at work.

Particularly when he was completing his dissertation.

He wrote his thesis, he explains, on the company where he was working. It was a real “eye opener”, he adds, and by applying the theoretical frameworks he learned on the Online MBA into practice, he pleasantly discovered a number of things that he previously hadn’t considered.

“I knew a few of the outcomes before the dissertation, but there were some outliers I found that were interesting,” he says. “It was really intense, and interesting.”

Being able to translate knowledge into immediate, tangible success at work is one of the major benefits of online learning. For Gayan, the Online MBA at the University of Birmingham gave him a chance to deep-dive into his company in real-time, seamlessly combining the world of academia and industry. 

As we move towards a world in which employees can seldom afford time away from work, online MBAs will come into their element. 

So, was the Online MBA worth it? 

For Gayan, it seems the answer is 'absolutely'.

Student Reviews

Birmingham Business School - University of Birmingham




On Campus

An amazing experience

Great, knowledgeable faculty with a beautiful campus. Lots of societies and clubs to choose from in accordance with your interest. One can also discover scholarship opportunities here. The course is perfectly designed and the career services at the uni are very helpful




On Campus

The beautiful campus and teaching expertise.

Overall the University of birmingham is just an incredible institution. From the array of expertise teachings and how phenomenal the campus is definitely enhances its beauty and is enriched with the amazing resources and incredible people that are always willing to help and make you feel welcomed everywhere you go. I would 100% recommend the University of Birmingham to be one of the best universities out there and through not only the various courses that they offer but all the social societies definitely adds to the fun and great opportunities that it provides




On Campus

Exceptional Support for international Students

Exceptional Support for International Students As an international student, my experience at the University of Birmingham has been nothing short of extraordinary, thanks to the outstanding support provided for international students. I would like to share my thoughts and experiences regarding the exceptional support I've received during my time here. From the moment I arrived on campus, it was evident that UoB prioritizes the well-being and success of its international students. Here are some key aspects of the support I've received: 1. Orientation Programs: The university's comprehensive orientation programs helped me acclimate to campus life, navigate administrative processes, and understand the academic system. I never felt lost or overwhelmed, thanks to the informative sessions and friendly staff. 2. Academic Advising: The academic advisors for international students are incredibly knowledgeable and approachable. They assisted me in creating a personalized academic plan, selecting courses, and understanding degree requirements. Their guidance ensured that I stayed on the right track academically. 3. Language Support: UoB offers exceptional language support services, including English language courses and conversation partners. These resources were invaluable in improving my language skills and building confidence in my communication abilities. 4. Cultural Integration: The university fosters a diverse and inclusive environment, making it easy for international students to feel like part of the community. There are numerous cultural clubs, events, and workshops that allow us to connect with fellow students and celebrate our diverse backgrounds. 5. Mental Health and Counseling Services: Recognizing the challenges that international students may face, the university provides excellent mental health and counseling services. It's comforting to know that support is available when needed, and these services are respectful of cultural differences. 6. Career Services: UoB offers exceptional career services tailored to international students. From resume workshops to job fairs, they've been instrumental in helping me prepare for my career post-graduation. The university's strong network of alumni has also been a valuable resource. 7. Visa and Immigration Assistance: Navigating the complexities of visa and immigration regulations can be daunting, but the university's dedicated staff provided guidance and assistance throughout the process. Their expertise made the experience seamless. 8. Housing Support: Securing suitable housing can be a challenge for international students, but the university offers assistance in finding on-campus housing options with flexible payments. This support ensured that I had a safe and comfortable place to live. 9. Financial Aid and Scholarships: UoB offers various scholarships and financial aid options for international students. Their commitment to making education accessible is commendable, they also provide financial support for graduation through the guild of students.




On Campus

student experience

I highly recommend the University of Birmingham. I think the school environment is very friendly to international students. I was able to get guidance and help from students in the school. I was also able to get support and guidance from the professional team on my career path. I would recommend the University of Birmingham to first-time international students and Masters students.




On Campus

There is always somebody to help!

The university respects the culture and background of their highly diverse student. It carters to everybody's need and puts its student first. It tries to the make the student feel at home and helps them deal with the university life.




On Campus


I love studying Pharmacy at Birmingham and would absolutely recommend it, especially because of the variety in every aspect of the course. Firstly, the variety of people you meet from all areas around the country, and even countless others from outside the country. Each person has a different background and experiences creating a melting pot of personalities to interact with. Next, the lessons - there are numerous types of lessons we encounter on a weekly basis from lectures to dissections to a computer workshops. Additionally, specific to medical degrees, I have 7 placements annually in hospital, community, and GP pharmacies. The only lack of variety in the pharmacy course is the classrooms since there are limited number we can use and the medical school is separate from the main campus. The only part I don't enjoy about pharmacy is the distances and unreliability of public transport in Birmingham. Living in the vale, the university is a long 25-minute walk away and my closest shop is over 10-20 minutes to walk. Although there are closer accommodations, I really love my flat with its modern decor, large room, and social aspect of the shared kitchen.




On Campus

Experience at University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham has been an outstanding university. They have provided complete support during COVID-19. The university is incredible when accessing support with mental health. I currently study criminology at the university of Birmingham. The course has been brilliant, with constant support from lectures and tutors to ensure that you achieve the best grade possible. I could not recommend University of Birmingham more!




On Campus


Great campus for studying with kind and professional staff and the campus is very well connected to the city center. There were so many people who wanted to enroll in the course that they had to queue for a new course for six months in advance. The classes were always crowded, but the professors never let anyone through. I love this uni




On Campus

A very welcoming uni

This university is regarded as one of the best in the world. They provide a welcoming environment that enhances the lives of the students because each one of them has a sense of community and a desire to study.

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