Aneesh Sharma




United Arab Emirates




Sep 2017 - May 2019

By Aneesh Sharma

‘9’ is the only number

Not that I’m rankings obsessed or anything, but the FT Global EMBA rankings for 2017 are just out, and Oxford Saïd has managed to hold on to its Number Nine spot on the list. That’s three years in a row, consistently at ‘9’.

Is ‘9’ a good showing?

That means there are eight other programs I could have applied to that are better?
Anyway, don’t we all aspire to be associated with the Number One?
Why would anybody want to be anywhere else but the Number One school?

When I chose to apply to Oxford, the program’s global top 10 ranking had a role to play in my decision. As, of course, did the Oxford brand and its venerable heritage. But if I were to take a step back and really think about why I applied, the process of decision-making was much more complex, leading to my own ranking list.

The rational me wanted to choose a program that:

  • Was within geographic proximity to my current residence (and for me that means a flying time of less than 8 hours, and a time difference of less than 4)
  • Attracted diverse participants, both geographically and in terms of professional backgrounds
  • Fit my calendar with discrete modules as opposed to an evening/ weekend-type of program
  • Fit within the normal range of fees and program duration
  • Was well-ranked and had a recognized brand name

In reality, there are a lot of great programs across the globe that fit this rational criteria. Then what?

Then there was the emotional me. My emotional decision-making rested on one criteria, and one criteria alone: Could I really see myself there?

This is a question of brand affinity. The question I was really asking was if I felt the brand of the school fit with my personal brand. My construction of brand in the context of business schools could be deduced from the four P’s:

  • Place: What was my view of the physical space— the campus, the city, the country
  • People: What was my impression after having connected with people associated with Saïd Business School— graduates, students, admissions team, fellows, administrators.
  • Personality: What were the perceived characteristics/ personality traits that I could attribute to the school, based on all elements of my experience so far
  • Purpose: What was the school’s core purpose (both, stated and perceived).

After reconciling what mattered to the rational and the emotional me, there was one school at the top of my personal ranking list. For me, Number 9 was the only number.
I discovered that Oxford was the place for me, and I was grateful that Oxford felt the same way. But I can’t tell you whether you’re a good fit for Oxford, or if Oxford is a good fit for you. Only you can.

If you’re thinking of business school, really spend some time getting to know your options. Meet people, visit, ask questions.

There are many great schools, both on and off the “official” global top 10, but there’s only one Number One for you. Choose your Number One, and more likely than not, it will choose you too.

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