The Most & Least Selective International Business Schools

When it comes to MBA programs outside the U.S., several of the very best schools don’t want to disclose basic information that is generally taken for granted in the U.S. market. The best examples: INSEAD and London Business School, generally regarded as the two best MBA programs outside America.

Both schools have consistently declined to report how many applications they receives in a given year, how many applicants are actually admitted, and their overall acceptance rates. They’re not alone. Oxford University’s Said Business School, CEIBS in China, and Queen’s University and the University of Toronto’s business schools also hold this information close to their collective vests.

How come? The obvious reason is that the numbers tend to undermine the positioning of these schools as being in a peer group that includes the very best U.S. MBA programs. Insiders, for example, say that INSEAD accepts about 31% of its 4,000 applicants in any given year—substantially more than the 6.8% acceptance rate at Stanford, or the 12% at Harvard. The average GMAT score for the latest entering class at INSEAD, at 703 the highest of any prestige institution outside the U.S., is lower than any Top 10 U.S. school and 31 points behind U.S. leader Stanford whose average GMAT score is now 732.


On the other hand, a majority of INSEAD’s prospective students only apply to the school and nowhere else. They prefer a one-year MBA program that is as truly global an experience as any MBA student can get. So the school’s yield—the percentage of admitted applicants who enroll—is as high as 75%, 10 points higher than Wharton’s 65.2% yield rate and 15 points lower than Harvard’s 90% rate.

Nonetheless, a good number of non-U.S. schools are willing to share this data and, with good sourcing, it’s possible to provide credible estimates of acceptance rates and other key information to put together a fairly good look at how these schools stack up against each other and the best U.S. schools. Many non-U.S. schools recently shared this data–which generally does not appear on their own websites–with Bloomberg Businessweek for its school profiles. The most selective MBA programs in Europe are not at London or INSEAD, but rather HEC Paris and Mannheim in Germany which say they accept only 20% of their applicant pools.

The most selective prestige business school outside America these days is the National University of Singapore. The school accepted only 9% of its 1,324 applicants last year. While there are a couple of schools in India that are actually more selective, such as IIM-Ahmedabad, it doesn’t have the global prestige of an NUS.


And the least selective “name” school outside the U.S.? It’s Erasmus Rotterdam School of Management which says that it accepted 64% of its 357 applicants last year. Many of these schools, of course, have very small applicant pools. Imperial College Business School in London had only 228 applicants to its MBA program last year–and a 50% acceptance rate. Melbourne Business School in Australia had just 221 applicants–and a 37% acceptance rate.

We’ve gathered this data for the first time for prospective students and provide not only acceptance rates, average GMAT and undergraduate grade point averages, but also yield information–the percentage of admitted students who matriculate into a program. That latter statistic is often considered a very good indicator of a school’s quality because it reflects the market choice of the students who apply. NUS has the highest yield–equal to that of Harvard Business School–at an impressive 90%. York University’s Schulich Business School in Canada is next with 88%.

When it comes to GMAT scores, only two business schools with global prestige are in the 700 range: INSEAD, with its 703 average, and London Business School, which just tips in at a 700 average exactly. In comparison, there are 15 U.S. MBA programs with GMAT averages above 700, which would put a test taker in the 89th or higher percentile. In other words, a 700 score is better than 88% of those who take the test.

(See the following page for our table with info on 25 leading non-U.S. schools)