The MBA Roadshow: From St. John's to Victoria — the ins and outs of 31 MBA programs

From St. John's to Victoria — our team of reporters crossed the country investigating the ins and outs of 31 MBA programs for our 14th annual look at Canadian business-school education

School of Business, Edmonton
Tuition: $22,000 (no change from 2004) | Length: 16 Months

Alberta's business dean, Mike Percy, says it's “irritating” that his school is often perceived as a regional institution. “It's a national business school,” he insists, pointing to its large number of international students, its top faculty and its high-calibre programming as proof. Percy is right, of course: students do come from all across Canada and around the world to attend his school. Several are attracted to its MBA in natural resources and energy, a specialty that prepares graduates for jobs in Alberta's booming oil-and-gas sector. But many others enrol in Alberta's MBA because family and friends live in the area, and they're keen on buffing up their biz skills without giving up their Edmonton network. In fact, Percy's deep connections with the city's business community mean students often choose the school knowing it will help them strengthen ties to Edmonton's who's who. Weekly dean's forums bring local business and provincial government luminaries to the campus to speak.

The full-time MBA class is made up of a close-knit group of about 100 students. (Approximately 150 others enrol part-time.) During their first year, students focus on a business-basics core curriculum, while second year brings more practical business applications and requires substantial group work. Many a late night is spent completing assignments at the MBA House, a historic four-bedroom home owned by the School of Business. Located about a minute's walk from the edge of campus, the university's MBA Association hosts parties there ? that is, when crunch time isn't looming.

Sauder School of Business, Vancouver
Tuition: $36,000 (n/c) | Length: 15 Months

The West Coast vibe is alive and well at Sauder, where the MBA penthouse boardroom has a view of the North Shore mountains and students cite Vancouver's balmy winters and easy access to Whistler as key reasons for choosing the school. Still, that doesn't mean the program is for lightweights. Since it takes only 15 months to complete, including a mandatory three-month summer internship, a lot of information is packed into a relatively small period of time, making for some long days, especially during the intense three-month integrated core that kicks off the program.

Sauder is the top school in the country when it comes to the amount of new research on business management published annually. That reflects the innovative thinking taking place there, led by a crop of enthusiastic professors (also attracted by the school's location). Entrepreneurship 101, a business class for residents of Vancouver's drug-and-poverty plagued Downtown Eastside, taught by MBA students, is another unique Sauder creation.

Most Sauder graduates remain in Canada, though 30% seek out international opportunities, especially in Asia. About a quarter of the students go on an exchange during their final three months in the program, often in hope of securing work abroad. What's more, 60% of Sauder students come from other countries to begin with ? a special arrangement between UBC and global banking behemoth HSBC allows for easy-to-get loans for foreign students.

Faculty of Business, St. Catharines, Ont.
Tuition: $14,000 (n/c) | Enrolment: 20 Months

Brock graduated its first class of MBAs in 2005 and makes no secret of the fact it's a young program. “We are the guinea pigs,” says 24-year-old student Mike Catalano, who completed a bachelor's degree in business administration at Wilfrid Laurier University prior to starting his MBA. “We knew there were going to be some bumps along the way, but it's nice when you know you have a role in shaping the program.” Located in the heart of the Niagara wine region, this St. Catharines- based school draws students from locations throughout southwestern Ontario, but has managed to avoid the stigma of becoming a commuter school. “We're lucky that this place hasn't become a satellite campus where people just come and go,” says Catalano. Although some acknowledge the 20-month program doesn't have a high-enough profile yet, Brock has been able to successfully leverage its connections to the biz community because of its strong undergraduate co-op program. Concentrations in marketing, finance and accounting are popular, and there are even talks about offering an option in wine marketing. “We're very grapeful for that,” quips student Gillian Kemp, 41, who worked in the publishing and non-profit sectors before coming to Brock. Now if only the school could find a better place for MBA candidates to meet and work on assignments. The aptly named War Room ? a cramped, windowless computer lab where students are forced to duke it out for a spot to sit ? leaves much to be desired.

Haskayne School of Business, Calgary
Tuition: $22,180 (n/c) | Length: 16 Months

Students from afar love the idea of moving to a booming oil-and-gas town, where they can rub shoulders with energy execs during the week and enjoy skiing at nearby Banff on weekends. But for those already living in Calgary ? historically the bulk of Haskayne's MBA class ? the city's recent rise in fortune means few are interested in abandoning the lucrative job market, resulting in a drop in enrolment for Haskayne last year.

Many students report enjoying the sense of camaraderie permitted by the smaller size, even though they tend to live fairly far from each other. Enrolment is also an issue when it comes to the variety of classes that can be offered and the ability to attract new faculty.

