Interview with Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud - Director, MBA Programs at Aston Business School

Aston MBA Admissions TeamF1GMAT: Aston Full-time MBA Program’s Mindful Global Manager module looks interesting. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): Of course, our Mindful Global Manager (MGM) is the personal development component of the Aston MBA.  

It has been created by the renowned business psychologist, Dr Uwe Napiersky (PhD), to help globally-minded leaders develop:

•    self-awareness
•    critical thinking
•    intercultural skills

Throughout the MGM module, our MBA candidates develop the tools and confidence to build their personal brand, make a real impact in the workplace, and measure their professional growth.

Developing self-awareness

We aim to shape our candidates into global managers who act with a deeper understanding of themselves, their organisations, and their communities; and contribute positively to the growth of each.

By the end of the module, our candidates will have learned to:

  • reflect critically on management skills developed on their MBA program
  • demonstrate awareness of their specific professional development needs
  • maximize their long-term career performance  

Enhancing Skills

Not only can an MBA provide new business skills, but it can also enhance soft skills such as communications, leadership and teamwork – all important characteristics for future business leaders.

We work with candidates to develop skills in five core areas:

  • Communication and presentation
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • Time and priority management
  • Creative thinking
  • Coaching and developing others
  • Gaining a global perspective

Our MBA candidates are equipped to take senior positions anywhere in the world. Through the MGM module, candidates will:

  • Sharpen their awareness of different working cultures
  • Develop their intercultural readiness
  • Enhance their employability and global mobility

MGM Facilitator - Dr Uwe Napiersky (PhD)

Uwe brings 20 years’ experience as a leadership development consultant for leading Fortune100 companies across the globe. He has lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA. Uwe is a member of our business school’s Work and Organisational Psychology Group.

F1GMAT: How is the curriculum structured to help MBA Students?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): We’ve structured our MBA to provide candidates with an advanced business and management foundation, leading to specialisation options and a consultancy project aligned to their individual learning priorities.

In short, the Aston MBA consists:

•    10 core modules
•    2 elective modules
•    Mindful Global Manager personal development module
•    Business consultancy project

Core Modules

All candidates take 10 core modules to help build a strategic set of business and management fundamentals:

  • Organisational Behaviour
  • Operations Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Business Finance
  • Accounting for Business
  • Business, Ethics and Responsibility
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Business Economics and Strategy
  • Leadership Development
  • Strategic Management

Elective Modules

Candidates choose two elective modules from the following options:

  • Business Performance, Planning & Control
  • Creative Decisions for Effective Change
  • Electronic Business
  • Intellectual Property, Strategy & Management
  • International Business
  • International Finance
  • International Marketing Management
  • Knowledge Management
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Strategic HRM in a Global Context
  • Topics in Advanced Strategy

Mindful Global Manager personal development module

This is what we talked about earlier, in which we aim to help aspiring senior managers develop the self-awareness, critical thinking and intercultural skills that will keep them at the top of the career ladder. It runs through the first two semesters of the MBA.

Business Consultancy Project

The project is the culmination of our candidates’ business education at Aston, enabling them to showcase their ability to manage. It allows candidates to apply their newly-acquired MBA skillsets to solving a challenging, real-world business, management or organisational problem requiring firm leadership and a truly global mindset.

We provide 1-2-1 guidance and tailored support throughout as the candidate works with an organisation for 8-12 weeks in a live consultancy role, producing a client report under the expert supervision of one of our academics.  Recently, companies including Jaguar Land Rover, BT, IBM, Deutsche Bank and Mace Group have sponsored a range of challenging projects.

Specialist MBA Option

We offer candidates the option to study for a specialist MBA by choosing two elective modules from a particular topic area, and completing their project in that same field. Currently, we offer specialist MBAs in: Strategic Management; Finance; International Business; Marketing; e-Business; Law; Leading People for Competitive Advantage (HR).

There is absolutely no pressure to choose either a general or specialist MBA when candidates apply. We give the flexibility for candidates to decide that after they have taken most of their core modules, and had the opportunity to fully explore their options with our professors, career and project staff.

We do our utmost to put flexibility and choice at the heart of our MBA program.

F1GMAT: Aston has given emphasis on practical learning. How will Business Project help students?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): That’s a great question.  The project pulls together everything that our candidates have learned since they started their MBA, and puts all that to the test in a live business scenario where they have to solve practical business, management or organisational challenges over two to three months.

The project takes the MBA out of the classroom and places it firmly in a real-world setting.

