Simon Learmount氏(Director of the Executive MBA Programme, 当時Admission Director )へのイン タビュー(2007年)

2007年に、当時Admission DirectorだったSimonさんから日本のアプリカント向けにいただいた情報です。ケンブリッジMBAの特徴やAdimissionの考え方など、参考になる点が多いかと思います。 (学生がSimonさんへのインタビューをもとにテキスト化したものであり、必ずしも MBA program の公式見解ではないことにご理解願います。 This text is transcripted by current Japanese students and is not an official statement by the MBA program of Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. )
Could you please share us the updates on admission results?
We had over 725 applications for 150 seats. Last year we received 540 applications, and before that 445. So the number of applicants significantly increased. Not only the number of applicants increased, but also the quality of applicants is increased. Our applicants’ average GMAT score was 636.
Another indication is our admitted students’ GMAT average score, which is 690. We now have the second highest average score in Europe. But GMAT is only one kind of quality indicator. We have wide range of GMAT score (Mid 80%: 640-740) and we are looking at a lot of other qualities in applicants.
We see significant ranking growth of the Cambridge MBA program. Why do you think the Cambridge MBA is so much appreciated?
First of all, one thing to better mind with ranking is that we are a very young school. The full-time one-year program has only begun since 1998. So actually we have been eligible to appear in rankings since 2001. So our recent ranking growth is an exceptional performance. I mean few other young schools have performed like us. Secondly, you cannot exactly measure the program by rankings. Experience in, say, Harvard Business School and that in the Cambridge MBA are different. We cannot say one is better than the other. We don’t think the rankings can accurately capture the spirit of the Cambridge MBA. But we admit that ranking is one of the important figures for prospective students to measure the attractiveness of our program. So we take it very seriously.
We’ve worked hard to make sure that the faculty we’ve recruited to the program are people who can add value to. We select people who are appropriate for our program and who fit our teaching style. The other thing is that the experience here is an excellent one. I mean we get alumni feedback which says we are teaching our students extremely well and helping them find not just highest-paying jobs but the best jobs for them. Many students come in MBA with ideas of becoming an investment banker or strategy consultant, but they realise during the program that’s not the job they really want to do, and they succeed to get the ideal job after our program. I think it comes back to the rankings; our students are getting great jobs and our alumni’s customer satisfaction is quite high. They are a kind of key elements of a lot of rankings.
Could you tell us why Cambridge MBA emphasises project works? I think three different projects in one year is one of the very unique features of our program.
This is a very interesting question. Actually, when the program was set up in 1990s, there were many criticisms about MBA education. For example, Henry Mintzberg argued that MBA doesn’t help people to become a good manager and that you need to understand the real practices of real managers. He was consulted when our program was set up. We realised what we could do better than other institutions is to have as much a kind of real, practical experience integrated into our program as possible. The way of doing so has been changing slightly but the idea that real practices are really important has always been central to what we do. Now we have Cambridge Venture Project, a part time consulting project for start up companies around Cambridge, and Global Consulting Project, four-week full time experience working with blue chip companies around the world. It will be unbelievable great opportunity for you to put all of classroom ideas into practice. Individual Project will give you an opportunity to build a kind of bridge back to a workplace. I think these are real strength of our program.
In the Japanese context, I want to emphasise this because we are often compared with 2-year programs. A lot of questions we get are “I want to switch my career. Can I do it in a one-year program?” and my response is always “Yes, in fact it is even easier in our program than others because you have so much opportunities to work with companies.”
And we have unbelievable job result examples in our Japanese alumni.
What is a good essay? What do you look in the essays?
One of the real challenges for a student who applies for any MBA is that you’ve got to do two things. Firstly, you have to convince the admission committee that you are at least as good as the other best candidates. To some extent you have to minimize your individuality and need to show good scores, good academic results, and good performance in your job.
Secondly, you have to say that you are significantly different from all other students, that you are going to add values to the class, and that you are going to participate well in the class. And it is often in the essays that you can do that. So my advice on the essays is to use them as means of expressing your own individuality and your special qualities that make you an attractive person to have in the class.
