London Business School vs. UPenn’s Wharton

by John A. Byrne on

London Business School's main Georgian building

It was Samuel Johnson who once made the still-true observation: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” In that quote lies the greatest advantage of the London Business School; its location in one of the world’s great cities. Set just across the street from the lovely green grounds of Regent’s Park, London Business School is postcard-perfect England. Inside the grand Georgian walls, you’ll hear plenty of leading-edge discussions between faculty and students on globalization, strategy and technology. Increasingly, London has gained widespread recognition as the best of all the business schools outside the U.S.

And then there is Wharton, one of the very best schools inside the U.S. For years, Wharton’s strength in finance has overshadowed faculty and programs in other departments. That’s no longer true, and hasn’t been for some time. Looked at another way, Wharton is the world’s largest department store devoted to graduate business education: As the business school with the largest faculty and the largest number of elective courses, there is something for everyone here.

Top Ten Reasons to Go to Wharton?

  1. You want to work for a financial services firm and want the single best degree to do so.
  2. You want lots of choices in courses, joint programs with other schools.
  3. You’re not yet sure what you want to concentrate in and want to insure you have a deep dive in virtually any subject.
  4. You’re up for an intense, competitive culture.
  5. You thrive in a larger environment and enjoy being a smaller fish in a bigger pond.
  6. You want to work, live and play in world-class business school facilities.
  7. You expect to be among the highest paid MBAs in the world.
  8. You prefer smaller, manageable cities to larger, more congested ones.
  9. You think Rocky is one of the best pictures ever made.

Top Ten Reasons to Go to London?

  1. It’s by most accounts the best MBA program outside the U.S. and one of the best in the world.
  2. It’s all about location, location, location. That is, London.
  3. You want a truly global experience, with the largest possible percentage of classmates from all over the world.
  4. You expect to work in Europe, and particularly the United Kingdom, and want to be part of an extremely strong alumni base in the city where many players got their MBA ticket punched where you did.
  5. You already at least two languages fluently or want to learn to be fluent in more than just English.
  6. You want the intellectual challenge that comes from being in a completely different environment, yet one where English is still the spoken language.
  7. You don’t mind paying about 40% more for rent, 20% more for groceries, or nearly 60% more for a meal in a mid-range restaurant.
  8. You don’t mind traffic, people congestion, overpriced housing, and putting up with the hassles of big city life.
  9. You love big city life, or at least badly want to try it out, and you tend to dislike small towns in isolated places.
  10. You love English literature, The Beatles, the whole idea of Royalty, and West End theater.

The more detailed differences between London and Wharton?

Wharton's Huntsman Hall in Philadelphia

Geography: London is the quintessential global city. The gateway to the European Union, London is headquarters to a third of the world’s largest companies. Every leading financial institution in the world is represented here. Its location brings the school massive benefits: a living laboratory of markets and businesses, an endless supply of well-qualified adjunct teachers, and more visiting executives who gravitate to its classrooms to speak and lecture. “We’re in the heart of the city,” says David Simpson, former admissions director at LBS. “A big part of life at the school is life in London.” There are few cities in the world that are as alive, exciting and dynamic than London, and it’s especially a great benefit to have Regent’s Park just across the street. The Sherlock Homes’ museum is a mere three-minute walk away. The financial district, dubbed “The City,” is about a 15-minute ride on the Underground. Students live throughout London and get to campus by bus or subway (the school is just a block away from the Baker Street underground stop). The drawback to London’s location is also obvious: it’s fairly easy to get lost here. Wharton’s location in the heart of Philadelphia makes it a train ride away from either New York or Washington, but compared to worldly London, Philly feels small town and provincial. Nonetheless, despite some concerns over the neighborhood surrounding the school, Wharton is in an extremely safe and comfortable place. With the fifth largest population in the U.S., Philadelphia is a great, compact city, with world-class restaurants and cultural attractions. Most students who attend Wharton have never been to Philadelphia and are usually pleasantly surprised by the city’s livability. Says Wharton’s Cutler: It’s fair to say that you can’t compare Philly to New York. They are different places. It’s not better or worse, they are different.”

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  • Jim

    You might want to include in your article that the average GMAT at LBS is 701 for class of 2012. Wharton has a median (not avg, there is a difference) of 720. Moreover, 90% of students at LBS are non native english speakers versus maybe 30-40% at Penn.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thanks Jim. I don’t believe, however, that the Wharton number is a median but rather an average. We want to compare apples to apples here, and in all cases I’m using reported averages. Also, 40% of the class at Wharton is international so at least 40% would be non-native English speakers. Many of the American students at Wharton have also lived and traveled abroad and are fluent in other languages.

