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Executive Education

Marketing your business school

By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A great deal of attention is paid to the tricky business of how aspirant MBAs can identify and then get into the best courses at top business schools.

But there is another side to this, one that is less often remarked on but is equally crucial for the whole process -- how business schools can attract students.

At the sharp end of this equation, business schools have to make sure they have sufficient enrollments each year to pay the wages of their professors, not to mention the host of other bills involved in running such an institution.

Yet even when every place is massively over-subscribed, leading schools still pay great attention to getting their message across to would-be students, making sure that the very best and brightest beat a path to your door.

Much of this marketing is conducted overseas. For example, this week, managers from the UK's highly-rated Manchester Business School have been in Dubai for an information session aimed at business professionals.

Executives can quiz the school's team on their various MBAs, which can now be studied for via distance learning through a center in Dubai, as well as existing bases in Hong Kong and Singapore.

In a different vein, San Francisco State University has taken a novel approach in making its courses more accessible to students -- it has moved its College of Business graduate programs to a new base inside a downtown shopping mall.

As well as shifting existing students out of cramped accommodation on a satellite campus into plush new rooms in a former department store -- "from the VW bus to the Cadillac or Mercedes of classroom space," according to Aaron Anderson, director of the Executive MBA Program -- the new site is more easily accessible.

"The new location is in a vibrant area of town. It is an exciting place that has a lot of visibility," said Gail Whitaker, dean of the College of Extended Learning, which offers classes mostly for mid-career professionals.

"This new location is going to be excellent for people to find us and to get to us to continue their education while living their busy lives."

Newspaper ads

Even a name as revered as Harvard Business School is not above marketing tactics -- the school has just begun a new push for its executive education programs, including a cheeky print campaign.

The ads feature the famous HBS crest or emblem, much like those usually sewn onto a blazer, with various tongue-in-cheek statements such as "Nobody Has Time for This; That's Why They Come" and "On Today's Agenda: Tomorrow."

The school believes it has a lot to shout about.

"Since Harvard Business School established the first executive education programs in the world 60 years ago, we have distinguished ourselves by our strong focus on practice through the case method, the broadened perspective the programs nurture among participants, and the action-oriented lessons that can be put to work immediately," said Professor David Yoffie, chair of executive education at HBS.

The ads began appearing shortly before Christmas in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and the Financial Times.


story.harvard.jpg

Tongue-in-cheek: one of the Harvard advertisements.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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