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The Warsaw Voice » Other » February 6, 2008
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MBAs in Poland: Is It Worth It?
February 6, 2008   
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The Master of Business Administration (MBA) has long been an internationally recognized managerial qualification. So much so that it appears to be becoming a victim of its own success. The ever growing number of MBA holders is threatening to devalue the qualification.

The MBA is a practical course that places special emphasis on case studies drawn from real world business situations. Students are taught how to conduct difficult trade negotiations, manage teams and resolve problems arising from group conflicts. Teaching is interactive and involves virtual discussion groups, management workshops and video conferences. Strategic computer games are one of the more interesting teaching aids employed. These simulate business environments so that students can put their knowledge to the test and hone their skills at the coal face. Students usually work in small teams to facilitate the sharing of information. Assigned tasks are often carried out under the supervision of experts from multinational companies.

MBA for whom?
The MBA is addressed to university graduates aspiring to the upper echelons of business management. While a bachelor's degree is sufficient in many countries, the minimum academic requirement in Po-land is a master's. Candidates also need at least two years of professional experience and must be able to demonstrate an ambition to manage complex business enterprises. But having the smarts, the experience and the fire in the belly still will not get you there. Some schools conduct psychological tests to assess candidates' interpersonal skills and natural managerial talent.

Proficiency in a foreign language is the next hurdle. If you are considering doing an MBA in Poland then you would be well advised to learn English as most MBA courses in this country are conducted in Polish and English. The exceptions are English-only courses. These include the Canadian Executive MBA at the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) and the Executive MBA Program at the International Management Center at the University of Warsaw (UW). Most schools test candidates' proficiency in foreign languages during the entrance interview but a few hold written examinations. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a mandatory qualification for most MBA programs worldwide. Many schools also require that candidates pass the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). This tests verbal, mathematical and analytical skills and is conducted in English. Only a handful of Poland's top business schools require that candidates sit GMAT. Quite a few business schools are regrettably more interested in the depth of an applicant's pocket than in the depth of his or her knowledge.

At what cost?
An MBA in Poland can set you back anything between zl.15,000 to around zl.70,000. While price and quality are by no means inextricably linked, lower fees usually mean lower standards. This is because fees are most often kept down by having fewer classes and employing fewer experts from Western business schools. Conversely, the best MBA programs are usually the most expensive. Many schools allow fees to be paid in three or four installments. Student loans are another option for the more creditworthy. Polish bank Pekao SA offers special loans to MBA students at some business schools, including the SGH and the Business School of the Warsaw University of Technology (PW). The European Social Fund (EFS) also helps finance postgraduate studies although few MBA programs qualify. Students directed to enroll in MBA courses by their employers are usually reimbursed between 20 and 40 percent of the cost, depending on the size of the firm. Studying abroad is another, albeit costly, alternative as prices can range from tens of thousands of dollars to more than $100,000 at some of the more prestigious schools. Educational support organizations offer grants but their qualification criteria are very strict.

Which program?
Labor market competition has raised the bar for management wannabes. An MBA from a prestigious business school is no guarantee of career success but it does shorten the odds considerably. One thing to bear in mind when choosing an MBA course in Poland is that the Act on Higher Education does not regulate this degree at all. A Polish MBA is therefore not a measurable standard of achievement. This makes it nearly impossible to use standards as a criterion for choosing a course. The only internationally recognized MBAs on offer in Poland are those from foreign business schools working in collaboration with Polish institutes of higher education. Not surprisingly, these are the most sought after although there is still some homework to be done. The credentials of the Polish school and its foreign partner need to be checked. The school organizing the MBA program should be internationally accredited by the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Association of MBAs (AMBA).

Inquiries should also be made about the number of foreign language classes and the participation of foreign teaching staff. The closer the contact with the foreign school, the better. The academic standing and professional experience of the lecturers is another consideration as is the number of classroom hours and the extent to which case studies are used. While a good MBA program has around 600 classroom hours, some schools offer degrees after only 200.

Other things worth finding out about are whether company projects are carried out as part of the program, whether visits to the foreign partner school are provided for, whether a dissertation is required, how long the program has been operating, its ranking and admission criteria. The more reputable schools have highly demanding admission criteria. Finally, it does not hurt to ask whether the program has an alumni association and, if so, how to contact it.

Krzysztof Jendrzejczak

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