  • Jim

    The Wharton class profile (as posted on their website) states that 720 is the median. Nevertheless it could be that the avg=median and in any case it doesnt really matter if the GMAT is +/- 2 or 3 points. My other point though, focused not on class diversity (I am certain that Wharton students are of the highest quality on all aspects, diversity included) but rather on the assumption that the GMAT and escecially the verbal part might be a little more challenging for students that are non-native English speakers.

    One another note, I do understand that comparing a top US school to a top EU school can be quite challenging and can sometimes lead to apples vs oranges comparisons. I mean, even US schools are sometimes hard to compare/rank; eg Wharton vs Tuck, very very different student experiences…

    Anyway, sorry for the long post. Btw, love the site, great articles!

  • Luiz Arruda

    Beginning with the MBA 2011 class, LBS’ intake size is 400 students.

  • Nigel

    I’d like to point to a few flaws in your logic and make some further comments about your article (beyond its obvious Wharton bias). You state that Wharton “cares less” about GMAT. Really ? How so ? because they admitted someone with a 540 ?? Doesnt matter that the vast majority of the Wharton class will need nearly appx 720 as opposed to appx 700 at LBS. How about also comparing the average age / work experiences / industry backgrounds of people so that we get a better idea of the differences in the student body (digging beyond a raw GMAT score) ?

    Then you compare #of recruits by firm. At this point you should consider that it makes no sense to compare #of recruits by firm for a class size of 850 v/s a class size of 400 (actually 330 based on your out of date numbers).

    On that point you absolutely neglect the wonderful community feel at LBS (due to the small class size) not to mention the amazingly collaborative students. I consider this one of the biggest differentiating factors between LBS and Wharton (and most US schools). The social events at LBS are nothing like most American schools. The experience is enhanced with the many many social trips all around Europe taken by students at LBS. They have access and they have familiarity (i.e. say a trip to central Europe organized by someone actually from Khazakistan).

    Another advantage at LBS is its exchange program to most top American schools. This includes Wharton (yes – you can experience both), Kellogg, Chicago Booth, Columbia, MIT, Tuck, Haas, Stern and several others. Most American schools have exchange programs, but not to other top American programs.

    These are just some of the most obvious things I felt that your article was lacking. There are several points but that would make the post almost as long as the article. But I do hope that in future posts you make a better effort of understanding what the school is all about.

  • Jimi

    One correction: regarding recruiting, being a recent LBS Grad, I can definitely vouch for Morgan Stanley, Deloitte and the likes being on campus. I know classmates who are working at those firms now, having been recruited through Career Services.

  • Tim

    Wow – both Jim and Jimi commented. Anyway, Nigel makes a great point regarding the comparison of hires from vastly differing class sizes. Still, I found this article very interesting and a rather fun exercise.

    Anecdotally – I see my company represented as having hired from both schools. I recently met an international grad from one of the schools who is in way over her head at my companu, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Great website – and keep doing these interesting articles!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/vbirthire/ Varun Birthire

    It’s really a great thought & knowlege sharing excerise. I enjoyed the article & comments thoughly. Hopefully I will see such a more eye opening articles ahead.

  • Shern Frederick

    Great article. One concern on the commentary. “Also, 40% of the class at Wharton is international so at least 40% would be non-native English speakers”. International does not imply non-native English Speaker. If one were to assume that the 40% of the internationals at Wharton were from the UK, then it’s REASONABLE to assume that the entire class would be all native english speakers. Being international and not having english as a first language don’t mean the same thing. 40% international may quicker mean “at most” 40% are non-native english speakers, not “at least”.

  • what do mbas do? they all do same thing!

    They all learn same thing and do same thing more or less! They all have same patois! MBA’s can be serious drones. Meaning they already following a protocol, they are not going to break any rules or go out of the way to change anything, no sparkle, no romance, no jazz and no fizz, they cant let loose with all that baggage they have and they gonna handle!
    The precedent is already set.
    a) pay high fees
    b) get internship
    c) get jobs from the company who have already hired alumni of these schools.
    d) the pay scale is fixed by market.
    e) eventually these folks go and loot and cause recession every decade.
    ranking,fees,number of job offers, sign bonus, year end bonus…..
    It is all good if money only can make you happy!
    bravo!

  • Bruce Vann

    “e) eventually these folks go and loot and cause recession every decade.”

    what do mbas do? they all do same thing, you’re very very wrong on this point. Recessions happened long before MBA’s were thought of and were less severe as the MBA became more popular. MBA’s don’t even have enough power to cause a recession every decade. We ALL caused this because of the trillions of decisions that we made over many years. Perhaps an MBA macro economics course wouldn’t hurt.

  • Adam Goldman

    John,

    I loved the smack down of two global finance giants! Still I can’t wait for Chicago Booth vs Wharton. Is that on the list?!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Adam,

    Thanks much for your kind comments. Yes, indeed, Chicago vs. Wharton is high up on the list. It should have been done months ago! Will get to it soon.

