Experiential learning is a key component to any MBA program. Whether it’s in an industry a student intends to work in after graduating, or just a chance to try something new, strong placements are vital for students to maximize their learning experience.
At the core of Lancaster University Management School’s full-time MBA are four practical challenges—a management simulation, a business development challenge for entrepreneurs, and the consultancy challenge and corporate challenge, where MBA students work on live consulting projects for real firms.
This year, Lancaster MBA students are working with three major banks, three project management companies, creative companies like Saatchi & Saatchi, tech firms like Microsoft, and professional services firms like Grant Thornton and PwC.
Mark O’Sullivan, a partner at Grant Thornton, appreciates the added value MBA students can bring to an organization:
“We’re at a critical point in driving our own strategy, and we felt the frameworks and fresh thinking MBA students bring would help us crystalize some of own thoughts,” he explains.
“[The Lancaster MBAs] have been a real joy to work with,” he continues. “They’ve fitted into the team, they’ve been confident, thoughtful, insightful—we really couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Lancaster University has been named University of the Year by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. And the Lancaster MBA’s consulting placements stand out for the variety on offer. Just this summer, Lancaster MBA students travelled to Germany and the US to work with theme park operator Merlin Entertainments.
Paul Rosen, director of treasury control and assurance at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) enjoys the diversity of skills, cultures, and thoughts that MBAs from Lancaster bring. This year is the second time he’s worked with a team of Lancaster MBAs.
“What’s surprised me is how much initiative they have,” he says. “We set them a remit they work through that like any good consulting firm to come up with what they need to do to add value.”
For Christina Liu (pictured right), who completed her corporate challenge with RBS, the placement opportunities on offer were one of main reasons she chose Lancaster for her MBA.
“At RBS, I worked with two other colleagues for the treasury department,” she says. “But it wasn’t about banking; it was about people management. Our topic was risk culture and our task was to identify the status of risk culture within departments. We had to recommend tailor made solutions for the teams to improve their risk awareness.
“We surveyed senior and junior level employees for whole departments and then delivered our assessments to senior staff at RBS. In the end, the project champion’s advice was taken forward.”
The Lancaster MBA’s action-based placements give students a chance to take what they’ve learned in terms of business theory, and put it into practice in a real-world setting.
Such placements involve students performing in-depth work for the organizations, providing value for student and employer alike. And students create relationships that can lead to direct offers of employment.
For Christina, the chance to work in London, where most of the corporate challenges take place, was invaluable.
“Without the corporate challenge, I wouldn’t have had the international work experience that I can draw on now,” she says. “It lasted seven weeks and had a really intense schedule. It was our final course on the MBA. It’s a big final project that allows you to put everything into practice in a real business case.”
While Christina now plans on moving back to Asia, she’s in no doubt that her Lancaster MBA experience has given her the skills she’ll need to be successful wherever she goes.
“The knowledge I’ve gained over the last year has been really valuable,” Christina explains. “I now understand better how to work with people from diverse backgrounds; how to be open-minded and to listen to different points of view.
“I’m now confident I can work across different countries in Asia. This is my main takeaway from the MBA—I’m now more able to leave my comfort zone, think bigger and push myself further,” she continues.
“The MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience—one of the best experiences I’ve had.”
Learn more about the Lancaster MBA’s corporate challenge by watching the video below.