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This page is designated to my MBA distance learning studies at Open University Business School. I finshed my MBA with the last course "Creativity, Innovation & Cange" in 2004. If you are considering to start on such a program, you can find the B800 course calendar (1.336 KB) and the B800 study guides (1.137 KB) with information about all the materials I had to read and work through during the first year in B800 (PDF format). Below, at the top of the page you will find some of the question papers for the "homeworks" (so-called TMAs = Tutor Marked Assignments) I need to write for my MBA studies, starting with B800 and further down followed by the next courses. These may either give you a first impression of the MBA program at Open University (if you are looking for information to decide about starting an MBA) or it may just give you some comparision opportunities (if you are already studying at Open University or any other college, university or business school). The rest of the page was written for potential students who need more information about MBAs in general. If you are looking for even more information than you can find on this page, please feel free to send me an email with your questions or comments:

Date Code Course Title Remarks
Nov 2002 - Oct 2003 B800 Foundations of Senior Management replaced by B713 Fundamentals of senior management
Nov 2002 - Apr 2003 B820 Strategy compulsory course
May 2003 - Oct 2003 B821 Financial Strategy Additional one year compulsory course B830 "Making a Difference" may now be studied in parallel
Nov 2003 - Apr 2004 B823 Managing Knowledge
May 2004 - Oct 2004 B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change

I previously posted my TMA's and the remarks of my tutors on this page. The Open University Business School has asked me to remove these documents in order to prevent plagiarism. If you are interested in receiving single samples via email, please contact me directly and we can personally address the plagiarism issue.

B800 Foundations of Senior Management (1 year)

TMA Number Block Question * Cutoff- Date
TMA 01 People TMA01_Question.pdf 6 Dec 2001
72 / 100
TMA 02 Finance TMA02_Question.pdf 17 Jan 2002
82 / 100
TMA 03 People TMA03_Question.pdf 21 Feb 2002
67 / 100
TMA 04 Finance TMA04_Question.pdf 4 Apr 2002
83 / 100
TMA 05 Marketing TMA05_Question.pdf 9 May 2002
62 / 100
TMA 06 Organizations TMA06_Question.pdf 13 Jun 2002
87 / 100
TMA 07 & 08 Marketing & Organizations TMA07-08_Question.pdf 5 Sep 2002
85 / 100
44 / 100
64 / 100

* send me an email if you are interested in a copy

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B820 Strategy (1/2 year)

TMA Number Case Study Cutoff- Date
TMA 01 easyJet 13 Dec 2002
64 / 100
TMA 02 Marks & Spencer 27 Jan 2003
74 / 100
TMA 03 World Of Medicine AG 26 Mar 2003
70 / 100

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B821 Financial Strategy (1/2 year)

TMA Number Case Study Cutoff- Date
TMA 01 Financial Analysis 8 Jun 2003
85 / 100
TMA 02 Finance and Investment 27 Jul 2003
78 / 100
TMA 03 Risk Management 7 Sep 2003
88 / 100

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B823 Managing Knowledge (1/2 year)

TMA Number Case Study Cutoff- Date
TMA 01 Team Project Taxonomy 10 Dec 2003
72 / 100
TMA 02 Intellectual Capital Report W.O.M. 28 Jan 2004
63 / 100
TMA 03 Organisational Change Initiative 26 Mar 2004
54 / 100

I can recommend this course to those students, who are interested in a "knowledge perspective" of their day-to-day management problems. But do not expect something "radically new". I would say about 20% of the students in the course strongly disliked it and the others liked it a lot. I think there is not much room between the two extremes. The course is a bit "touchy - feely", so don't choose it if you don't like this. If you really liked the following B800 articles, this course is right for you:

1. Achieving dynamic stability through information technology, Andrew C. Boynton, The New Management Reader, ISBN 1-86152-201-0
Information politics, Thomas H. Davenport, Robert G. Eccles and Laurence Prusak, The New Management Reader, ISBN 1-86152-201-0
The factory as a learning laboratory, Dorothy Leonard-Barton, Managing Learning, ISBN 1-86152-198-7

But do not expect a "tool-box" for knowledge management. You should also not expect a focus on technologies like intranet, groupware or document management systems. If you are a "technology freak" like myself, you may even have a disappointing technology experience in TMA1, which makes intensive use of internet conferencing and shows the benefits and limits. One of the central statements of the course is that knowledge management is 70% people, 20% process and only 10% technology. The entire course revolves around the concept of "tacit knowledge" and "explicit knowledge" (Nonaka & Takeuchi) and has a strong focus on "informal networking","communities of practice" and "learning organizations".

