It’s a provocative question, and the answer inevitably varies depending on who answers it.
Yet, in a new survey of more than 200 admission officers at the top U.S. schools, the answer may shock some. Predictably, the American schools do think their MBA programs better prepare graduates for today’s marketplace. But what’s surprising is the overwhelming margin of confidence in that belief by U.S. administrators. According to a Kaplan Test Prep survey published today (Feb. 23), 95% think American business schools better prepare their students than European business schools do and 92% said the same about business schools in Asia.
For the Kaplan survey, admissions officers from 204 business schools from across the United States – including 11 of the top 30 MBA programs were polled by telephone between August and September 2014.
BUSINESS SCHOOLS ARE WORKING HARD TO STAY RELEVANT
Brian Carlidge, executive director of Kaplan’s pre-graduate and pre-business programs, says he is not surprised by the result. “Business schools are working hard to stay relevant, and at the end of the day, they are successful by where they place their students,” he says. “It’s clear that they are placing graduates in key positions in companies and in the technologically-driven global economy.”
Of course, if Kaplan surveyed admission directors in non-U.S. schools, they would in all likelihood have the opposite view. Carlidge, however, isn’t willing to concede as much. “I wonder what the European schools would have said to this question,” he says. “The schools are very competitive with each other. It’s hard to say whether I would get a different outcome if we surveyed the European schools.”
Though global rankings of business schools by The Economist and The Financial Times mix all the schools together, contributing to the view that the best European and Asian schools are competitive with U.S. MBA programs, the survey methodologies are purposely biased in favor of non-U.S. schools. Still, there are more than a handful of programs in Europe that have carved out impressive ground in offering a world class MBA experience. They include London Business School, INSEAD, HEC Paris, IESE Business School, and IE Business School in Spain, as well as the relatively new MBA programs at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
THE BIGGEST ADVANTAGES OF A EUROPEAN MBA: TIME AND EXPENSE
In truth, it’s a mixed picture. U.S. schools typically admit students more selectively, with greater attention paid to higher GMAT scores and grade point averages, as well as more gold-plated credentials–ranging from Ivy or Near Ivy League undergraduate educations to work experience at companies with global brands.
But the European and Asia schools typically boast better short-term return-on-investment because those MBA programs tend to be only a year in length. And in many cases, the starting salaries match or nearly match those of the best U.S. schools. So by saving a year of foregone income and paying for tuition for 10 to 12 months instead of two years, many European and Asian programs are definitely lighter on the wallet.
Most faculty at the better European and Asian schools earned their PhD degrees at the U.S. schools which also pioneered graduate business education programs. And the resources of the U.S. business schools far exceed their European or Asian rivals. Those resources–largely due to massive endowments and annual fundraising efforts–allow for more generous scholarship grants, permit investments in the best facilities and technology, pay for the most expensive professors in the world, and support crucial backend infrastructure in career management and development along with alumni networks.
IF YOU WANT TO WORK IN EUROPE, YOU PROBABLY SHOULD GO TO SCHOOL IN EUROPE
“Applicants should be focused on schools based on what they want to do after graduation and location plays a role in that,” says Carlidge. “If students are interested in working in Europe or Asia, they should then seriously consider the opportunities that will be open to them if they go to a European or Asian business school. You also want to look at the economies right now. There are pockets of high employment in Europe and more uncertainty. Applicants should take into consideration all these factors.”
The bottom line seems rather simple: If you want to ultimately work in Europe or Asia, a non-U.S. school would seem a no-brainer. If you want to get your MBA in a single year, a European or Asian school should also be in your decision set. And if you you simply want the most internationally diverse set of classmates, you might also want to look outside the U.S.
But one thing is sure: If Kaplan were to survey European and Asian admission officials, they aren’t going to agree with their U.S. counterparts.
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