Suddenly, our candidates are facing the same difficult decisions that they will face after graduation.

Company Sponsors

Our candidates run projects across a wide and varied range of companies, across the world and in all sectors including manufacturing, logistics, consultancy, IT, public sector, retail, banking and finance.

Those companies have sponsored a range of challenging projects, requiring students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have acquired on the MBA program, and present a business report to the company sponsor.

In recent years, our MBA project sponsors have included:

  • Ernst & Young
  • Pricewaterhouse Coopers
  • Bangkok Bank Pcl
  • Accenture
  • KPMG
  • Ferrari
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Credit Suisse Group AG
  • Samsung Electronics
  • Nike, Inc
  • LG Electronics
  • General Electric International
  • Hyundai Motor Company
  • BP plc
  • Kanebo Cosmetics Inc
  • Veolia
  • Shanghai Commercial and Savings Bank Ltd
  • Eli Lilly & Co

Importantly, the project also allows our candidates to expand their ability to commission and evaluate research and compose reports, which are vital tools for senior managers.

Candidates can complete their project with their current companies, or work with our dedicated MBA Projects Manager to source sponsors and topics that really match their aspirations.  

We will support candidates throughout their project, and always encourage them to take the initiative in contacting and obtaining agreement from the organisations they choose to work with.

Past projects

The inspiration for project themes can come from many sources including candidates’ own motivations, sponsor companies’ real needs and questions arising from our own global business research activities.

Some of this year’s project themes have centred around lifecycle management systems, manufacturing business process integration, investment modelling and digital communications strategy.

F1GMAT: How is the student life at Aston Business School?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): There are so many things that make Aston a world-class business school for our candidates. Many international students are aware of our triple-accreditation, world rankings, employability record and exceptional university heritage.

A world-class student experience

However, for me, it’s the whole student experience that’s the best. We put our MBA candidates at the very heart of everything we do.

Behind every MBA candidate is a team of academics, career adviser, personal development coach, project manager and support staff who are working round-the-clock to ensure the candidate is fully supported in enjoying a rich and rewarding MBA experience with us.

You will find Aston Business School located in the cosmopolitan city centre of Birmingham, UK.

We provide campus living in the heart of a vibrant, diverse city with world-class restaurants, entertainment and shops.

There are also countless ways to relax and unwind with Birmingham’s abundant green space, brilliant live music venues and some of the finest art collections in the world. Candidates will always find something new to enjoy in one of Europe’s largest and friendliest cities.

Birmingham is a global centre for Business, Commerce and industry and home to numerous UK, merchant and overseas banks and over 500 law firms. It is also home to Europe’s second-largest insurance market, alongside a thriving small-enterprise community. Birmingham is the perfect city for exploring the UK and the world: close to motorway networks, intercity railway networks and with its own international airport. London is only 90 minutes away by train.

A collaborative environment among diverse peers

Ours is a friendly and supportive campus with an internationally diverse cohort made-up of 32 different nationalities. Our candidates are made to feel welcome and make great, lasting friendships during their studies and far beyond.

A supportive network that is there long after you graduate

Their journey as global leaders who are ready to make a difference, and be the difference, starts with their MBA at Aston. And we continue that journey with them long into their new careers with ongoing career management guidance and opportunities to connect worldwide as alumni.

Our Aston Alumni Network connects our graduates to other professionals working in your area, helps them to develop lifelong working relationships, and keeps them up to date with the latest developments in business and management research at Aston.

As our graduates progress through their career, we will support them with:

  • Global networking opportunities through international and professional interest groups
  • Access to a range of interactive resources, including video interviews, webinars, podcasts and blogs from our accomplished alumni and faculty
  • Online access to more than 3,200 business journals, including over 1,500 full text publications
  • Monthly e-newsletters and annual ABSTRACTS magazine

You are sure to come across an Aston MBA in every corner of the world. When you do, please be sure to ask them what they think is the best things about Aston Business School.

F1GMAT: What are some of the post-MBA opportunities available for MBA graduates?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): Our MBAs tell us that our unique three-way approach to career management is what really sets us apart, and is perhaps why The Economist ranked our careers service one of the strongest in the UK.

Tripp Martin, our dedicated MBA Careers Adviser, coaches students in developing the skills and strategies that will help them set and achieve their career goals. In building an effective job search strategy, Aston MBA students pursue a well-structured programme of activities including career workshops, one-to-one careers advice, career fairs, on-campus recruiting, industry visits, business talks and numerous networking events. This broad exposure gives students an understanding of industries they may not have previously considered, and access to corporate leaders to inspire their next move.