Another concern: transition. Haskayne is still finding its footing after restructuring, in 2001, to provide a more traditional program. Nonetheless, the Haskayne MBA has lots going for it, not the least of which is dean Michael Grandin, and business leader and philanthropist Dick Haskayne. Their extensive industry involvement, coupled with Grandin's soft spot for MBA students, means candidates frequently get personal introductions to folks high up Canada's corporate ladder.

An innovative specialty called Global Energy Management and Sustainable Development is gaining in both popularity and recognition. Haskayne ranks highly for its exceptional corporate social responsibility department, too. Other highlights: Prof. Leo Donlevy's 100% case-based course, which culminates in an internal five-day case competition judged by more than 70 local business executives; ample opportunity to go on international exchanges; a beefed-up career centre that is getting rave reviews; and a three-week wilderness leadership trip.

School of Business, Sydney, N.S.
Tuition: $17,600 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

Cape Breton University's MBA(CED) is the business degree for do-gooders. This two-year program ? a combination of biz basics and social sciences ? helps prepare students for careers in community economic development. “It's like operating in the field of commerce ? but with multiple bottom lines,” says student Murray Arsenault, who runs several community businesses in Inuvik (see profile, page 116). The campus ? wedged between Nova Scotia's Sydney and Glace Bay ? is less than picturesque, but out-of-province students can't help but fall in love with Cape Breton's friendly vibe and the breathtaking scenery nearby. The chance to complete options in peace-building and First Nations have also been a popular draw for students, many of whom choose to continue their work in credit unions, not-for-profits and government agencies after they graduate. Other than an intensive month of classes in January, July or September ? during which many international students live on campus in suite-style residences ? study is mostly self-directed and is more heavily weighted toward theory. Unfortunately, say some students, there is limited access to certain university facilities during the summer months ? including a library and a cafeteria that shut down early during the week.

Eric Sprott School of Business, Ottawa
Tuition: $6,504 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

Sprott's MBA program is in the midst of an overhaul. Academic research remains the heart and soul of the program ? which continues to serve as a feeding ground for Carleton's illustrious business PhD program ? but there's a flock of new faculty hoping to give the degree a more hands-on, real-world-application feel. Last year, four new mandatory “integrative” classes were introduced. However, many classes are still steeped in theory, and you won't graduate from Sprott without a sound knowledge of research methodology.

The program's other defining factor is age. One of a handful of schools in Canada that doesn't require at least two years of work experience before starting an MBA, classes here are filled with ambitious 23-year-olds fresh from undergraduate business degrees. It is perfect for eager beavers itching to get an MBA designation under their belt before embarking on their careers, but might be frustrating for older, more experienced students who sometimes feel they're missing out on the opportunity to glean nuanced opinions and practical know-how from classmates.

So why Sprott? Students say they're drawn to the small class sizes, generous scholarships, short time frame and sense of ownership. As Asit Kaul, a 23-year-old engineer from India, says: “It's new, so you really get to grow with it. The students get to initiate a lot of things.”

John Molson School of Business, Montreal
Tuition: $10,426 (+8%) | Length: 16 Months

The MBA program at Concordia's John Molson School of Business is a lot like a younger, hipper cousin to neighbour McGill's. Unlike its history-laden Montreal rival, the 31-year-old program has carved out a reputation for itself based on innovation instead of tradition. “I came to John Molson for content, not brand,” says recent grad Karim Boulos, 39, who is running in Montreal's upcoming municipal election. The program, which enjoys close ties to Montreal's business community, places a strong emphasis on hands-on learning, offering opportunities to compete in “live” cross-border case competitions and consulting projects with local businesses. Students also rave about its flexibility, which includes options to mix and match electives, switch easily between part- and full-time status and begin the program at three different times during the year. “I wanted a custom-made program,” says student Ashee Sarin. Despite a series of frustrating delays in the construction of a much-needed new business building, students and staff are hopeful they'll be in their new home by 2007. In the meantime, a handful of nearby 24/7 coffee shops serve as a great place for team meetings and study sessions. Molson's flagship event, a student-run international case competition that attracts more than 500 students and 200 judges from around the world each year, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in January.