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B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change (1/2 year)

TMA Number Case Study Cutoff- Date
TMA 01 Personal Style & Organisational Climate 15 Jun 2004
72 / 100
TMA 02 Creative Problem Exploration 2 Aug 2004
53 / 100
TMA 03 Innovation Strategy for W.O.M. 24 Sep 2004
74 / 100

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In addition to these TMAs, The MBA program contains

  1. Complementary tutorials and day schools approximately every 6 to 8 weeks (one Saturday, for me in Munich, but in many other large cities, not mandatory)
  2. Mandatory residential school (between 2 and 4 days per course, mainly over a weekend, for Europe these are in the Netherlands, Ireland, England, Scotland and a couple of other countries, residential schools are currently being reduced for some courses in order to save costs)
  3. One 3 hours written exam at the end of the course (mostly in the same city you have your tutorials).

O.k., here we go: When I started thinking about an MBA, there were a couple of questions I tried to answer for myself to make a decently educated decision:

  1. Why an MBA?
  2. Why distance learning?
  3. Which College or University should I choose?
  4. What about the Rankings?

1. Why an MBA?

The "Master of Business Administration" is a well known and internationally widely recognized masters degree. After spending three years of my life working in California and having spend all of my career since 1993 working for companies with important international business connections, I wanted to concentrate on the development of my finance, marketing and management skills within an international environment. I was always interested in the marketing background and theoretical foundations of my work as a product manager in different organizations. My purely technical background as a mechanical and biomedical engineer did not satisfy the needs of my growing responsibilities within the marketing organizations I worked for as a product manager. I found the MBA to be the best fit for what I want to achieve during the next couple of years: an upper management position within the marketing organization of a leading medical technology company.

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2. Why distance learning?

The choice was clear from the very beginning. A full time MBA would be absolutely impossible for me. I have a family with (at that time) two children (*1998, *2001) to support. In no way, shape or form would I be able to give up a regular salary. It had to be a distance learning program, preferably an MBA with strong internet usage, since I am a total believer in the benefits of internet and email (as you can probably tell from these pages).

I also had to find a company that would pay for my MBA (I knew that the cost would roughly be € 30.000 for the full program) and would also support my studies. It was clear that I would probably have to "sell my soul" by signing a long term contract with the company or otherwise pay back the money if I quit before the employer can benefit from the investment. I was successful on both accounts (payment & support) when I re-joined World of Medicine in 2001 (after working there between 1993 and 1998 during my first job).

I actually ended up paying my MBA from my own pocket since I did not stay long enough with World of Medicine to keep their money after my final exam. Nevertheless it has been worth every cent. See this German article for your reference.

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3. Which College or University should I choose?

This is probably the hardest question to answer and it was the one that took me the longest time to decide. I obviously took a look at all those different rankings you can find and finally came up with my own list of important factors:

  1. The College or University should be accredited by at least two of the three major MBA accreditation organizations EQUIS (Europe), AACSB (America), AMBA (UK), (Note that the term "MBA" is not protected. Anybody can open a school and offer this degree).
  2. The distance learning program should not be a simple "appendix" of a full-time MBA program. The materials should be specifically designed for distance learning purposes. The reading should be supported by other media such as audio and video tapes, computer spreadsheets and other programs and internet tools.
  3. Local study groups should exist close to your home in order to allow for some networking with other students. This will always be limited during distance learning, but some programs will support this more than others.
  4. The college or university should be well known to potential future employers. It should at least show up in some of the available rankings and it should have some "cloud" or reputation. Good reviews from students are a plus (Careful! An MBA is not supposed to be easy!). I believe rankings are highly over-stressed by the print media, but they can be useful as a guideline.
  5. The program should allow for certain interruptions if the circumstances (private or job) should change dramatically and you should not loose the money if these interruptions become necessary.
  6. The balance between "real life applicability" and "networking opportunities" needs to be right for you. I found it much more important to immediately apply the theories I learned in the real life of my day-to-day work. This is the big advantage of distance learning programs. The "networking opportunities" of distance learning programs are limited to residential school and study groups (which can be very good if you take full advantage of these opportunities). Full time programs give you much more "networking" but far less "real life experience", since you are "out of the job" during the full-time studies.

My last two candidates in the Munich area were Open University Business School and Henley Management College. I made my final decision in favour of Open University based on above points, by attending information evenings of Open University and Henley, through personal discussion with representatives of Open University and Henley, internet research and additional email contact with former students. The following extracts from two emails were very important for my final decision:

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Concerning the aspect of networking with international managers, this has traditionally been a criticism of the DL approach as compared to the
full-time approach. There is naturally an important point which is being made here because networking is important and full-time programmes offer greater opportunity for working within groups on a daily basis.

What one needs to consider in addition is:
- how do DL programmes overcome this? What degree of networking do they offer?
- what are the advantages of DL programmes against full-time?

You can make a balanced decision weighing up the pros and cons of each. The obvious advantage of DL is that you remain in work and benefit from experience while learning, but there are more advantages than that.

