How to get sponsorship for your executive MBA

Some are turning to new sources of finance, like crowdfunding, to help them through their EMBA

Your employer may offer more than just monetary support.

Over the last few years, many have found it difficult to find corporate sponsorship for their Executive MBA (EMBA). In 2007, 34 per cent of students received full financial sponsorship from their employer (according to the EMBA Council), but by 2011, that figure had dropped to 27 per cent.
Some of this was undoubtedly down to the financial crisis: Brett Hunter, senior manager for recruitment and admissions for EMBA programmes at London Business School, says that company support fell away to some extent in 2008, but that this didn’t correlate with the number of applications. “That is an indication that people are willing to invest in their development themselves, [but] we are now seeing levels of company sponsorship back on the rise.”
Yet even if the benefits of an EMBA can be substantial – from immediately applicable new skills to greater strategic vision – the cost is also high. The top-ranked Trium EMBA programme, for example, costs $165,900. So what’s the best way to go about getting your employer on board, or find alternatives if that isn’t an option?

THE ART OF PERSUASION

If you’re seeking this funding from your employer, says Sarah Finch, admissions manager at Cass Business School, it is imperative to “sow the seed early”. This is particularly crucial in larger organisations, she says, where decisions can take longer. And in the modern working environment, it may be worth really planning far in advance: “if you’re starting a new job, this is often a good opportunity to negotiate an MBA as part of the package,” she adds.
But ultimately, securing sponsorship comes down to the ability of the prospective student to sell the benefits of an EMBA to their employer. “Employers aren’t typically interested in gifting top tier programmes to their employees,” says Hunter. It’s important, he says, that an applicant focuses on what their employer’s return on investment will be when starting the conversation on financial support.
A business proposal will give your pitch structure, while also demonstrating that you’re serious about your personal development – and how that fits in with your organisation’s aims, he says. “Consider your employer’s goals, the compatibility with your role, and where you might fit in given the tools the EMBA can deliver.” The most compelling point to highlight to employers is the tangible benefits of having an employee do an EMBA – which they will feel very quickly. “Some of the returns come as a matter of course,” says Hunter – increased efficiency, business confidence, useful tools and a broader understanding of leadership and general management. But businesses can also capitalise on students’ access to an international network of business executives, as well as links to thousands of alumni worldwide. Cass, for example, has over 60 nationalities across its MBA programmes, and a network of more than 35,000 former students. Those doing an EMBA at London Business School can do an in-company project, which affords them the opportunity to give back to their employer, says Hunter, “applying what has been learned on the programme to an area of the organisation they may not previously have had access to.”

A DIFFERENT GAME

But if you fail to secure full financial sponsorship, it needn’t be a deal-breaker. Turn to options like time participation – where your employer allows you to take paid study leave. It’s also worth exploring scholarships for EMBAs. The number of schools offering scholarships or fellowships has risen from 38.8 per cent in 2008 to 47.6 per cent in 2012, according to the EMBA Council.
Topmba.com explains that, although the majority are given to those with the most financial need, there are a number available which look at academic performance, work activities, community contribution or diversity. Ashley Arnold, director of MBA recruitment for the EMBA and Flexible Executive MBA at Henley Business School, also recommends looking at The Grants Register, which gives a comprehensive list of funding provided by governments and large organisations for candidates who fulfil certain criteria.
Another option is the government’s Salary Sacrifice scheme, which enables employers to pay tuition fees in lieu of salary. It means savings on income tax and national insurance (NI) for the employee, and savings for the employer on paying NI on the salary sacrificed. Utilising the Salary Sacrifice could save you up to 45 per cent of the tuition fee, says Hunter. Similarly, there are schemes like the Prodigy Finance Loan Programme, which enables alumni to invest in students at schools across the globe.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

But if you’ve already explored these avenues, you may decide to look at creative financing as a way forward – either as an alternative or to complement other sources of funding. Aside from bank loans, prospective students are also turning to more novel methods, like crowdfunding. Topmba.com recommends scanning crowdfunding sites to see how others are raising money for similar projects. “The only limit is your imagination when it comes to this particular financial resource” – offer mini classes on the back of what you’ve learnt, or create a blog about your journey, it suggests.

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL

But whatever route you choose, bear in mind that employees embarking on an EMBA with corporate sponsorship are usually expected to sign a contract saying they’ll stay in the company for a specified period after graduating – typically between one and five years.
“If you are looking to move on swiftly, corporate sponsorship probably isn’t the right thing for you – employers will look to safeguard their investment,” says Hunter. But, he adds, “the good news is that this is a strong indication that your employer values you and sees you in their future plans.”

TOP 5 UK SCHOOLS FOR EMBAs

SchoolProgrammeGlobal rank
The London School of EconomicsTrium Global EMBA2
London Business SchoolEMBA Global Americas and Europe5
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business (LondonEMBA11
Said Business SchoolOxford EMBA21
Judge Business SchoolCambridge EMBA36

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