School of Business Administration, Halifax
Tuition: $13,500 (n/c) | Length: 16 Months

With a strong reputation beyond its Atlantic borders, Dalhousie shares the spotlight with some of Canada's top-tier MBA programs. Located in the heart of Halifax's hip downtown, this mid-size Maritime biz school prides itself on the well-rounded experience it offers. Almost 40% of Dal's MBA students take advantage of international exchange and internship programs over the summer, and many sign up for extracurricular activities, including potluck dinners, mock interview competitions and business symposiums. “It's almost like the whole East Coast flavour has worn off on the school ? there's a different way of life here,” says 26-year-old student Dianna MacDonald, a former advertising executive. Easy access to the region's many beaches, lakes and golf courses help add to the appeal, and Halifax's legendary pub and jazz-bar district is also a welcome distraction from the program's heavy workload. The recently opened $25-million Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building is a big improvement over the school's shabby former digs. A chance to earn a joint degree with some of the university's top-notch professional programs ? including law, public administration and environmental management ? also continues to be a huge draw.

Faculty of Management, Guelph, Ont.
Tuition: $6,210 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

The University of Guelph's MBA program is not for everyone, but students hoping to launch a career in agribusiness or hospitality-and-tourism management will find a good fit here. Because of its specialized focus, the 12-month intensive program attracts individuals from around the world, including Australia native Dan Fisk, who completed his honours thesis in aquaculture at the University of Tasmania before coming to Guelph to do his MBA in agribusiness, and Michael Ridout, who worked in golf club operations at the Four Seasons in the Caribbean. “Virtually none of the MBA students end up at the farm,” says Joe Barth, the faculty of management's interim associate dean, referring to the school's strong undergraduate reputation in agriculturally related industries. That said, the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the top researchers in the field is a definite bonus for MBA students who choose to complete a major research project during the year. Although there isn't much time for fraternizing outside of school, the program's students remain a close-knit bunch who maintain friendships after graduation. Guelph also offers an online EMBA, which takes about 30 months to complete and allows students to access course material from anywhere in the world.

Tuition: $9,900 (+17%) | Length: 12 Months

Although HEC offers MBAs in both French and English, it continues to be known as a very French school. The 37-year-old program is working hard to increase its profile in the anglophone community ? both domestically and beyond ? but has been extremely successful at attracting multilingual students from around the world. Classes are held in a modern six-floor building featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows, garden courtyards and massive skylights. “You won't see ivy-covered buildings and 100-year-old red-brick structures here,” says 33-year-old recent grad Bart Kasowski, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Montreal. “HEC is contemporary ? it's about the future.” Students rave about the program's six-week course format (compared to the more traditional 12-week format) and say it allows them to squeeze in more valuable content. “It's still competitive, but not to the detriment of everyone's learning,” says student Louise Murray, who spent 10 years as a tour services manager with the Cirque du Soleil. Although the intensive 15-month program leaves little time for extracurricular activities, cinq à sept outings ? Montreal's version of happy hour ? on Thursday nights are a huge hit.

Faculty of Management, Sudbury
Tuition: $14,336 (n/c) | Length: 24 Months

Located in Sudbury ? home to one of the world's largest nickel producers ? Laurentian's MBA program attracts plenty of engineers and managers from local mining companies, such as Inco and Falconbridge, who are looking to take their management skill set to the next level. The two-year program is especially popular with part-time students, who can complete their degree during evenings in the winter or weekends in the spring while continuing to work at their day jobs. About a quarter of the class is made up of international students ? a definite bonus for local MBA candidates. “Especially in a northern community, we don't get exposed to as many cultures, so this gives us a more international sense of business,” says 44-year-old Peter Taylor, a part-time student and manager of information technology for the Sudbury & District Health Unit. Unfortunately, adds Taylor, the school's off-the-beaten track location also means “less exposure” to industry leaders, who tend to cluster around major urban centres such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. For individuals interested in the flexibility of learning at home, Laurentian also offers an online MBA that is designed for certified general accountants and is completed on a module-by-module basis.

Faculty of Administrative Sciences, Quebec City
Tuition: $3,116 (n/c) | Length: 16 Months

Just a 10-minute drive from the gates of Vieux-Québec, Laval is as French as it gets. But administrators are keen on producing well-rounded students ? though the MBA program is offered in French, students must pass an English proficiency test before graduation. That doesn't seem to be an issue, though, considering most are comfortable speaking not only in both of Canada's official languages, but also a handful of others ? international students make up almost a third of the student body.

Specialized degrees are what lure students here ? there are 14 focused MBAs to choose from, a couple of which can be taken entirely via the web. Two specializations stand out: agribusiness and pharmaceutical management. Students here are young, since neither work experience nor the GMAT are requirements. But what some lack in experience, they make up for in heart. The Laval team has won the John Molson MBA International Case Competition twice in the past five years, bolstering morale. Other bonuses include access to great research resources, two brand new, fully equipped trading rooms and a wealth of international internship opportunities.

