Visiting B-Schools in the UK - What I Learned #2 (Birkbeck)

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A few weeks ago, I spent over a week in London to visit some family. Because I'm looking into studying in the UK for my MSc in Finance in a year or so, I thought this would be a great way to visit some schools there. I picked some of the obvious choices, including London School of Economics and London Business School, as well as a couple of not-as-well-known schools, including London Metropolitan University and Birkbeck, University of London. I tried to fit in Cass as well as Imperial College, but I didn't have a chance to really meet anyone from admissions, so those posts would've been me stating information that you could easily find on their website (or on ANT's site). I spent a few days to look around some campuses, do some research on the programs these schools offer, meet some people, shake some hands, etc., etc., etc. After all of this, I thought this would be a great thread to read for anyone who is interested in going to the UK for grad school. My main point for this thread, however, is...are these schools really worth it? Are they worth the sometimes ridiculous costs for tuition as well as paying for living expenses in one of the most expensive cities in the world? This week, I'll be talking about Birkbeck, University of London and I'll be keeping the thread going through May.

Birkbeck, University of London

When I started my thread a week or so ago, many people loved the idea of talking about the obvious choices of LSE and LBS, but didn't understand why I would be talking about this school (or London Met) at all. However, I saw this school as an option for people who couldn't land LSE, LBS, Cass or Oxbridge. Sure, these schools are the obvious choices, but what about some of the other schools in London? For starters, Birkbeck offers many choices for post-graduates, including MSc Accounting & Financial Management, MSc Computing for Financial Services, MSc Finance (pathways to Finance & Commodities or Finance w/ Accounting), MSc Financial Economics and others, all of which are offered both part- and full-time. Plus, they offer graduate certificates and diplomas on subjects like Econometrics and Financial Engineering which guarantee well performing students a spot in a similar master's program. As for admissions, for students from the US, they're expecting a 3.0/4.0 GPA, but they're willing to take work experience into account as well, if a GPA falls below that. Also, not mandatory, they "highly recommend" submitting a GMAT or GRE score. However, when speaking to a counselor at their admissions office, he suggested that not submitting a score puts you at a significant disadvantage. He also said the median GMAT score is in the mid 600's. Finally, tuition isn't as harsh as LSE, with the full-time MSc Finance program costing approx. $22,790.

When speaking with the counselor at Birkbeck, I first asked how American applicants compare against other international applicants. To my surprise, he said the exact same thing that the counselor at LSE told me. Applications from Asia, particularly India and China, dominate each applicant class, so they are clamoring for more people from the western hemisphere to even it out, particularly from the US. However, the conversation soon turned to recruiting and networking, and he stressed that Birkbeck is a great option for a number of reasons. First, the whole campus is located in Bloomsbury, central London. Second, he stressed that many Birkbeck alum work in the City and are more than willing to help current students break-in. He names some companies that have shown up in the past for ocr, including JP Morgan, UBS, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland. Many of the professors in the finance department have worked in the private sector as well and give presentations or help current students with connecting with firms in the City. Finally, they offer a graduate internship program specifically to help graduates jump right into work once they graduate, which often leads to a FT job.

So overall, what do I think? For the students who can't get into the elite schools in London, Birkbeck can be a possible option. Also, it can be for people who simply want to study abroad for grad school and change of scenery for a year or two. The location in central London can't hurt either. Sure, one might have to hustle a bit more to network than say, an alum from LBS, but I imagine WSO has some readers out there who are used to it. The price is not to outrageous compared to the other big schools and recruiting seems better than one would think.

So there's my take on Birkbeck. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions. I still have that contact in the admin office so if you want, I can relay your questions to her. Next week, I'll be writing about London Business School.

Rundown - Birkbeck, University of London
Location: Bloomsbury, central London
Tuition: approx. $22,790 / full-time, one year
Finance Programs: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/study/pg/finance/index.html Entry Requirements: 3.0/4.0 GPA, possible work experience, GMAT score (avg is mid 600's)

Comments (5)

May 14, 2012

I'd say that is a fair review, Birkbeck is far away from London met in terms of reputation, generally speaking if a university is part of the University of London then it will be reasonably good (other uni's at a similar level are Queen Mary's, Royal Holloway and Goldsmiths), but certainly not target (apart from LSE, UCL to an extent, Kings if you really push it).

I just thought I would add, because it is what Birkbeck is known for and I don't think I saw it in your review (or maybe I just didn't see it), Birkbeck is a night school. If you look at the logo you can see the moon above the 'i'. It is known for this, I don't think they offer many, if any, day time classes. The dynamic is very different from a normal university, a lot of people that will be going there will work full time during the day and come and study at night. For some people that would be fine, but if you are from abroad you might not find it the easiest to meet people and have a normal social life. If you can't get into LSE etc., it probably isn't worth going to Birkbeck, but if you are determined, have a look at Kings College and some of the other University of London unis to get a feel for what else there is at the same level.

May 14, 2012

Why would anyone waste $22k on this school? Sorry but this leads me to believe that maybe you work for the University and are trying to pump up its reputation? Also, whats the obsession with being in London? There are great schools outside of London that have much better reputations and cost a lot less:

Durham
Warwick
Manchester
Edinburgh
Cranfield
St. Andrews

There is almost no advantage to being "near the heart of the action" as the UK is much smaller than the US and with trains and budget airlines you can reach London from anywhere in the country. You can fly from Edinburgh to London in 1 hour.

Schools like Bikbeck and LSBF are a cash grab designed to entice Asian students who think a UK education is going to propell them into a high paying job in the City. The reality is that the vast majority of graduates from these schools end up going home.

The reason schools like this are pushing so hard has to do with the current state of tuition fees in the UK. UK students only paid PS3k a year for a degree while the cost of a degree was, on average, PS9K. The government subsidised this to an extant but not to the full amount. To fill the gap Universities started offering PS20k specialised masters courses in Finance and Law to entice wealthy foreign students to come here. Basically the Asian students are subsidising all the western chicks who want to study art history for free.

Don't be fooled by these schools and their glossy web pages with pictures of Canary Wharf and the City, a bit of digging will reveal the truth about their success rates.

May 14, 2012

Agree with the above.
I think it's laughable that you're even considering London Met and it shows to me that you really have no idea about UK campus recruitment.

Birkbeck is a pretty horrible choice too. If you want to be taken seriously, the only London schools you should be looking at for MSc are LSE, LBS and Imperial.

Jan 28, 2019

I have to disagree with what you just said - Not everyone can afford the expensive fees of places such as LSE or Imperial. Teachers are industry experts, most of them worked with big firms in the city, have PhDs from reputable UK universities and also lecture at places such as Kings, LSE or Imperial aside Birkbeck. On another note, employers value that students from Birkbeck work whilst studying, building their industry experience which often counts more than flashy degrees from top universities.

Aug 21, 2013
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