Online MBA programs have surged in popularity since the pandemic struck, so how can you choose the right course for your professional needs and personal interests?
Two courses that many consider are the Online MBA at the UK’s Warwick Business School and the iMBA at Gies College of Business of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
UIUC iMBA Vs. Warwick: Online MBA program comparison
Warwick’s Online MBA has been running for 30 years, while the iMBA is a relatively new product to hit the market.
At both schools, students begin with core modules in the nuts and bolts of business and management, and then specialize with electives in a wide array of disciplines.
Although both degrees cover a wide range of business skills, the iMBA emphasizes leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills; Warwick can be said to have an entrepreneurial spirit and focuses on innovation and digital business.
Both schools have invested heavily in high-touch virtual classrooms that replicate, as closely as possible, the campus learning experience. Warwick has built two film studios on campus to create engaging online content. Gies has hired broadcast cameramen to create its virtual lectures and partners with digital learning platform Coursera to deliver its iMBA.
Both MBAs are led entirely by top faculty from the business schools rather than using junior teaching assistants.
A unique aspect to the iMBA is that it is “stackable”: students can take courses online for free and pay to access credits to use towards qualifications, including the full iMBA degree. This enables them to try before they buy. The iMBA itself is far cheaper than Warwick’s course.
That said, Warwick’s online curriculum does not differ from that of its full-time and Executive MBA formats, so online students have to cover the same volume of study, and are marked at the same level as full-time students.
“What I can say is that Warwick really pays enormous attention to the quality of the studies and information you receive,” says current student Ruta Dainyte, a credit risk manager at Jordan International Bank, who is Lithuanian.
“The program organization was flawless, even during the pandemic. The tutors are really helpful, the subjects are presented very interestingly. I can’t recommend it enough.”
Warwick has residential modules too. Online students are required to attend two weeks on campus, either at Warwick or its base at The Shard in London, for lectures and networking events.
“Our program is not just an Online MBA, but a blended, distance learning MBA,” says Pietro Micheli, course director.
UIUC iMBA Vs. Warwick: MBA admissions requirements, selectivity and class profiles
The iMBA has risen rapidly to prominence: it received 3,272 applications in fall 2020, a 75 percent increase on the same period in 2019. It has five intakes throughout the year, in January, March, June, August and October.
Aside from the usual requirements, including a bachelor’s degree, high GPA, managerial experience, and English proficiency, the iMBA is looking for evidence of academic ability, as well as indications of past performance and future potential.
Neither the UIUC iMBA nor the Warwick Distance Learning MBA require applicants to submit a GMAT or GRE (standardized admissions test) score, but applicants can choose to submit them if they’d like to bolster their application.
Warwick has intakes in January and June with multiple application deadlines throughout the year. It is looking for such competencies as strategic thinking, problem solving and creativity, personal impact and leadership with proven results.
Current iMBA student Roberta Haidar Jorge applied to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Rollins Crummer Graduate School of Business along with the Gies school. She was accepted at both Rollins and Gies, but chose the latter because of its cheaper price point.
“It was less than half the cost of other schools in total and gave me an accredited, well-rounded education from prestigious professors,” she says. “It also offered me an opportunity to work with students from all around the world. It is one of the few offered in almost every continent.”
UIUC iMBA Vs. Warwick: Career outcomes
A survey of 2019 iMBA graduates showed that 53 percent had received a promotion, job offer or accepted a new position during the course. Graduates saw their pay increase an average of 20 percent during their studies.
At Warwick, the MBA is ranked number one for career progression in the Financial Times’ Online MBA Ranking 2020. Students have access to career consultations and executive coaching, covering a range of topics from career transition to negotiation skills.
There are many other online resources such as job postings, career management modules, 360-degree online feedback, a CV preparation platform and expert insights from industry speakers.
Ultimately, both courses are good choices. “Business school offers a life-changing experience that positions you to reimagine and then pursue your highest aspirations, both personal and professional,” says Elliott at Gies.
“Ensuring you have a program that can allow you to thrive educationally as well as professionally and personally can only increase your success.”