I. H. Asper School of Business, Winnipeg
Tuition: $18,600 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

Despite being named after Izzy Asper, one of Canada's most successful and well-known entrepreneurs (a bronze bust of the legendary CanWest founder sits in the school's foyer), the University of Manitoba's business school lacks some of the prestige claimed by institutions elsewhere in the nation. Nonetheless, the school's small MBA class ? 15 students this year in the 12-month full-time program ? has been churning out provincial leaders for decades.

Historically well-connected to the Winnipeg business community, Manitoba's MBA students tend to have grown up in the city, or to be recent immigrants. Many live in the quiet community adjacent to the university, in the city's south end. Opportunities for post-graduation local employment are on the rise, as the city's aging elite attempts to retain homegrown talent by wooing alumni with top jobs. The MBA program itself has traditionally emphasized theory over practical hands-on assignments, but that's changing slightly with a curriculum overhaul being led by recently appointed dean Glenn Feltham.

Faculty of Management, Montreal
Tuition: $9,302 (+6%) | Length: 16 Months

Globe-trotting students choose McGill's MBA program for its strong international brand, top-notch faculty and Ivy League vibe. Students hail from all corners of the globe, with particularly strong numbers from Latin America, Asia and Europe ? a perfect complement to Montreal's diverse ethnic community. “A lot of European students say they don't even feel like they've left home,” says 33-year-old student Mark MacVittie, a University of Toronto physiotherapy undergrad who worked as a senior physiotherapist at the Toronto-based Fitness Institute before coming to McGill. A roster of high-profile guest lecturers ? including legendary billionaire and pension fund manager Stephen Jarislowsky and professor and author Henry Mintzberg ? also help to cement the program's strong reputation in finance, marketing and international business. Although classes are conducted in English, students have the option of completing assignments or writing exams in French. Several clubby traditions ? including hockey and rugby tournaments with MBA students at Harvard and Duke, and swanky wine-and-cheese receptions hosted by professors ? also help to create valuable networking opportunities. Although some students acknowledge the Montreal market isn't as big as Toronto's, many choose to stick around after graduation, citing a way of life they'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. And with its trendy nightclubs, jazz bars and cafés, there's no doubt that Montreal is one heck of a place to party.

Michael G. DeGroote School of Business, Hamilton
Tuition: $20,989 (+1%) | Length: 16 Months

Students at DeGroote enjoy the best of both worlds: the cachet of being linked to McMaster's world-class researchers and the intimacy of Hamilton's small-town campus. Unlike some of its nearby Toronto competitors, DeGroote is smaller, friendlier and less competitive. “It's kind of a diamond in the rough ? a hidden school,” says 26-year-old student Tim Berezny, who spent six months working for an aid organization in Togo, West Africa, before coming to DeGroote. The chance to earn up to $5,000 a month while completing work placements for big-name companies like Dofasco and Imperial Oil is a huge draw; many students subsequently get full-time jobs with their co-op employers. DeGroote also offers an MBA in health-services management, and there are plans to launch a five-year combined MD/MBA program in the fall of 2006. Dean Paul Bates, who hosts a monthly Dean on Deck Q&A session for students, says the 16-month program is aimed at making candidates “street ready.” Although DeGroote's facilities could definitely use a facelift, the state-of-the-art Allen H. Gould Trading Floor and high-tech Decision Centre, designed specifically for focus groups, are a welcome addition.

Faculty of Business Administration, St. John's, Nfld.
Tuition: $4,400 (n/c) | Length: 16 Months

Many island-loving Newfoundlanders often perceive Memorial as their only option in an MBA, while MUN rarely leaps to mind for Canadians elsewhere. This juxtaposition is reflected in the makeup of Memorial's MBA class. According to associate dean of academics Tom Clift, most of the approximately 250 students enrolled are islanders, and most of them are white, Anglo-Saxon and of English or Irish decent.

Not that other cultures aren't welcome. Kanwal Kohli, who was a manager at GE Healthcare in New Delhi before immigrating to Canada just weeks before starting MUN's MBA program, says he's comfortable in the classroom and wants to stay in Newfoundland forever.

At $2,200 per year, the two-year program is among the cheapest in Canada, thanks to generous provincial funding. Currently consisting of a standard offering of accounting, marketing, finance and strategy, the overall course framework is under academic review. Expectations are that niche programming catering to Newfoundland's growing oil-and-gas industry will play a bigger role in the future. There is also the possibility a shortened 12-month program will soon be offered as an alternative to the current two-year program.