Our program has always been designed to help professionals earn a world-class MBA, enhance their employability and accelerate their careers. 93% of our MBA candidates have job offers within 3 months of graduation, and 85% are employed.

Our MBAs are enjoying amazing success in a wide range of industries and seniorities across the globe, typically nearly doubling their salaries a year after graduation. Companies who have recently recruited Aston MBA include Bangkok Bank PCL, KPMG, PwC, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Nike, BP, Hyundai Motor Company, Samsung, LG Electronics and Kanebo Cosmetics. These MBAs join our growing network of 12,000 active international alumni.

However, in today's challenging economy, and ever-increasing demands placed on our work and home lives, we appreciate that students do not necessarily want to leave their jobs to get a top MBA.

Our response has been to introduce two new study modes that offer all the benefits of our triple accredited full-time program, but offer greater flexibility and convenience – the Aston Online MBA, and Aston Executive MBA.

F1GMAT:  Can you give our readers a snapshot of the latest class?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): We are delighted that the Aston MBA continues to achieve consistently high world rankings in a number of important categories – particularly programme quality, student satisfaction and careers – from independent sources such as The Financial Times, The Economist and QS.

This quality and diversity is borne out by our 2011 class:

  • Full-Time MBA class size: 60
  • International student percentage: 93
  • Nationalities: 32
  • Female percentage: 30
  • Employed Graduates % (after 3 months): 89
  • Salary increase percentage: 85
  • Average GMAT: 620
  • Average age: 29
  • Average years in work: 7

The Times newspaper recently reported that Aston is in the top ten of UK universities for producing millionaires, so we think the future is bright for current and future intakes of Aston MBAs.

F1GMAT:  What are the entry criteria in terms of the number of years of experience / GMAT / GPA for the Full-time MBA program?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): Aston MBAs usually have an undergraduate degree, at least 3 years of post-graduation work experience and two references; one professional and one academic.

Of course, we will consider applicants who do not have academic qualifications or with fewer years of experience, if they can demonstrate exceptional motivation and capabilities through other means.

F1GMAT: What are some of the unique characteristics that you look for in an Aston MBA candidate?

Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud (Aston MBA): An Aston MBA candidate is someone who can make a difference and be the difference.

Candidates who really stand out are those who can:

  • succeed in an MBA demanding intellectual rigour and entrepreneurial flair
  • demonstrate great management potential in their future career
  • enrich the learning experience by sharing their business and life experiences    
  • be motivated to make a real difference to their company, industry or community

For candidates planning to take their MBA in 2013 or later, I’d like to offer some pointers on ways in which they can strengthen their work experience between now and then:

  • Start volunteering – demonstrate altruism that makes a real difference to your community
  • Be ambitious – take on challenging projects at work or university that others shy from
  • Show leadership – seize opportunities that highlight your potential as a future leader
  • Think like an entrepreneur – plan a small business or help improve someone else’s
  • Focus on achievements – depth and breadth of experience is as important as the years

To explore further, I would suggest that applicants spend time speaking with business schools’ admissions departments, or maybe attend an event or webinar to really understand what the school is looking for, and whether there is a good fit between them and the school.

Aston MBA Admissions TeamAbout Dr Brigitte Nicoulaud

Dr Nicoulaud obtained her first degree in France, and her MBA and PhD in the UK. She has had a long career in lecturing, management consultancy and training, and now teaches Marketing subjects on Aston’s MBA and Executive Education programs as well as holding overall responsibility for the School’s MBA programs.

Aston Business School is recognised worldwide as a leading centre of business education.   Our MBA programme has prestigious Triple Accreditation from AMBA (UK), EQUIS (Europe) and AACSB (USA) which puts us in an elite group of the top 1% of global business schools.

Dr Nicoulaud cares deeply about encouraging a collaborative learning community in which aspiring leaders develop the tools and confidence to solve tomorrow’s business challenges. Indeed, the School has an outstanding reputation for high quality and innovative teaching, having been awarded 24/24 in the most recent QAA Teaching Quality Assessment.

Aston’s MBA curriculum is informed by extensive cutting-edge business research, successfully combining academic resources with the business experience of the School’s corporate partners. The latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), a quality assessment of British universities, confirmed our reputation as a world-leader in research that is impactful and relevant.

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