And don’t just show these things in the content. When we read essays, we can understand a lot about people. Be careful about not only “what you write” but also “how you write.” So my advice is to spend really a lot of time on the essays and make them your own work. Never use essay consultants to make your essay. Even a grammatical mistake is acceptable when you are confident about it. Don’t change the contents, your styles, and your passion.
How is the interview important in the Cambridge MBA?
Not all MBA programs interview everyone, not all MBA programs use faculty as interviewers. An interview gives us an opportunity to see a different side of people. For example, we can give people a bit of stress sometimes, we can find out other sides of people’s personality. Sometimes people are very formal in their application and we want to find out more about what really motivates them, what drives them, and what passions they have. So the interview is absolutely important.
Every interview will be different. To some extent there is a kind of structure, but in every individual we are looking for slightly different things. Just because one person get a quantitative question does not mean that the others will get the same question. Just because one person is asked about a challenging problem in his/her job doesn’t mean that the others will get it as well. We are specifically looking to find out things we haven’t grasped from their application.
In the Cambridge MBA interpersonal skills are really critical. We want people to challenge one another and make one another answer back. Sometimes it is difficult things to do. For example, Japanese education system doesn’t encourage you questioning your faculty. So sometimes we test out whether you are prepared to challenge and answer back your faculty like “I don’t think that’s right.” And that gives us confidence you’re going to participate in the class.
We encourage people to come to Cambridge and receive interview as much as they can. We are relatively a new program and do not have a long track record, so we bring applicants here and let them see what a fantastic city it is, what a great program it is, what wonderful people we have on the program. It sells the program to people. Imagine that once you finish your MBA, you can be strongly linked to your school for the rest of your life. You can come back here, you can bring your kids here, and you can bring your grand kids here. I am sure that Cambridge is such an attractive place to come back.
What do you see from recommendation letters?
We learn so much from recommendation letters. We ask them of both a peer and a supervisor, and the questions for each recommender are slightly different. We want them to give us really useful information that helps us make a good decision. So we ask quite specific questions such as “how the person performs in teams.” And what I would say is it is really important to choose the right recommender. Never choose your best friend as your peer. Use someone who can be quite critical of you both positively and negatively because we don’t just need easy people, actually we need people that we feel we can contribute to and we can add value to. So it’s useful to hear that the person had difficulty, performed less, and faced a challenge. We want to see that the person has capacity to learn and capacity to get benefit from the program. So honesty in recommendations is really appreciated. Sometimes we get very positive and glowing recommendations, and I say “Well, this person is almost perfect. So what can he/she learn here?” It’s much better to have critical appraisals saying “this is where the person can grow.” Recommendations are very important.
Do you have any general tips for Japanese applicants?
One of the things about Japan is we have absolutely wonderful alumni who are incredibly enthusiastic about the program and incredibly helpful. The first thing you should do is to get in touch with them and ask questions to understand what the Cambridge MBA is because it is different from any other places in terms of class dynamics and relationships between faculties, students, and students themselves. It’s not that one place is better than the other but that they are very, very different and you need to understand how different the place is before you can make a really compelling application. What makes good applications to, say, Wharton or Harvard probably doesn’t make a great application to Cambridge because we are just looking for slightly different qualities in people.
As for particular tips, if you have a long lead time like two or three years before you apply, I recommend you focus on English. Communication skills are so important. It is a different thing to study English and to have to communicate in class in English. So I’d emphasise that’s quite important for Japanese students.
As for GMAT, I recommend Japanese students focus on improving verbal side and analytical writing because we see the balance. A 680 score with 99% in math and 50% in verbal is less appreciated than 75% in both.
One of other things is having an open mind. It may be difficult for Japanese students because most of the best qualified Japanese candidates are lifetime employees of excellent Japanese companies. Of course our MBA is fantastic for people who will be back to Japan and operate at highest levels in her or his large organisations. But I think it’s a little bit worth having an open mind thinking “maybe, I can take this one year as an opportunity to try different things even if I know I’m going back to my company and country.” I think indicating your openness to new ideas is quite useful.
Japan is the 2nd largest economic country in the world and important in terms of businesses and culture. We really want good representatives from Japan.

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