Nevelle Bower works in business development for a Mitsubishi company. He’s responsible for international sales for half of the world. Based in Germany, he’s constantly travelling between Asia, North America, and Europe. This week, he’s in Poland.
For Nevelle, pursuing a classroom-based MBA or Executive MBA program was impossible. Instead, he went for Ashridge Executive Education’s Masters in Management (MiM), a 100%-online program for working professionals.
“I can’t imagine being able to do a full-time master’s degree,” he says. “Most of my reading work, research, even the writing of my papers for my online Master’s in Management, was done on airplanes or in airport lounges!
“My son was born in the middle of my master’s final project, but still I was able to fit life around it and complete my studies,” he continues. “That’s only possible because it’s online.”
Ashridge’s online MiM is accredited by online course accreditor EOCCS. There are no exams. Students are assessed by work-based assignments and a final project. The program takes two years to complete, but students can pause the program and do it in stages, rather than committing to completing it all in one go.
Nevelle came late to formal business education, working his way up the ladder of his current organization. When considering post-graduate study, he chose Ashridge’s Masters in Management over the more traditional MBA.
“The MBA felt too structured to me,” Nevelle explains. “I prefer the more psychological approach; trying to understand what management really means.
“Ashridge’s MiM covered many of the typical concepts I would expect to find during an MBA, but it also gave me the option to pick and choose what topics I studied.”
Nevelle focused his studies on the trustworthiness and authenticity of leaders. In his final project, he investigated the challenges faced by managers working in global, cross-cultural environments – exploring concepts directly applicable to his own organization. He completed the program in 2015.
“It helped me to manage people; to understand that people are subjective,” he says. “There’s no app for management. You have to be pluralistic; you have to fit yourself to the situation you’re faced with.
“The MiM gave me the confidence to speak up within the environment I found myself.”
Victoria Mulford (pictured above) started her online Master’s in Management at Ashridge aged just 22. She graduated in 2016, completing the program in three years. Halfway through the program, she got promoted from the graduate scheme at GRUNDFOS Pumps – the world’s largest pump manufacturer - to a full-time role.
“The MiM program fast-tracked me,” she says. “Doing a graduate scheme, you’re seen as very junior. But the MiM projects meant I was working on very high-level things. I got a level of exposure that a normal graduate scheme participant just wouldn’t get.”
“The MiM is pitched at people who need flexibility,” she continues. “It’s very much led by you.
“When I got promoted, my new role was a lot busier so I delayed starting my dissertation project by a few months while I settled into it. With a lot of programs, you wouldn’t get that flexibility.”
One accusation levelled at purely online programs is that they struggle to provide the same networking opportunities and level of interactivity available on a classroom-based course.
“Ashridge’s program makes it impossible for you to level that kind of criticism at it,” says Victoria. “Part of your mark for each module is based on how well you have networked with other individuals in your cohort.
“My classmates were all a lot more senior than I was, and being able to network with them outside of seminars and lectures was very helpful. A normal course wouldn’t give you that same exposure to senior people in the workplace.”
Throughout the MiM, Victoria was able to apply her learnings to her full-time work. She used her final project to explore the restructuring of her company’s sales office. She profiled senior management, explored the influence of new technologies and the psychology of teams.
With such practical benefits, Victoria thinks that, in the future, more and more post-graduate programs will be delivered online.
“Online is about enabling you rather than limiting you,” she says. “You can structure your study around family and work. You can build relationships cross-country.
“I think more businesses will sponsor education when they can see that they get the added value without losing their employees.”
Nevelle agrees: “Many business schools that didn’t have online programs one or two years ago are starting to investigate that avenue,” he says. “From bachelors to doctorates and master’s programs, there’s a clear trend in that direction.”