As Matthew Bailey celebrated graduation day at Warwick Business School last month he was joined up by his father Les, who walked away with the exact qualification 18 years ago.
Matthew, a sales manager at American multinational conglomerate 3M, had been looking at ways of expanding his career options, and couldn't decide between a distance learning MBA and a Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification
(CIM), until his father came calling.
“It's completely his fault,” says Matthew. “He told me to definitely do an MBA, because it's a much broader qualification. He said CIM is only about marketing, whereas the MBA is the best overall qualification.”
Matthew, who studied Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Bristol for his first degree, says the reputation of the Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA, the world's third best according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, motivated him to put in the hours.
“Doing a Warwick MBA was never going to be easy but that’s part of the reason for choosing Warwick,” he says.
Making time for intensive online learning from his busy schedule was one of the biggest challenges throughout his MBA experience. Matthew squeezed time out of his evenings and weekends to get the coursework done, just like his father did in the early 1990s.
“Having seen how demanding the Distance Learning course was with balancing work and family for my father, I had a good idea of what to expect... but he was a real advocate of the qualification and of Warwick Business School: that, combined with good old fatherly wisdom, reassured me that it was the right option!” he says.
Father Les had a young family to bring up when he was doing his MBA. He was self-employed during at the time, so he had to find work to bring in funds, as well as finding time to do the necessary coursework to get through.
Les, who is now a tutor at Warwick's Distance Learning program, graduated in 1991. His experience was very different to Matthew’s: “Since the program was in its infancy when I did it; no email, no ‘my.wbs’ (an online portal for everyone at Warwick Business School); study groups were generally formed of local people, and we met perhaps once a month.
“Matthew... experienced a ‘virtual’ group: impossible when I did it,” he says.
Also, the growth of international students has been important. “There weren’t really any international students in the early days,” says Les. “Whereas now there is a far greater international mix and a far greater global reach.”
His son agrees: “The international mix is fantastic... [The program] connects people from all different cultures, experiences and backgrounds.”
At more than 20 years old, the Warwick Distance Learning MBA attracts students from 90 countries. Students learn at their own speed and have up to five years to complete the course.
The Bailey family feel the MBA helped them achieve their career ambitions. For Les, it enabled him to add high-level academic thinking to his tool-kit, and led him a director-level role in which he contributes to the strategic direction of companies he works for. Matthew, too, got promoted to a new role as a business development manager at 3M.
Matthew claims he didn’t get any help on assignments from his father, and he managed to beat Les by a few marks.
But would the family like to see a third generation get an MBA from Warwick? Matthew answers with a laugh: “Well, I haven't got any children yet... but getting an MBA from a good business school is increasingly important.
“Maybe one day, you never know,” he says.