Students studying on the Saïd Business School MBA programme have been told that they will not be offered a partial refund on their £57,200 course fees, despite 98% of students believing that the quality of education has become “worse” or “significantly worse” since the School moved teaching online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The School has further asked students to find pledges for stipends to support themselves if they want to participate in internships this summer. A survey conducted across the MBA student body revealed that just 6% of students would participate in a self-funded internship, compared to almost 60% who would participate in an internship if supported by a stipend from the Saïd Business School.

MBA students voted in a ‘steering committee’ after tuition went online in mid-March. An open letter to the Dean stated that they wanted to “…work with you to find ways to make up for the online-only experience, which has already fallen below our expectations”. Of their concerns, financial assistance was the priority (refund, stipends and a hardship fund), as well as the possibility of course flexibility, and other issues caused by the online-only format of tuition. 

Following a meeting on the 27th of May, the Dean of the School, Peter Tufano agreed to personally provide £10,000 in support of the stipend program, as a symbolic gesture of support. However, a cost analysis conducted by members of the MBA course shows that this would provide sufficient funding for approximately 3 internships. The same analysis estimated that between 100 and 200 students want to take up an internship with the School this Summer.

By comparison, Harvard Business School has offered to subsidise internships for any MBA student undertaking an internship by $650 per week for up to 12 weeks.

Students have also raised concerns about the management and communication from the Business School. Shortly after the announcement that the MBA course would move online, the Dean, Peter Tufano, hosted a virtual ‘town hall’ where, students were told, administrative officials would “answer any questions you may have to the best of our abilities”. However, Cherwell understands that the Dean did not answer the four most popular questions at the event, concerning refunds, and the lack of representation of the Covid steering committee at the event. These questions were instead answered in writing and posted on a forum for students to access following the event.

Regarding refunds for MBA students, a spokesperson for the SBS told Cherwell: “The School is following university policy on refunds and focusing all its resources on protecting the long-term future for its programmes, their students, and alumni. While we have had to deliver the MBA in a different format to the one we all envisaged at the start of the year, we are proud of the way our faculty, staff and students have come together to make this the best experience it can be in these extraordinary times.  We have not altered the content of courses or the rigour of the assessments.”

Responding to a request for comment Peter Tufano, the Dean of the Saïd Business School, said: “I did promise to students that I would work with the MBA class on raising funds to pay for unpaid internships with deserving organizations.  Indeed, I am working with some excellent students and Oxford Saïd colleagues on this plan, which we have labelled the Oxford Saïd Service Corps.   This work is in process and I am personally involved with it, as I had promised.”

The Saïd Business School is Oxford University’s business school. It offers a number of courses, with its MBA (Master of Business Administration course) being the most popular. The School is the most subscribed-to department for postgraduate study, with almost 3,000 students applying for the 850 places offered in 2018.