Faculty of Business Administration, Moncton, N.B.
Tuition: $8,950 (+17%) | Length: 16 to 20 Months

With 55 full-time students in its MBA program, the University of Moncton runs the smallest of Canada's three francophone business schools. Small class size is part of the appeal ? students enjoy the one-on-one contact that classes with as few as 11 people allow them to have with their professors and peers.

Moncton's MBA program is one little multicultural family. About two-thirds of the school's full-timers are international, coming from French-speaking areas like Africa, Tunisia, Morocco and France. The school also works in partnership with Western Illinois University in Macomb and the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Mexico, in what it calls the trilateral MBA, which focuses on the NAFTA agreement. Students enrolled in that 16-month program spend time at all three universities.

Moncton students are, of course, serious about their studies, though there are occasions when the student council rounds up a few to play pool at a local bar. While they have such options as a co-op stream (in marketing and operations management) versus completing a mini-thesis, Moncton offers little in the way of specialized MBAs, though a plan for “mini-specializations” is in the works.

Faculty of Business Administration, Fredericton
Tuition: $13,500 (+2%) | Length: 16 Months

Nicknamed the “MBA of convenience” by UNB students because of its centrally located Fredericton campus, this 19-year-old program draws a mostly regional crowd from government, military and small-business circles. “So many people are here for so many different reasons,” explains student Kent Sutherland, a Canadian Forces army major. Small classes and the opportunity for students to cut their teeth on real-life consulting and investment projects are two of the main reasons to choose this degree. “This is a moderate-sized MBA program ? we're not a machine,” says associate dean Barry Boothman, whose mandatory corporate governance class, featuring the occasional Monty Python video, is a huge hit. A year-long course in export marketing, which culminates in a trade mission to places such as Vietnam, Mexico and Chile, is also extremely popular for students interested in forging international ties with small and medium-size businesses abroad. A $1.8-million student investment fund, managed by a team of undergrads and second-year MBAs, has also generated lots of buzz. Although some students complain about trekking up a giant hill to reach the business building, a breathtaking view of the Saint John River is well worth the workout. And that's probably a good thing, considering many spend their free time chowing down at the Cellar, a popular greasy spoon on campus.

Faculty of Business, Saint John, N.B.
Tuition: $28,000 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

UNBSJ's MBA program is in the midst of a major overhaul. Beginning next September, the school will officially launch two new MBA streams to replace its existing 12-month degree. Students in the international business stream will complete two nine-week study modules in two of four trade regions ? France, India, China or Canada ? following three modules in Saint John. The school will also offer an innovation and technology management MBA that will give candidates the chance to work at a local high-tech company or startup technology incubator. “People who are in senior managerial jobs now really are required to operate in a global environment and are expected to know how to be entrepreneurs and how to foster innovation as a culture,” says Dean Shelley Rinehart. “What we're trying to do with the potential to study outside of Canada with the incubator is give students the options to build those skill sets.” Similar to its existing MBA, both programs can be completed in just 12 months and, although some current students admit the shorter time frame feels a bit rushed and leaves little time for activities outside the classroom, the chance to re-enter the workforce after just one year is a huge perk. “I don't mind not sleeping for one year and getting my MBA done,” says 31-year-old student Ajay Shroff, who worked at one of India's largest Internet companies ? Sifty Ltd. ? before coming to UNBSJ. In a bid to improve their language skills and to immerse themselves in Maritime culture, some international students choose to live with local families close to campus. The local business community has also embraced the university's MBA students, many of whom are eager to stay in Saint John upon graduation, by offering one-on-one mentoring opportunities. A large number of part-timers in the program means lots of night classes ? and plenty of caffeine. “The Chinese students get completely addicted to Tim Hortons and they want to open franchises in Beijing when they go back,” says UNBSJ professional development consultant Michelle Scott.

School of Management, Ottawa
Tuition: $14,000 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

A unique blend of English and French sensibilities exists at Canada's only fully bilingual university. MBA students brush up on their linguistic skills by taking classes in both languages, with the flexibility to complete assignments and write exams in either. Proficiency in French and English is key for those looking to work with the federal government, a common aspiration here. Links between the school and the government community are solid, and the campus is just a stone's throw from the Parliament Buildings (even though most students commute, given a dearth of affordable housing near the downtown campus). Meanwhile, the program's tech focus serves those looking for jobs in Ottawa's high-tech sector ? there are plenty of ex-Alcatel, ex-Cognos and ex-Nortel employees wandering the halls.

A newly shortened program, Ottawa's MBA attracts those who don't want to be off work for more than a year, but profs are still adjusting to the abbreviated teaching schedule. A hidden gem: the master of health administration. The only MHA in the country housed within a business school, candidates take all their core courses with the MBAs, then move on to a 16-week internship in hospitals, health-policy associations or pharmaceutical companies.

