Maro Itoje in his cap and gown as he graduates with an MBA from Warwick Business School

England Cap and Gown: Maro Itoje plans to use his Global Online MBA from Warwick Business School in his charity work with the Pearl Fund

England international rugby union star Maro Itoje has graduated with an MBA from Warwick Business School.

The 29 year-old, who has also represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, chose to study an MBA to enhance his business skills and knowledge for his charitable work off the rugby pitch.

Mr Itoje graduated on Monday and is one of a growing number of Premiership rugby players who have completed an MBA at Warwick Business School. They include Wales international Will Rowlands and former South Africa forward Dewalt Potgieter.

Mr Itoje, who completed the School’s Global Online MBA, said he would recommend the experience to other professional sportsmen and women who want to acquire business skills to use after their playing careers have ended.

He said: “I’m delighted to be graduating and proud to have earned my MBA. I hope to put it to good use across all my business and philanthropic projects in future.

“I chose Warwick because it is a great business school at a great university. They were also really understanding and supportive of my career and the amount of travel involved. They provided me with a flexible course that allowed me to study in different countries and time zones.

“The highlight of the programme was meeting my tutor group. It was brilliant to meet and work with some wonderful people from all over the world that I’m still good friends with today.”

Applying business education for social good

While studying for his MBA, Mr Itoje launched the Pearl Fund to help children from deprived backgrounds in Nigeria to escape poverty by supporting them through education.

Mr Itoje has close family ties to Nigeria and the Pearl Fund will create a lasting commitment to helping children there, building on his previous charity work in the country.

Mr Itoje said: “These kids are either fatherless, orphaned, or living in abject poverty and they really need the help.

“The Pearl Fund is looking to provide them with lifelong support, from the start of primary school all the way through to the end of secondary school or university, so it’s a deep approach.

“The plan started to be put in place during my MBA and we were able to get it off the ground last summer.

“What I learned on my course was valuable in terms of understanding the financing and economics of a charity like this, as well as putting teams in place to execute the delivery of the programme.”