Following the June 2016 EU referendum vote, the potential implications of Brexit sent shockwaves across business school campuses in the UK. Some b-schools expressed concern that Brexit would detract foreign students from Britain’s shores.
But when Christian Giusti decided to leave his native Italy to pursue a full-time MBA at the UK’s Lancaster University Management School last year, the issue of Brexit hardly came up.
Christian, from Modena in northern Italy, first came to Lancaster University as an undergrad and chose to return for the MBA’s small, diverse class, its global reputation for strategy—the Lancaster MBA is ranked first in the world for corporate strategy by the Financial Times—and its unique, European flavor.
The Lancaster MBA, Christian notes, is not just a UK-based MBA program; it’s a European MBA program. Lancaster has close links with European exchange partners like EMLYON Business School in France, Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen, and Germany’s WHU: Otto Beisheim School of Management.
The Lancaster MBA’s International Business in Context module takes students on a week-long visit to Prague—retaining close links to Europe despite the political climate in the UK.
“When I started thinking about doing an MBA, I knew exactly where I wanted to go,” says Christian. “A UK MBA is one of the most highly-respected qualifications in the world. Especially in Italy, it’s very valued by employers. For me, it was a straightforward decision,” he continues.
“To be honest, my decision was not affected by Brexit at all. Quite the contrary, studying my MBA in the UK during this period of Brexit negotiations, makes it even more interesting. I’ll look back in a few years and say, ‘I was there!’”
Christian’s already made an impact, serving as the MBA director of alumni relations and winning last year’s award for best corporate strategy—he credits his favorite professor, strategic management lecturer Dr. Martin Friesl.
In April, he’ll visit Prague with the MBA class, focusing on an emerging EU economy and meeting local experts like Christoph Israng, German Ambassador for the Czech Republic, and himself a Lancaster MBA alum.
In May, Christian will go on exchange to WHU in Germany to experience mainland European business education first-hand. He wants to return to Italy after graduation and enter a leadership role at a global Italian SME in the automotive or manufacturing space. His aim: to be a CEO in the next five years.
“Coming from Italy, having an MBA from the UK, but also having completed a foreign exchange in Germany—that’s going to add quite a bit to my CV and experience,” he says.
Julien Donadio, a recent Lancaster University Management School grad who’s now studying financial risk management after a post-MBA internship at HSBC, completed his European exchange at WHU in 2017.
A French former entrepreneur who started his own company aged 21, Julien chose the Lancaster MBA to make the transition into a corporate finance role. He targeted the exchange at WHU in Germany—where he visited the European Central Bank—with that goal in mind. “It gave me a different perspective,” he says.
Julien joined Lancaster in September 2016, three months after the Brexit vote—his place was confirmed long beforehand. Even if he’d known the referendum outcome, he says, he’d still have applied to the same school.
“Brexit doesn’t change much,” he says. “The UK is still very attractive. There’s more of an entrepreneurial mindset here than in France or Germany.”
The UK far outstrips its European neighbors in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report—Doing Business 2018—placing seventh globally compared to Germany in 20th and France in 31st.
For Lancaster though, Europe isn’t limited to Germany and France. Julien, who worked in real estate in Eastern Europe prior to his MBA, felt that same entrepreneurial mindset on his trip to Prague last year.
“In Eastern Europe, it’s a different way of doing business—people do things much more intuitively,” he says. “That’s why you can take what you learn from the Lancaster MBA and have a real competitive advantage in these countries.
“What I learned the most from the Lancaster MBA was how to collaborate with different people,” he continues. “It changed my life totally. Now, I just think in a different way.”
20 different nationalities—UK students, EU students, and internationals—are represented in this year’s Lancaster MBA class, with students working together on projects throughout the year.
Originally from the Philippines, Peter Magpantay moved to Europe when he was 10 years old. After relocating from Germany to the UK with his wife and three young children, he chose the Lancaster MBA with the aim of switching into a strategy role at a big-name corporation. He’s considering applying for jobs at management consulting firms like Accenture, Capgemini, and Deloitte.
For Peter, who worked for Intel Corporation before business school, an MBA was always in his career plan. “I always wanted to study in the UK,” he says. “It’s a bridge between the US, Western Europe, and the East.
“Brexit didn’t bother me,” he continues. “It isn’t going to affect the top-ranked UK universities like Lancaster.”
The Lancaster MBA program extends beyond the realms of Europe too, attracting international students from emerging economies in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. For Christian, this provides an added opportunity for Lancaster MBA students from the EU.
“It seems a paradox, but the Lancaster MBA is good for EU students because a majority of students still come from outside,” he says. “If you want to mix with a different cultures and backgrounds, Lancaster is the place to be.”