School of Business, Kingston, Ont.
Tuition: $51,500 (+8%) | Length: 12 Months

A quick glance inside the classrooms of the gorgeously designed biz school at Queen's reveals a breeding ground for future industry leaders in the high-tech, consulting and finance fields. The intense program ? tailored to students with backgrounds in engineering, science and technology ? provides broad-based management exposure to individuals who already have the quantitative stuff down pat. Personal trainers, fully equipped team offices and dedicated coaches are just a few of the perks available to students who spend the entire year working in five- or six-person groups. The chance to hone entrepreneurial skills and win $10,000 toward a new business venture (plus the chance to pitch those ventures to potential angel investors) in the final semester is also popular. Unfortunately, says Shari Carlaw, 31, the director of marketing for Air Canada Technical Services, there's little time for activities outside the classroom. “You can eat or sleep or go to the gym ? but not all three,” she says. Despite the heavy workload, many students find time to head out on Thursday nights to the Point Four Club ? a tradition started by a professor who theorized students only risk decreasing their GPA by 0.4% if they make room for a social life. The weekly outings have become so popular that some of the business school's 10,000-plus alumni have started their own Point Four chapters in locations around the world.

Sobey School of Business, Halifax
Tuition: $6,690 (+4%) | Length: 16 Months

Although Saint Mary's often plays second fiddle to its larger and better-known rival, Dalhousie, Sobey has emerged as a strong contender in Atlantic Canada's MBA market. By focusing on what it does best ? preparing students for careers in finance, marketing and consulting ? the program has managed to attract a diverse group of regional and international students who are drawn to the school's smaller class sizes and collegial atmosphere. MBA students also have 24/7 access to the biz building and its computer labs. “We're a little smaller and a little friendlier,” says former dean Al Miciak. “But that doesn't mean we can't compete on a global scale.” True to its Maritime roots, this Halifax-based school places a strong emphasis on giving back to the community, pairing teams of students with local businesses to work on a consulting project. Students also rave about the program's focus on human resources, ethics and leadership skills, or as student Derek Cann puts it, “the stuff you can't learn from a book.” When they're not studying, students can usually be found cheering on the university's wildly popular varsity basketball team or enjoying a pint at the Gorsebrook Lounge, the campus pub. Unfortunately, many pack their bags for Calgary or Toronto after graduation, citing a shortage of jobs at larger investment banking and finance companies in the Maritimes.

College of Commerce, Saskatoon
Tuition: $17,000 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

Three years ago, taking a pedagogical leap of faith, the University of Saskatchewan overhauled its MBA curriculum, moving from a traditional two-year program to a 12-month integrated one with niche specializations. The result? An academic gem, especially the fall semester, where students enjoy the luxury of having four professors all in class at the same time, with a team-teaching approach that ensures business scenarios are discussed holistically. In other words, students devise solutions to business problems while keeping the health of the entire company, not just a single division, in mind. Churning out top-notch general managers is the goal. You won't necessarily walk away from a Saskatchewan MBA with first-rate financing skills, but carrying on an intelligent conversation with the accounting department should be a breeze.

While the fundamentals are solid, and specializations like agribusiness or indigenous management ? which teaches how to successfully run aboriginal organizations ? take advantage of the province's strengths, the program suffers due to its small size. Designed for up to 50, only 17 students are enrolled full-time this year. (The part-time contingent, which historically bumped up numbers and allowed for a larger variety of classes, largely disappeared when the MBA was revamped.) What's more, while the school has begun to market itself abroad (promotional material downplays the city's freezing winters), most students are still from Saskatchewan. As Asit Sarkar, chair of the program's international business management specialization puts it, “A cohort-based program is not effective if everyone is from the same place.” Finally, the small-city location means there aren't many bigwig CEOs giving guest lectures here.

Faculty of Administration, Sherbrooke, Que.
Tuition: $3,825 (n/c) | Length: 16 Months

Getting an MBA for about $4,000 is definitely one of the bonuses of Sherbrooke's program. Besides the beautiful hillside setting and the low cost of living (bus access is free for students and a one-bedroom apartment costs about $250 to $300 per month), Canadian students from outside the province pay the same tuition as those living in Quebec. The catch? You have to speak French, since no classes are taught in English, which some students say can be a downside when it comes to competing with other MBA students. Still, with international students making up 45% of the class, all sorts of languages can be heard wafting through the hallways.

