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How An MBA Scholarship Could Advance Your Career In The Nonprofit Sector

The charitable sector needs more MBAs—and Edinburgh Business School is helping make this happen with full tuition MBA scholarships


Thu Apr 18 2019

Nonprofit and for-profit organizations, while different, need to be managed in similar ways.

In March, GoFundMe’s CEO Rob Solomon argued that charities must embrace technology or face extinction. Charity executives, just like the leaders of any big private company, need to make tough decisions and deal with the pace of change.

A good management education can provide the necessary skills to do so, but this can also be expensive, and for many in the charity sector, the barriers to entry are financial.

Edinburgh Business School (EBS) at Heriot-Watt University, however, is breaking down the barriers and ushering in people from non-profit backgrounds who are keen to improve their leadership skills and gain first-class business education.

On top of competitive fees, prospective students can also apply for MBA scholarships. EBS has run a number of scholarship schemes over the years, benefitting students both in and outside the UK, whether they’re studying on one of Heriot-Watt University’s three campuses worldwide or online.

“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to do the MBA”


Jacqueline Cassidy, head of external affairs at the charity Children in Scotland, received a Scottish Silver Scholarship from EBS, which gave 19 outstanding Scottish residents a full tuition MBA scholarship.

Jacqueline (pictured right) excelled on the MBA at Edinburgh Business School, graduating with distinction, and is currently studying a Postgraduate Certificate in Business Research Methods at the School. She says this would not have been possible without the scholarship she was given to pursue her studies, or without the flexibility that the online program format granted her.

“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to do the MBA”, Jacqueline says.

“The programme offered by EBS is also very flexible and I was able to study in my spare time, whilst my kids were busy with after school activities and clubs. It was important that I was able to find time for my studies around busy family and work life.”

Learning key business cornerstones—like macroeconomics, accounting, and financial and business models—helped Jacqueline understand, not only the broader structures she works within, but how she herself works within her role.

“I did an elective around influencing, and that’s quite key to my job,” Jacqueline recalls. “It’s something I do but I wanted to understand how I do it —the MBA provided me with context to my actions, and an understanding of what underpins our behaviors.”

“There’s not enough investment in the charity sector—MBA skills will be invaluable”

Taking this knowledge forward into her career, Jacqueline hopes that it will allow her to take the reins of a bigger charity and play a part in strategic planning.

“In the future, I’d be looking to move into a chief executive role,” she explains. “I think the MBA will be enormously helpful, because what I now have in my toolbox is an understanding of each of the elements that come with a role like that—HR, finance, and business strategy, and the implementation of that.”

Jacqueline says that she would recommend the MBA at Edinburgh Business School—not just to other professionals with backgrounds in charities, but to businesspeople who are looking to pivot their career to make a difference in the world.

“There’s not really enough investment in the charity sector in terms of leadership skills, and we tend to try to work it out as we go along,” she says. “Skills from the MBA will be invaluable in terms of managing an organization, often on a very tight budget, and that’s transferable from the private sector into charities.”

David Kelly, the student and alumni director at Edinburgh Business School, says he’s happy with the progress the school has made in making education available to people who want to make an impact within the charitable sector and beyond.

This focus extends globally. The African Scholarship, one of the business school’s biggest scholarship schemes, saw 250 fully-funded distance learning scholarships awarded over a five-year period.

“The provision of scholarships plays an important role in ensuring opportunities [for education] are made available to individuals and communities who may not otherwise benefit from them,” he says.

Currently EBS is offering scholarships for women, in conjunction with the 30% Club in Dubai and Malaysia, which campaigns for greater representation of women on the boards of FTSE100 boards.

Read more about funding and scholarship opportunities at Edinburgh Business School.