Sunday, July 29, 2007

My Oxford-Said Visit

I visited Oxford Said Business School after I was admitted to the school. I wanted to see it with my own eyes before I commited. I had also been admitted to MIT Sloan at the time, and I had my own reasons for choosing an MBA in Europe. So I had a tough choice to make, and I decided it was worth it to visit Oxford. I will try to describe the place, atmosphere, and some technical details. It will be a bit long, so be patient.

I scheduled the visit in advance with Ms. Sally Webb from the admissions office. Everybody there was very nice throughout the visit. They did not try to presure me into accepting their offer, but tried to explain the advantages and disadvantages of Oxford vs. MIT.

Let's start with a short introduction. Oxford Said is ranked aroung the 20th place in the rankings, which makes it a second tier school in Europe. It is located one hour from London by train (a round-trip ticket costs around 18 pounds, and a train leaves every half an hour until late hours). The school is located in Oxford town which is in fact a gigantic campus. The Oxford University is one of the most ancient in the world, and the amazing town combines old with new in a unique way. Near old colleges lie shopping avenues and contemorary buildings. The university is one of the most respectable facilities in the world (in the likes of Harvard and Cambridge). In the university one can study any subject the mind can think of.

The Business School is named after Said (a big donator). It lies inside a new large building shaped as a cube. The school is located only one minute from the train station. 60 Million pounds were invested in the building and you can easily notice it. The building was designed so it would be easy to study in it. The program itself is relatively new (around 10 years old), and 220 students from around the world enroll it each year. The program is only one year, and the tuition is 28000 pounds (to be paid in advance – there is a 4200 pounds deposit). The estimated cost is 50000 pounds for the year, so it is a little more than 1 year in USA, but because it is a one year program it is cheaper. It is difficult for Israelis to receive scholarships. It might be possible to get a loan. One should own a bicycle and a laptop. The partners receive an automatic work permit (or they can study). It is fairly easy to receive a work permit (for you and your partner) after school, but they change the regulations once in a while.

In the building there are several state-of-the-art lecture halls, a beautiful computerized library (and there is an adidtional quite library for those of you who needs it), and an amphitheatre (in the summer they give lectures there). The building is square and in it's center a large relaxing patio. There are many sitting areas, study rooms (that you need to book in advance), and a comfortable cafetiria. Everywhere there are electricity sockets for your laptops (WI-FI of course).

The career services in the university are quite developed. I spoke with a representative, and she told me that companies come to recruit on campus all the time. They seem to get better and better each year. Companies seem to come to Oxford less than London because of the distance, but still you can find Oxford graduates in all the big companies. They use the alumni network in the recruiting process, and the vast majority of the graduates find jobs. The Placements Report of Oxford-Said shows that the salaries of the graduates do not fall behind the top tier schools, there are students from all backgrounds, and in all business fields (one third in high-tech companies, one fifth in consulting companies, and there are students in all other fields as well).

As for the accomodations and social life, Oxford has a unique system. The school is responsible for the teaching and career services. For the students' wellfare the Colleges are responsible (kind of fraternities). You must belong to a college (you pay 3000 pounds for the pleasure – not including rent). There are 39 colleges around campus, some of them ancient, and they are responsible for providing dorms (based on availability). They organize parties and events. One of the colleges has an Olympic pool and a gym. Templeton College owns 65 apartments for couples close the business school (it is also not very expensive – 600 pounds per month). It is said that some of the networking is done through the college and other departments in the university.

Studying seems very hard. The degree is intensive and demanding. There are two practical projects (one of them is a summer consulting project - similar to an internship). There are three semesters of 3 month, and in the end of each semester there is a tests week (tests in 6 days) - A bow-tie and a gown are required (Oxford = tradition). The average grade is 60-70 (I guess the Technion was easy compared to this). In the first semester they divide the students to groups of 75, and to study groups of 5. In the second semester they reshuffle the groups.

I sat in a Marketing lecture, and it was really interesting. The professor was very sophisticated, and presented the material in an impressive way. I understood why it is important for the class to be diversed. The students gave examples from the real world. The class is very diversed – engineers, economists, salespersons, marketing, enterpeneuirs, and a few lawyers.

In summary, Oxford seems a very strong alternative to the top tier schools. Especially to those of us who looks for a one year less-expensive program in Europe.