  • Conor

    Wharton and LBS are not comparable. LBS is comparable to <= top 12 US schools. Wharton and Chicago may make sense as Adam mentioned above. Comparing a 323 BMW with a 500 SL Mercedes doesn't make sense just to make some LBS ppl happy. Apologies for LBS people but you are, with a stretch at par with top 12-15 US schools.

  • Brian

    John,

    Can you compare LBS and INSEAD to the “top” US schools with respect to the opportunities they provide in the US? Thanks.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Brian,

    Yes. We will be comparing LBS and INSEAD, along with IMD, Oxford and Cambridge shortly. In the first quarter of the new year.

  • John

    Hey john,
    Would love a Darden v. Duke smack down. Getting close to decision time. Thanks!

  • Gosh

    The problem with that kind of comparisons is that it dosen’t give you a winner. In my mind, the only real criteria that one should take into account is how highly a program is regarded worldwide so the weakness of LBS is that it is first and foremost a London story…

  • USvEurope

    Hi John,
    Could you do a comparison between a fantastic European school and a good US school? I need to make a choice between UCLA and IESE soon, and I am very confused. Thanks a lot.

  • Arnold

    The LBS recruiting data is a year old and doesn’t recent hiring, e.g., McKinsey hired 39 people from LBS last year.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Arnold,

    This data doesn’t change very much year-over-year so we aren’t updating the smackdowns every single year unless there is something dramatic that occurs.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    USvEurope,

    Yes. But just to help, this decision very much turns on where you most want to work. If it’s Europe, you’re going to be in a much better position graduating from a top business school such as IESE. Only in few circumstances would I suggest that an applicant who is accepted by a top European school, ie. London, INSEAD, IMD, HEC Paris, IESE, and IE, and who wants to work in Europe should go to a U.S. business school. That is when the applicant has received a yes from the likes of a Harvard or Stanford.

  • Alex

    Hi John,

    You mentioned that you’d be publishing a comparison between LBS, Insead and IMD in Q1. Could you please advise when you’re planning to release it? I may have a choice to make between the schools towards the end of March and your review would come in handy.

    Thanks a lot!

  • seeksleek

    I completely agree !!!! Unless it’s H/S, LBS, INSEAD, IMD, IESE are great choices for European career goals. Plus IESE is an elite school in EU. UCLA is a great school (Great for Cali) but not US top elite

  • Marioalejo

    I don’t think so, i know people who entered to LBS and Wharton and finally deciding to go to LBS; outside US, LBS has a great reputation!, is a recognized business school comparable to any US business school

  • paramia

    Yes, they aren’t comparable..how can you compare Rolls Royce with Cadillac..doesn’t make sense.. ::))

  • http://marcosluis2186.posterous.com/ Marcos Ortiz

    Wow, amazing thoughts about these two amazing MBA schools, but for me, that I want to be a CFA rock star, @WhartonMBA:twitter  program is the best fit for me. Wait for me, Philadelphia. My path is MBA -> CFA -> the youngest CFO for a startup. Regards

  • http://marcosluis2186.posterous.com/ Marcos Ortiz

    Sorry: the correct path: @Wharton MBA -> CFA -> the youngest CFO for an startup. 

  • mr.ap

    But what if you are european? (like me). If you go to USA you can get your chances there and eventually come back and work anywhere in Europe since you do not need any visa. Whereas the opposite does not hold true. So I think that such a choice opens up more opportunities. And besides, a european with an american degree is more rare, and by attending in US you have expanded your borders. Does it make sense?

  • Gnut Sucram

    Hi John, I am also interest to know when will you release the smashdowns among Europe Top 3: INSEAD/IMD/LBS, Thanks!

  • Foryouankit

     John, we need a Chicago vs. Wharton comparison.  Really confused which one is a better school.  Would love to hear your thoughts

  • Dwjerj

    Couldn’t agree more. We desperately need a Chicago-Wharton smackdown! Loooong overdue

  • Karthik nellian

    Hi John, 

    I guess my comment should be posted here rather than the comments section in the smackdown of Wharton Vs Columbia. I have been following your website, Poets and Quants for a long time now. I would like to thank you very much for the effective detail embedded into every B-school smackdown. It’s really helpful and thank you very much for the same. I was just wondering if you could do a smackdown of Insead Vs London and ISB Vs HKUST, since there are a lot of prospective students just like me, waiting for your analysis and advice before making a clear cut decision. Thanks for the same John. You are doing a very great Job!!
    Best Regards,

    Karthik

  • A

    Hello,

    I have a question regarding US recruitment at LBS. If you are an American, and are looking for a global experience, we it be a better idea to do a foreign exchange at LBS instead of attending full time? My concern is the expense of London. I also got a pretty tepid response from an LBS representative when I asked about US recruiting.

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