Managing MBA expectations

Earning an MBA may seem an attractive option to expat partners who want to enhance their CV. But is it still a good idea, now that the value of this degree is increasingly questioned?


Enrolling in an MBA programme used to be synonymous with making a solid investment to boost career and earning power. That was when MBAs were offered by just a few elite institutions and came with access to an exclusive, powerful network, according to an article in Times Higher Education. Nowadays, MBA programmes come in all shapes and sizes, offered by numerous institutions around the world. It surely has made an MBA degree more affordable and attainable for a lot of people, but is it still worth the effort and fees?

Real value

“Yes,” says Fran Johnson of the Alliance Manchester Business School in the Times Higher Education, “if the MBA programme understands the current business climate and is careful to accept only candidates who will be able to gain real value from the experience.” At her school, work experience is a prerequisite for enrolment and the staff work with students to develop strong, practical relationships with businesses, mentors and potential funders. “A business school is only as strong as the opportunities it can provide for its students both within learning and in the wider world after graduation,” she says.

Waste of money

Not everyone agrees: “A degree has value only if the degree is scarce, and the MBA is completely unscarce,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business, in the Financial Times. Nearly 200,000 students in the US alone are awarded master’s degrees in business every year since 2010. Professor Pfeffer believes that the value of a degree is linked to the prestige of an institution rather than what it teaches; unless you go to an elite school – by which he means one ranked in the top 15 worldwide – an MBA is, in his opinion, a waste of money.


However, according to a 2018 survey among MBA applicants, their main reason for applying is not enhancing their professional credentials or a higher salary. They simply want to acquire new information, skills and knowledge (57%). “Many students enroll at second- and third-tier schools to get the business basics that will allow them to lead more productive and fulfilled work lives. They are interested in the actual learning and hope to use it to gain more interesting work that they can feel passionate about. Nothing wrong about that,” concludes John A. Byrne, former editor of Businessweek and Fast Company, on

Photo: VIA agency – Flickr

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