Sherbrooke was the first school in the world to offer a French MBA, in 1966. Administrators carefully screen applicants, looking for teamwork capabilities above all else. If you pass the intense selection process (every potential student is interviewed by a panel), you've made it into a class of about 30. Students say the small size is fantastic for getting lots of attention and help from profs, but can be a disadvantage in that course offerings can be inflexible. The four-month, paid work internship in the middle of the program is a big draw, though. Sherbrooke also offers a more traditional MBA, in the sense that there are no specialties ? the school is dedicated to producing broad-vision strategic managers, not specialists.

SFU Business, Burnaby, B.C.
Tuition: $25,000 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

SFU's motley collection of MBA programs is now offered in the heart of Vancouver's business district, in a newly restored Bank of Montreal heritage building, replete with original eight-foot-tall vault doors. Brought under one roof for the first time this year (the past decade saw programs split between a main Burnaby campus and another downtown location), SFU hopes the new facilities will foster a sense of community ? something that has been lacking in the past.

The full-time 12-month MBA curriculum is ideal for professionals who already have an undergraduate business degree (in fact, a B.Comm, BBA, or SFU's twelve-month online graduate diploma in business, is currently an admission requirement) and are looking for a quick way to get the letters “MBA” after their name. The small class size also appeals to many, as does the price tag ($11,000 less than neighbouring Sauder). What's more, with only two days a week of classes, students can hold down a job while completing their degree.

Where SFU really shines, though, is in its niche offerings: the Global Asset and Wealth Management MBA, a 16-month undertaking established in 2002 in direct response to industry needs, and the Management of Technology MBA, offered since 2000. Students in these programs are a little bit older, a little more experienced and have very defined career goals. They also have skills, honed by dedicated profs, that make them attractive recruits for key jobs in their chosen fields.

Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, Toronto
Tuition: $50,000 (n/c) | Length: 16 Months

Students on a fast track to Bay Street choose Rotman for its cutthroat reputation and proximity to the core of Toronto's elite business community. Staff and students ooze confidence and are quick to point out that Rotman is on a mission to become “one of the world's top-tier business schools.” More than 90% of graduates find jobs in high-paying consultancies and financial services firms in the three months after they leave Rotman, and recruiters flock to this high-profile school to fill their executive ranks with top talent. “We are on a mission to become one of the world's top tier business schools ? and we're half way there,” says outspoken dean Roger Martin. Although many students describe the first year of the two-year program as “gruelling,” most agree that the $25,000 annual tuition is well worth the hectic days and sleepless nights. But beware ? anyone looking for a kinder, gentler MBA program will not find it here. Some students gripe about a lack of camaraderie and competition for jobs is also extremely intense, especially in the final year.

UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIAFaculty of Business, Victoria
Tuition: $20,177 (+1%) | Length: 17 Months

Launched in 1992, just two years after the University of Victoria began offering business courses, this MBA program is still one of the new kids on the block. That means an international perspective has been integral to it since Day 1, and you're not apt to find any out-of-date classes being kept on the curriculum because of a curmudgeonly tenured professor. Unfortunately, the program's youth also means its alumni network isn't very well-developed, there aren't many biz-school clubs to join, and convincing recruiters to make the short hop from Vancouver to Victoria is still a serious challenge (though the B.C. provincial government often woos Vic's MBA grads).

Many students are attracted by small class sizes, which result in lots of personalized attention from professors and close friendships with classmates. What's more, since Victoria is a haven for retirees with loads of high-level experience under their belts, the school's mentorship program is top-notch. More than 90% of MBA students benefit from one-on-one relationships with professionals in the community.

The city's warm weather is a draw, too ? where else in Canada can you find two-thirds of the MBA class playing intramural soccer every Sunday afternoon, all winter long? Fishermen, kayakers and hikers take note.

UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIORichard Ivey School of Business, London, Ont.
Tuition: $56,000 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

At Canada's oldest MBA institution ? one reputed for its connections to Canada's “establishment” ? a clubby atmosphere abounds. The fine art of networking hasn't been lost on anyone here. Still, while the school remains a Bay Street training ground (more than half of Ivey's students migrate into investment banking, management consulting or other finance positions after graduation), relationships are more collegial than cutthroat. Ivey's location in mid-size London, Ont., means most students move there specifically to attend the school (36% of the class is international), and are eager to befriend classmates. Students' spouses are also made to feel welcome, with an official club of their own, dubbed Section V. Favourite pastimes include the wine-tasting club's monthly get-togethers, and the annual spring hockey tournament, when top U.S. schools like Harvard and Dartmouth come to play shinny and compete for the Ivey Cup. Another popular hangout is the Alex P. Keaton pub, opened in 2004 by an Ivey grad.

