In the world of business, the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) is an instantly recognisable degree that comes with a certain prestige, a boost to one's career prospects and earnings, networking opportunities and often a hefty price tag.
When the degree was first introduced about a hundred years ago, it was a relatively straightforward programme that covered the fundamentals of business.
Nowadays, there is a bewildering array of MBA options depending on one's needs. From full-time, part-time, distance, blended and executive programmes to specialised MBAs, which include marketing, hospitality and tourism, human resources, health care management, entrepreneurship.
Over the years, the MBA arena has seen the rise of a new sort of programme due to the demand from younger candidates wanting to get a grounding in business before heading off into the working world.
Business schools across the world are now offering the Masters in Management (MIM) degree to cater to these candidates with little or no work experience. These candidates chose the MIM as they would not usually qualify for an MBA programme as they don't have work experience.
"What we see is that the MBA and EMBA (Executive MBA) are very well established. I would say that a large majority of schools are tailoring their programmes to three different levels [MIM, MBA, EMBA] and this is primarily happening in Europe," said Dr Martin Boehm, associate dean of the MIM programme at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.
There are also universities in the United States, United Kingdom and Asia that are streamlining their MBA programmes.
Schools that are not going the MIM route include the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says Ankur Kumar, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.
She said MBA programmes are focused on giving students a well-rounded knowledge of all business disciplines and is also focused on building relationships with employers, classmates and faculty. The MIM programme may not have that, she said.
Professor Mark Crosby, Dean of Global MBA at the SP Jain Centre of Management, announced that the school will soon be launching a Masters in Global Business (MGB), which is along the lines of the MIM degree.
"In the past 15 years or so, business schools have realised that there is a whole other set of markets out there. Everyone needs business training if you think about it broadly from someone who's just graduated to someone with a lot of work experience; the question is how you deliver it," he said.
"And the reason for offering the MGB is because a lot of people who graduate in architecture or law or medicine, want to have a business-oriented role and this would be relevant to them," Crosby said.
Duke University's Fuqua School of Business in the US is tailoring its programmes at the three levels, said Dr Jennifer Francis, Senior Associate Dean for Programmes.
The school has recently launched a Master of Management Studies (MMS) "to think and react proactively to the demand for pre-experienced students with strong liberal arts or quantitative backgrounds such as engineering who do not have essential business skills", Francis said as she emphasised the MMS is not a substitute for an MBA.
In the UAE, the school is launching an MMS programme in Finance that targets working professionals. It is geared towards people who have a wealth of practical knowledge about business, but desire a more nuanced understanding of finance.
Marc Zawel, of student counselling company EqualApp in the United States, has observed that business schools are indeed catering their programmes towards the needs of students at various career stages.
"The market is changing somewhat, but the MBA still remains the flagship programme as they are well understood," said Hult International Business School Chief Academic Officer Mukul Kumar. Hult also offers its version of the MIM, which is called the Masters in International Business (MIB). "But there is certainly a growing trend for students who don't have significant business and work experience," he added.
Kumar said there is a very clear line between Hult's MIB and MBA, but the line gets blurred when it comes to the MBA and EMBA.
When it comes to choosing the MIM fresh out of university or waiting a few years to do an MBA, students are willing to wait, said Kumar.
Although business schools are offering these programmes, students are not necessarily well-informed about them.
"We [business schools] add to the confusion. There are many definitions about what a MIM, MBA or EMBA is and it has to do with work experience," said Boehm.
London Business School (LBS) is already showing great success with its MIM programme. A 95 per cent employment rate was recorded among last year's class of 100, the 2011 class of 140 has achieved a rate of 96 per cent said Fiona Sandford, Director of Career Services at LBS. The majority found jobs within three months of graduating.
Compared to the average salary among graduates in the UK of £25,000 per annum, the wages of LBS MIM graduates are around £35,000.
Dr Mohammad Ebrahim, Dean of the College of Business Administration at University of Dubai, says "the MIM is less well known in the UAE and does not have a good tone since many employers do not offer jobs for holders of this degree. Employers are usually looking for MBA candidates."
Ebrahim says employers in the region are aware of the different degrees "and they consider the MBA to be at the top. Extensive discussions with many employers indicate that the Middle East does not need the MIM."