MBA fees and finances – what is the real cost of an MBA?

By | July 16, 2013
Image courtesy of ddpavumba /

Image courtesy of ddpavumba /

Earlier this month the FT debated the short-term focus of MBA teaching in top management schools and the move towards less emphasis on shareholder value as the only thing that matters.

It struck me that too often MBA students have a very short-term focus when looking at the cost of an MBA and the lifetime return.

Doing an MBA is about investing in your future career – for many of our alumni it pays off in both salary and career progression in the long term.  This is particularly the case for those who have hit a ceiling in their current specialism, sector or company.  Not only does the MBA widen their own horizons but it opens up a much wider breadth of career opportunities.

1. Up-front investment in your career

You should think of your career as a high growth, ambitious business.  In business you identify growth opportunities, put a plan together and raise the finances to deliver the plan. As an individual you need to be clear about how you see your long term career and then make some up-front investment to reach your goals.

2. Mitigating financial risks

Raising finances comes with risks.  For some, getting into significant debt to do their MBA is a risk too far.

Our suggestion for students in the UK?  The Executive MBA allows working professionals to fast track their career and mitigate the financial risk by continuing working full time.  They can pay for their weekend block teaching in interest free instalments.  Typically the UK Executive MBA is completed within two years and four months, so the cost becomes less of an outlay over this period.

Image courtesy of Teerapun /

Image courtesy of Teerapun /

3. The best interest free loan you can find?

In terms of what an MBA can do for your career, it is probably the best interest free loan deal you could possibly get in the current climate!

The UK Executive MBA is now just £17,000 (the same price as a new car, which depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the forecourt).  For those funding themselves, this fee is paid as a £2,000 deposit followed by 20 interest free instalments of £750.  Those who are sponsored by their company pay in two 50% instalments.

You certainly can’t get a car lease deal as good as that!

In fact the website TopMBA says an MBA is not like buying a motor car at all:  “When you buy a car you use it until, if you’re lucky, you can sell it in a few years’ time at a depreciated faction of the amount you paid for it. An MBA is the opposite. It appreciates in value over time.”

4. Further discounts

There are further discounts to be had – paying in full at enrolment gives a 5% discount but if you pay the deposit early enough you can receive a further discount of £500. Although, the deadline has passed for this year, it will be available for 2014/2015.

5. Shift change in career direction

paul millerCompleting an MBA at Bradford University School of Management enabled Paul Miller to change his career path from sales to marketing.

Paul, aged 37, took the UK Executive MBA programme, and is now Marketing Manager for BP lubricants UK and Ireland – managing the marketing mix for brands such as Castrol, Duckams and BP lubricants.

Paul says: “I had reached a ceiling in my sales career and knew trying to switch without an appropriate qualification would probably mean going backwards in career and salary terms.”

“The MBA allowed me to manage a career change into marketing and accelerated my progression through the company with significant financial benefits for me.”

6. The financial equation

So how long does it take to accelerate your career?  Last year, the FT rankings showed that Bradford University School of Management ranked third in the UK for achieving the highest MBA salary increases and tenth in the world for value for money of its programme, against the quality of its teaching. Three years after graduation, Bradford MBA students are paid 110% more than before they took their MBA.

For most students at this rate, they will have recovered their investment in their first year of working.

So how do you evaluate the financial equation of doing an MBA?  How quickly did you get a return on your investment?

About Julian Rawel

Julian Rawel is Director of Executive Education at the School of Management. He has previously held positions of Groups Sales and Marketing Director, Eurocamp plc and Marketing Director, Royal Armouries Museum. Julian has been a non executive director of travel industry bodies ABTA and AITO. He has a BA in Geography from Leicester University and an MSc in Tourism Management from Manchester Metropolitan University. Julian is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a Chartered Marketer.

Specialties:  Consumer and business marketing, Branding, General management, Management development

3 thoughts on “MBA fees and finances – what is the real cost of an MBA?

  1. Martin Haigh

    Very good article Julian and, I agree, education sometimes appears to be expensive at first glance. But, in the longer term the course fees are recouped and the opportunities for promotion (and associated higher salaries) are much greater. I feel that my higher degree helped to open a number of doors as employers see this as a differentiator. Higher education of this type gives you and opportunity to mix with like-minded people and this very network can support you with many business challenges.

    The £17,000 fee has to be looked at in terms of the tangible and intangible benefits that can be realised by joining a HE cohort – just do it!


  2. Gary M Cook

    Very useful Julian and with many parts of the world emerging – it seems – from a deep recession; there is going to be a lot of pent up demand for real management talent.

    The studying of an MBA offers the opportunity to examine many aspects of business and management that when applied appropriately can add some real value to the success of both businesses and organisations.

    The statistics in the article show the real value add of the Bradford MBA, and like the ‘a dog is for life…’ strapline introduced in the UK some years ago, a Bradford MBA is for also for life and a qualification that is to be thoroughly recommended.

    Kind regards

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