The learning experience, seen purely pedagogically is a more efficient one because:
- it takes place over a longer time
- it allows you to apply what you learn to the real world on a daily basis
- you use your organisation as a living case study = powerful for your relationship with the organisation; powerful as a basis for action-learning

These are significant weaknesses of full-time programmes, and part-time programmes which have the character of crash courses. How much more can you assimilate over the period of learning in each case? There is such a depth of learning available to you in the MBA, and you can only assimilate so much in a given time. It is inevitalbe that with the DL method you are going to have a longer period to get more out of the richness of the programme. The result is that it sits deeper and longer.

There was an interesting discussion between MBA graduates of INSEAD and of OUBS a couple of years back. The experiences were in large part quite similar. They differed on the following points. The INSEAD graduates quoted the contacts they had made as being the thing they appreciated most; the OUBS graduates quoted the enrichment of their management competence and the degree to which the MBA supports their daily work from a practical point of view. This is not surprising and summarizes a couple of the pros and cons on each side.

Your decision will be based on where you place your value more strongly. I hope the above helps you.

I can offer you names of graduates and students of the OUBS so that you can see how they feel about the networking aspect. There is a lot I could say on that, as networking is certainly a strong aspect of the OUBS MBA (through tutorials, residential schools, computer conferencing) , but it is better to hear that from a number of graudates individually than from me. I attach a few addresses for you to contact if you wish. Let me know if you would like more!

My QAA report is at the end of the email. The EQUIS report is similar to the QAA in its general quality remit, but goes further into issues
expected of a business school (internationality for example).

QAA (formerly HEFCE), Quality Assurance Association Quality Report on the OUBS 1994

I spoke to the QAA 8 October 2001 inquiring about the validity of the report on OUBS. I asked two questions:

1. what is the role of the QAA (formerly called HEFCE, Higher Education Funding Council for England).2. what is the validity and shelf life of the quality reports. The QAA communications officer answered as follows.

The role of the QAA is to act as

1. an agent for the UK government

The QAA reviews all university programmes in the UK (for example business at the OU; chemistry at University of London) and provides the government with a report as to the university's entire approach to quality, covering issues such as quality procedures, how quality is maintained, and what quality standard they are keeping to. This forms the government's control
mechanism to ensure they are investing their money in the right place.

2. an independent agent for UK universities

UK universities decided to have an independent control mechanism as to their institutional quality and engage the QAA to carry this out. The QAA reviews the entire institution to monitor standards of individual universities.

The audits are lengthy and involve considerable effort on the part of the Universities and the QAA, and therefore are carried out on a 6 yearly basis, in order not to bring the higher education system to a grinding halt.

How valid are the reports?

The QAA has the option to review any programme or institution at any time, depending on the following:
i) the review period of 6 years is over
ii) reviews carried out on other programmes of the university indicate broader problems
iii) there is reason for concern arising from other information
iv) general sense of confidence in the institution is lacking

When the review period (i) is due the QAA will look at the institution generally and ask for a report from the institution on changes that have taken place since the last review. If the level of confidence in the institution is high, and there are no reports of deficiencies arising elsewhere, and no significant changes are reported to have taken place by the institution then the QAA can opt not to review immediately and so uphold the validity of the previous report.

This is the case with the report carried out on the OUBS in 1994, which the QAA considers to be valid with reference to the quality procedures and quality maintenance of the OUBS. The next review will be carried out between now and 2003.

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1. How can Henley say they are the biggest part-time MBA programme of the world? I thought OUBS is? Or is Open University the largest distance learning University, but not necessarily the MBA programme at OUBS?

=> I think this article is not accurate - the OUBS has over 6000 MBA graduates currently, and the article claims it is nearly double the next biggest. I guess this is journalistic license!

2. Is OUBS working on an accreditation with AACSB (U.S.A.)?

=> The OUBS is in the process of being accredited with AACSB (I believe it will be the first Distance Learning programme to gain accreditation with them, as AACSB is having to redesign its rules to be able to accredit DL programmes - currently designed only for full-time programmes). It is likely to come through in 2002.

3. How did the student numbers develop over the last 3 years?

=> In Germany I estimate there to have been an increase of between 20 and 30% over the last 3 years. In the UK the OUBS has been one of the few business schools to maintain its market position against the background of a saturated market. I don't know off-hand what the exact average has been over the last 3 years for the UK, but can find out if you wish.

4. I'd appreciate any www-link to a ranking that mentions OUBS.

=> from our page there is a link to the OUBS rating with the UK governments HEFCE reports on universities.

Apart from the Telegraph ranking and the HEFCE (rating rather than ranking) I do not have further links to pass on. This is part due to the fact that rankings on DL programmes have to date been neglected in favour of full-time programmes by the traditional rankers, and only those universities which also have full-time programmes (alongside their DL) have a ranking (this will be not of their DL programmes, rather their full-time programmes). Ranking itself is a system to beware of, and although universities use rankings in their publicity, few admit that they are of any objective value. I think The Economist Guide to MBAs has an interesting section on this subject.