The community will soon be shaken up, however, since Ivey is abandoning its long-standing two-year program in favour of a one-year model. The first class to confront the new schedule, which will follow four learning modules (Develop Your Leadership Competencies, Build Cross-Enterprise Management Skills, Compete Successfully in a Global Environment, and Excel Through Cross-Enterprise Leadership) will start in May 2006. Another cohort will begin in October.

Historically respected for its general management approach, Ivey argues the switch is part of a new focus on “cross-enterprise leadership.” With Ivey's enrolment numbers down in recent years, however, it's also likely an attempt to compete with schools that offer MBAs at half the price for half the time. Ivey professors will continue to emphasize the case-based teaching method, lauded by students for keeping them more engaged in the classroom than run-of-the-mill lectures, but it remains unclear exactly how the new initiative will unfold. Students already warn of an extremely heavy workload.

Other selling points: an accessible 18,500-plus alumni network, and the country's largest career-services centre, with 16 staff members available to help grads land coveted jobs.

WILFRID LAURIER School of Business and economics, Waterloo, Ont.
Tuition: $20,000 (n/c) | Length: 12 Months

Students like Laurier's MBA program for a number of reasons: professors focus on teaching not publishing; the school's fully wired new building, with a bright atrium and comfy classrooms; and the friendly, down-to-earth classmates. But the No. 1 reason people pick Laurier's MBA is its Length: a mere 12 months. For those who can't fathom living without a salary for more than a year ? an especially important factor for the large number of Laurier students who are married with children and settled in the area ? speed is of the essence. The ability to transfer between the full-time and the part-time program is also a plus.

The compressed 12-month format means a heavy workload, and there aren't a lot of MBA social events. “It's like drinking from a firehose,” says student Trevor Timbeck, who worked in a technical role at Sun Microsystems for four years before deciding to return to school and beef up his business skills to move up the corporate ranks. But students applaud the faculty's skilful integration of the first year's eight core courses (Laurier was the first business school in Canada to offer a full-time integrated core), and enjoy the highly choreographed learning experience. A liberal use of case studies rounds out the curriculum.

Traditionally strong in accounting and finance, the school is growing, with course offerings in subjects like international business up significantly in recent years. Another recent addition is the class entitled Start a Business, run by the new Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship, which gives students credit for launching a company.

Odette School of Business, Windsor, Ont.
Tuition: $10,000 (n/c) | Length: 24 Months

Low tuition and a hands-on co-op program are two of the biggest draws of this mid-size MBA school, located in the industrial hub of southwestern Ontario. Because Odette doesn't require previous work experience, the broad-based management program attracts a younger crowd eager to get their feet wet in the “real world.” International students ? who make up about a quarter of the class ? say the program offers a close-knit community that can be harder to find in larger cities. While many students go on to find jobs in Windsor's manufacturing sector ? including the Big Three automakers ? others choose careers in finance and marketing. And when they're not buried in their books, students can usually be found taking in the sights, sounds and attractions of this mid-size ? somewhat dingy ? town, including the ever-expanding Casino Windsor (a gigantic gambling/hotel/entertainment complex) and the Detroit River, a stone's throw away. Unfortunately, say some students and staff, Odette continues to suffer from a bit of an inferiority complex. “We don't toot our own horn enough,” says 30-year-old former business journalist Geoffrey White, who now holds both his MBA and a bachelor of laws degree. The University of Windsor also offers a weekend MBA for managers and professionals, with the option to attend classes in Windsor or at Conestoga College's Kitchener campus.

Schulich School of Management, Toronto
Tuition: $35,000 (n/c) | Length: 16 Months

In an era of globalization, the reputation of York University's Schulich School of Business is soaring, thanks in part to its focus on international business. Its flashy new $100-million digs help, too. Students used to flee the business school's dingy premises the moment class ended; now they sprawl around across the building day and night, enjoying its modern, natural-light-infused construction so much that they're petitioning to have it open 24 hours a day.

Diversity rules at Schulich, where 70% of MBA students hold an international passport, and prior work experience ranges from musician with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra to five-year veteran of CIBC World Markets to film grad who ran the family dry-cleaning business.

With 20 specializations ? including not-for-profit or arts management, health industry, and property development ? Schulich's main attractions are flexibility and the freedom to take whatever courses you please. Its Toronto location is a draw ? despite the lack of a subway stop. Deszö Horváth, the school's dean, likes to say Schulich is more central than its “southern” neighbour, U of T's Rotman, but try telling that to the students waiting in long lines to board the bus during a winter blizzard.