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Your MBA – it’s not just classroom learning

Five ways that Cambridge MBA students are as much ‘on the road’ as in the classroom.

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When Cambridge Judge Business School launched its MBA programme 25 years ago, the aim was a course that could deliver practical experience as effectively as classroom theory. But even its most innovative founders could not have predicted just how broad the learning experience of the one-year programme has become.

“Of course, theory underpins everything our students do,” says programme Director Dr Jane Davies. “But it’s the application of theory in the workplace that makes you an effective business leader and sought after by top employers. The live projects and company interactions offered to Cambridge MBAs give them the opportunity to link the theory with relevant, real-life practice, as they progress through the programme.”

So while Cambridge Judge Business School and the wider University of Cambridge offers such a rich environment for study, Cambridge MBA students also spend their time making the most of the School’s close links with Silicon Fen and world-leading organisations across the globe.

  1. The Cambridge Venture Project (CVP)
    Cambridge’s unique position at the heart of Silicon Fen, with its extraordinary number of innovative businesses, gives Cambridge MBA students their first opportunity to collaborate on a project. A team of five students work with a Cambridge-based business, addressing a particular market need. The input from Cambridge students is widely welcomed within the local business community and gives the students an opportunity to get a close-up view of life in a tech firm.”This project takes place in the first term – students haven’t got to know each other very well yet,” says Cuthbert. “It gives them a chance to work with local businesses but crucially you’re made to work together with people you don’t know in a completely unfamiliar industry. It’s rooted in the Management Praxis course we offer, and intends to give students an opportunity to develop and improve team working skills. Students may not know about the industry but we attach a mentor so they can make the connections, start to network and join the dots.And Cambridge is home to such a variety of businesses, from start-ups to global leaders, that CVP opportunities could arise in any field. Says Cuthbert: “Our students work with companies – with rather than for – in the airship industry, gaming companies, niche medical organisations, or cell development for example. This range is unique to our setting.”
  2. The Global Consulting Project (GCP)
    Consistently named by alumni as the best learning experience of the whole MBA programme, the Cambridge GCP is the envy of MBA students across the world. A team of four or five students are invited by a host organisation – which could be anywhere in the world – to tackle a key issue; the group spends a month within the company researching and gathering data before making recommendations.”The students apply their classroom knowledge to a real-life, genuine business problem and the organisation gets that problem addressed by some of the brightest, most innovative minds we have gathered in our MBA class,” says CJBS Head of Business Development Sadia Cuthbert. “So many organisations want to host our students – public sector, private sector, not-for-profit – all over the world. Our MBAs have done projects in Australia, Brazil, China, Russia – this year one group went to Burma and another to Costa Rica. It also offers students the chance to work within their chosen fields, and within their chosen peer teams. Some of our students have a very clear idea of what they want to do and even source their own projects.”The work could be strategic reviews or researching and analysing investment opportunities, benchmarking, routes to market, advertising, or alliances. It’s another chance for students to work in teams and to learn if a particular industry is for them.”
  3. Concentrations
    This is where students get to create their own bespoke MBA experience – focused around exactly what is relevant to them. In the summer term students are able to take a broad range of additional specialist courses, led by faculty of CJBS, experts from the wider University of Cambridge or the business world. The variety of concentrations, each with its own associated elective courses, include choices such as entrepreneurship, finance, health strategies and energy as well as strategy and marketing.Many of these offer experience outside the classroom that is rather more involved than just a visit. “Our Lean Six Sigma study this year saw students spending a week at Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital, collecting data and studying processes,” says Davies. “They can then feed back any recommendations. Many such organisations are extremely supportive of our students and in this case, planned specific research they wished them to carry out on the hospital’s behalf.”
  4. Internships
    Many Cambridge MBAs choose to spend July and August of their MBA year in an internship. Companies routinely offering such work experience to Cambridge Judge students include Google, Amazon and financial organisations including Credit Suisse and the Asian Development Bank.”This serves several purposes,” says Cuthbert. “It can give a student outstanding experience for his or her CV, especially within a particular field of interest. In some cases the company is looking for an intern to do a very specific job, which is also of value to the student and the organisation. And if students are interested in a particular type of work, they can reach out to specific companies and ask for internships. Inevitably these internships often lead to more than a temporary mutual arrangement – many of our students’ internships have resulted directly in offers of employment.”
  5. Company visits
    Cambridge MBA faculty take the opportunity to wrap live cases and company visits into courses wherever possible, so students can see the practical application of the theories they are learning in the classroom. The Operations Management course is a great example. “We typically take our students to two sites where they can observe the operation, look at the performance and marry up the two,” says Davies. “The first is typically a small retail operation such as a busy Post Office counter service which, while despite its size is a very busy and complex operation covering numerous transactions. The students can see what’s happening, define what they see and later in the classroom think about whether there are opportunities to improve it. Later in the year we visit a much larger operation – this year the class visited a car plant at Jaguar Land Rover. Again, there are many different operational practices in play, including manufacturing and construction, which all fit together.” It’s reasonable, says Davies, to assume most of the students will not end up working in operations – “and they almost certainly will not work in a post office or at a car plant” – but the business lessons learned here are invaluable.

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