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4. What about the Rankings?

Although rankings are not the most important factor, here you have a couple of them (as of 2001). As you can see, my final decision was not based on these rankings but on other more important factors (at least more important to me):

Ranking of best European MBA Programs by William H Cox (Book in German), (Based mainly on authors opinion)
1- INSEAD; 2- London Business School; 3- IMD; 4- Manchester Business School; 5- Instituto de Empressa; 6- GSBA Zurich; 7- Cranfield; 8- Nijenrode; 10- WHU Koblenz; 11- Henley; 12- SDA Bocconi; 13- RotterdamSchool of Management; 14- Wirtschaftuniversitat Wien; 15- HEC-ISA; 16- E MLyon; 17- Ashridge; 18- Cambridge; 19- ESADE; 20- Heksinki School of Economics

'Long Range Planning Journal' (UK), Vol 33, 2000, Ranking of European Business Schools, (Based on Academic Reputation as indicated by their research publications)
1- London Bus School; 2- INSEAD; 3- Tel Aviv. 4- Warwick; 5- Manchester BSchool; 6- Cambridge; 7- Erasmus; 8- City; 8- Cranfield;=10- London School of Economics; 10- Stockholm, Economics; 12- Katholeke, Belgium; 12- Tilburg; 14- Limburg; 15- Oxford; 15- Reading; 17- Carfiff; 17- Lancaster; 17- Leeds; 20- Groningen; 21- IMD; 21- Nottingham; 23- Hebrew; 24- Strathclyde; 25- Ashridge; 25- Sheffield; 25- Wales,Swansea; 28- Bath; 28- HEC, Paris; 28- Norwegian Mgt; 31- Birmingham; 31- Henley; 31 Southampton; 31- Technion; 35- Amsterdam; 35- Copenhagen; 35- U C Dublin; 38- Aston; 38- Bradford; 38- Cyprus; 38- ESSEC; 38- Free U, Belgium; 38- Haifa; 38- Toulouse; 38- Wageningen

International Herald Tribune (Europe), 2 November 1998,Ranking of European MBA Programs (conducted by Cox Communications forAudimax magazine, Germany),(Based on views of Students. European Schools only)
1- INSEAD; 2- London Business School; 3- IMD; 4- (equal) Instituto de Empressa; Grad School of Bus Admin, Zurich; 7- Cranfield; 8- IESE, Spain;9- Nijenrode; 10- WHU Koblenz; 11- Henley; 12- SDA Bocconi; 13- Rotterdam;14- Wirtschaftsuniversitaet, Wien; 15- ISA-HEC, France; 16- Groupe ERSC Lyon; 17- Ashridge; 18- Cambridge; 19- ESADE, Spain; 20- Helsinki School of Economics

Most Popular UK Schools
1- Open Univ; 2- Cranfield; 3- Warwick; 4- City Univ; 5- Manchester Bus School; 6- London Business School; 7- Henley; 8- Bradford Univ; 9- Durham Univ; 10- Aston

1 INSEAD France 2 LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL Great Britain 3 IMD Switzerland 4 Rotterdam School of Management Netherlands 5 Instituto de Empresa Spain 6 Manchester Business School Great Britain 7 IESE Spain 8 ISA HEC School of Management France 9 Ashridge Management College Great Britain 10 SDA Bocconi Italy 11 Cranfield School of Management Great Britain 12 Nijenrode University Netherlands 13 GSBA Zürich Switzerland 14 Warwick Business School Great Britain 15 E.M.Lyon rance 16 Henley Management College Great Britain 17 The Judge Institute University of Cambridge Great Britain 18 ESADE Spain 19 Imperial College Management School Great Britain 20 Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration Finnland

UK MBA ranking table (Financial Times)
1 London Business School (1) 2 Said, Oxford (7) 3 Manchester (3) 4 Warwick (5) 5 Cranfield (2) 6 Edinburgh Uni (11) 7 Imperial (4) 8 City (6) 9 Ashridge (9) 10 Nottingham (-) 11 Strathclyde (17) 12 Bradford (16) 13 NIMBAS 14 Leeds Uni (12) 15 Lancaster (15) 16 Bath (20) 17 Cambridge (8) 18 Henley (10) 19 Sheffield (13) 20 Kingston (18) 21 Oxford Brookes (19) 22 Newcastle (21) 23 Durham (22) 24 Exeter (23) 25 Manchester Metro (24) 25 Nottingham Trent (24) 25 Southampton (24) 25 Sheffield Ha

Viktor Makowski  •  Mittelstrasse 16 E  • 16540 Hohen Neuendorf

Last Update / Letztes Update: August 2009