MBA candidates at Oxford Saïd journey from all over the world to study the one year programme, with 60 nationalities represented in 2018.
However, few travel as far as those from Australia and New Zealand. So, what makes a candidate move over 10,000 miles for an MBA, and is it worth the voyage?
Australian Ewen Hollingsworth worked as a lawyer before moving into consulting. After two years in the role, he realised he would need further education if he was to progress further. ‘I didn’t have the quantitative skills nor the business acumen to reach the next stage, I thought an MBA was a great way to gain these skills,’ he explained.
Ewen wanted an international experience so did not consider studying in his home country, instead looking at options in the United States. He eventually decided against this move due to the predominance of two-year MBAs, which he felt was too much time to take out of his career. After broadening his search, he discovered Saïd Business School.
‘I knew people that had studied on the programme and they told me about its focus on generating leaders that solve global problems,’ he said. ‘The cohort was diverse, with many different backgrounds and nationalities. Finally, being able to study at the epicentre of western higher education was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.’
While New Zealander Harriet Austin was also attracted to the diversity of the Oxford MBA, she saw the programme as a fundamental step towards achieving her career goal, which was to improve her home country’s agricultural industry. ‘I began my career in an accounting role and then took a consulting position at an agricultural company. New Zealand has a very clean, green image but that isn’t the case, and it’s something I’m determined to change,’ she said.
However, this was not the only incentive for Harriet. Also on the accomplished rower’s bucket list was the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race, which has been held annually since 1856. For Harriet, who represented her home country in the 2010 World Rowing Championships, the chance to compete in the world’s most famous boat race while working towards her career goal was an unmissable opportunity.
After competing in The Boat Race, completing the Oxford MBA and finishing her academic year with a 200-mile charity race from Ibiza to Barcelona, Harriet took a position at an agricultural technology firm in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley. ‘In the MBA you learn a different way of thinking and different ways to solve problems. It’s those skills that I have taken from the MBA and I am continuing to build upon them in Silicon Valley,’ she said.
Hailing from Australia, Oliver Jones worked in management consulting with an engineering focus before his MBA. ‘I had studied engineering and worked in energy networks for a number of years, before joining a consultancy firm who provided advisory services on capital program, investment, and operations management,’ he said. ‘An engineering degree is very practical in nature and gives you a strong foundation in problem solving. However, it lacks in creative and strategic thinking. An MBA was the best option to broaden my skill set while learning from alternative thinking and international perspectives.’
All three MBAs found the experience of moving to Oxford relatively easy. ‘The School and University really help you out with the move,’ stated Ewen. ‘From bank accounts to accommodation and everything else, someone’s always there to help you.’
‘Adjusting to life here was relatively simple,’ agreed Oliver. ‘However, the most valuable experience of being in Oxford was the immersive experience that you might not get studying in a big city. London is only an hour away on the train, but the majority of classmates study, socialise, and build deep friendships through the closeness that Oxford creates.’
After reflecting on his reasons for choosing the Oxford MBA, Oliver Jones shared his advice for fellow students contemplating the long journey from Oceania to Oxford: ‘Consider how you would like to live,’ he said. ‘Seek to understand the geography, markets and skills necessary to turn that design into reality. My partner and I wanted access to travel, to learn from work opportunities outside of our home economy, and deeply understand people from around the world. The United Kingdom, and specifically Oxford, has allowed us to achieve all of those goals.’