Aalto University has both an Executive MBA (EMBA) and a part-time MBA. The part-time MBA takes about 3 years to complete, so there are multiple cohorts running simultaneously. As I took all of my classes one immediately following the last, I was actually able to experience the EMBA with multiple part-time cohorts. This was a great experience for me because I got to meet a number of people and to be a part of their MBA experience at different stages (while I am near the end of mine).
The actual courses have been great. I have taken Behavioural Finance (BF), Cross-Cultural Leadership (CCL), Managerial Accounting (MA) and Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A). BF was a 3-day class taught by a Finn, Samuli Knüpfer, who is currently an Assistant Professor of Finance at London Business School. CCL was a two week course taught by a South African, Ben Nothnagel, formerly an international lawyer who currently consults with large companies on leadership programmes. MA was a one week course taught by an American, Dan Law, who is an Associate Professor from Gonzaga University in the US. M&A was another two week course taught by another Finn, Tomi Laamanen, who is the Chair of Strategic Management and Director of the Institute of Management at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. All in all, a very experienced and well respected group.
I’m not sure if it is being in Finland or that the programme is part-time but there are some other differences I thought I would share in terms of the study experience. I previously mentioned the difference in marking. I believe that take home exams are common in the programme but sometimes exams are administered at the school. When these occur, they are scheduled at two different dates to allow people flexibility (as the vast majority of the cohort are working and often travel). I have now taken two exams at the school. The first was unusual for me in that only about 5 students were in the room. Also, the students were allowed to leave the room multiple times during the exam (for the restroom, a drink, etc.). The second exam was different in that is was today immediately following class time. It was an open book exam so we were permitted to bring in whatever the professor felt was appropriate and in this case that included everything from our notes to our laptops.
In general, I have found the atmosphere to be much more laid back than at the University of Edinburgh – both from the students and from the university. I feel like this is the difference between a full-time programme and a part-time programme where people have high level and demanding jobs. Group work is handled in a very different way. Much less emphasis is placed on it and when there is an assignment to complete, much less effort is put into it – presumably because the students have so little time. Additionally, presentations in class are very casual with little emphasis placed on the actual PowerPoint and so on.
Overall, I feel like I really made the right choice coming to Finland as I have thoroughly enjoyed the people, the country, and the MBA programme. I have enjoyed experiencing new and different things. Though I definitely look forward to heading home to Edinburgh, that will have to wait for a few days – being so close I just have to head over to Russia for a bit!