The post on Reddit started off innocently enough. Under the heading of “Ex-Employee of Hult International Business School,” the anonymous poster told readers how the school finds and closes would-be students for its MBA, Executive MBA and other master’s programs in business.
He noted that leads come from a funnel that includes lists of prospective students who take the TOEFL or GMAT exams, Hult’s own GMAT practice test which is advertised in The Economist as well as in-person events. Then, the leads are split into markets by regions of the world, including Europe, Asia, the U.S. and South America. Then, the cold calls are made by a staff of people who spend their entire days on the phone.
“Closing isn’t done in one call,” he adds. “First we call to make sure the number is correct, the individual could fit studies in their schedule, and most importantly tht they have some way to bring forth the ca$h needed ($20K-$40K depending on the program). Then, after having assessed all these needs (test scores not being a priority of course) a description is made of how amazing the school and its program are, and an excuse to have another call is set up (‘so that you can discuss with your family,’ ‘so that you can do the math/speak with the bank/etc,’ or the best one ‘at a time where we’ll have more time to speak.’).
‘HULT WILL ATTEMPT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING TO CLOSE A CANDIDATE’
When that second call occurs, the Hult specialist “will then attempt anything and everything to close the ‘candidates’ from having specialized teams that will deal with providing vidas to teams that will draft an acceptance letter. Anything and everything is done to reign in that whale of a wallet.”
But the poster, who describes himself as a Hult staffer who helped recruit students to the school’s programs, then claimed that Hult doctors its employment report for graduates. “Alumni that don’t find a job within three months are given the status of ‘entrepreneurs’ and don’t feature in employment statistics,” he alleges. “Or they are offered a job at Ult or one of its affiliates. This is also done to help the statistics” which claim that 91% of our students find a job within three months.”
On a post that began just two days ago, the questions from Reddit followers then came fast and furious. What quickly became clear by the person’s answers is that Hult International Business School has another public relations crisis in the making. While many of the insights provided by “Throwaway123abc987” could be interpreted as neutral or even positive, there is no shortage of highly damaging allegations about the school which has locations in San Francisco, Boston, London, Dubai, Shanghai, and New York. Hurt, which bills itself as ‘The Global Business School,’ boasts a network of students from over 120 countries and more than 16,000 alumni working across the globe.
HULT IS NOT UNFAMILIAR WTH INTERNET ATTACKS ON ITS REPUTATION
Hurt says the poster is simply an aggrieved ex-staffer. “It sounds like a disgruntled former employee has shared some doubts about our stats which is of course unfortunate, but we can’t expect all members of staff to be familiar with the rigorous, standardized process surrounding rankings and accreditation,” says Markus Mandl, Hult’s chief marketing officer. “The fact that we are experiencing continued success in both, our ongoing accreditations process as well as in the premier rankings of business school programs is a testament to the positive impact of our unique approach to global higher education.”
Hult is not unfamiliar with Internet attacks on his reputation and credibility. For years, anonymous posters have had a field day about Hult in various community forums (see Hult International: The Kanye West of Business Schools). Critics have even created websites to criticize the school. “Hult is like paying for champagne and caviar in advance and the waiter brings you big mac and fries,” moaned one former student on BeatTheGMAT. Claimed another former student on HultMBAReview: ““At Hult you are not a customer, not even a product; you are a cow that will be milked!”
Hult had fallen out of the Financial Times ranking in 2015 and hasn’t been back since, largely because the FT changed its methodology to require that all participating schools be accredited by either Equis or the AACSB. Before that change, Hult had consistently made the highly influential FT list. In fact, Hult’s first big rankings break occurred in 2009 when it cracked the FT global MBA ranking, coming in 97th out of 100 schools. Hult’s best showing in the FT survey occurred in 2013 when it finished 57th in the world.
Last year, however, the school gained accreditation from the AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) for all its programs globally, three years after a merger with Britain’s Ashridge Business School. As a result, a return to the Financial Times global MBA ranking and the increased credibility it confers is a strong possibility. Hult’s master in management program just turned up today on the FT’s annual ranking of MIM programs.
‘FUCK THEIR GREED. THEY DON’T SEE HUMANS, THEY SEE WALLETS’
Why did the former emloyee go public on Reddit? He claims to have had a “micromanaging manager” who made his day hell. But the final straw was how the company’s reaction to a possible lead he developed that went cold. “She had been in contact with us for the past five years and had been saving up to do an MBA,” he writes. But her family’s home was burned in the recent fires in the U.S. Her savings now were spent not on a Hult program but caring for her family, relocating them and rebuilding their family home.
Apparently touched by her story, “I asked if we could do something nice and waive the fees, or maybe give her a 90% scholarship,” explains the poster. “The answer I got was, ‘Are you going to pay with your salary?’ And a few laughs around the office. Fuck their greed. They don’t see humans, they see wallets.”
The ex-Hult employee estimated that for every 1,000 cold calls that Hult staffers make to would-be students, the school reaches about 400 people. Roughly 100, or a quarter of those contacts, are made with people who are initially interested in hearing the pitch. Some 20 actually enroll and pay the initial fee required by Hult, with just one or two willing to pay the full fee and go through one of the school’s programs.
‘WE’RE A YOUNG SCHOOL THAT HAS MADE BIG WAVES ALREADY’
The rewards for those who reel in students? According to the poster, they can range from nothing for a cold caller to $500 for every ten people who enroll passed on to a recruiter, while recruiters pocket $2,000 to $3,000 for each student they get in a program.
Exactly what Hult employees say in their phone calls with prospects is heavily controlled and rehearsed, according to the person claiming he is a former staffer. When would-be students say they think Hult is a scam, the rote answer is to deny that claim and to say that “we’re a young school that has made big waves already as can be seen in our rankings.”
Asked about the employment prospects of Hult graduates, he claims that the school’s staffers are given “dodgy statistics to quote” and told not to say much more to prospective students. “I’ve spoken with a few dozen or so of ex-students, and they’re either working at Hult (or a company related to the (parent company) EF umbrella), back in their field with a role that’s perhaps a little better than what they left, (or) they have taken over (a) family business…Hult will let you travel around its campuses and get a diploma. You could also make friends with some people that come from a similar financial background but don’t expect more than that.”
Hult points to third-party endorsements of the school in both rankings and accreditation to counter the criticism. “As the business school community knows, rankings are based on very strictly regulated data that is largely provided by the alumni,” adds Chief Marketing Officer Mandl. “This data is collected in a consistent way across the industry and we are extremely proud of our stats around student employment, diversity, and the strength of our programs. This week alone, we just came #53 in the FT Rankings on the Masters in Management program. But more importantly, Hult is the only triple-accredited U.S. business school. As I am sure you know, to gain such accreditation institutions must undergo a very rigorous review over the course of several years that examines all aspects of the institution, including its data integrity.”
DON’T MISS: HULT: A POWERHOUSE OR A PARIAH? or HOW HULT BECAME THE WORLD’S LARGEST GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL
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