The European Option Never Looked So Good: Prices Plunge For MBA Degrees

Virginie Fougea of INSEAD

Virginie Fougea of INSEAD

A falling euro alone is clearly insufficient reason for U.S. residents to fall all over themselves to get an MBA in Europe. “The Eurozone is also facing some larger scale macro level labor force issues which can make it a difficult environment for international job seekers, MBA or not,” says Bhavik Trivedi, managing partner of Critical Square admissions consulting, and a Chicago Booth MBA. “So there’s more to consider than just the length and the money – in-nation trends are pretty important, too.”

In any case, American MBAs who choose to stay in Europe will likely be paid in euros, a potential problem for people considering a return to the U.S. Most top European programs have been reporting fairly stagnant starting salary growth over the past three years. INSEAD graduates, from 2009 to 2013, found starting salary figures, up slightly in Germany and France but down steeply in Switzerland. For 2013 grads, the median salary in Germany was 96,000 euros, or about US$128,000 at the time. However, that salary, if paid in euros today, would be worth only US$104,000. A 2013 INSEAD grad staying in France to work for the median salary of 82,800 euros would have been making US$110,000 initially, but, minus any raises, about US$90,000 now.


Bhavik Trivedi, Critical Square admissions consulting

Bhavik Trivedi, Critical Square admissions consulting

Critical Square doesn’t advise clients on the currency issue unless they ask, Trivedi says. “We strongly believe where they want to be, where they want to work, and what they want out of the experience are a higher level concern. But if folks are interested in a European MBA, then the currency drop definitely doesn’t hurt.”

Getting an MBA in Europe makes de facto sense for U.S. residents wanting to work in Europe. But a European MBA can propel graduates to other international destinations, points out Jon Frank, CEO of Admissionado admissions consultants, and a Harvard MBA. “European schools tend to be more global than U.S. schools, even beyond their obvious strength in Europe,” Frank says. “(People) interested in Singapore, Lagos, Dubai, Hong Kong, etc. could gain a great deal by targeting European schools.”

At the same time, graduation from elite U.S. MBA programs opens up opportunities all over the world for people wanting to work internationally, Frank notes. “This is why we stand behind our simple advice, to go to the best school you can get into,” Frank says.

While top European MBA programs such as INSEAD and HEC Paris are well regarded and have fairly strong alumni networks in the U.S., graduates from U.S. programs have, in general, an edge in the job market over those from European programs, Frank says. “Firms that come recruiting at MBA programs can have a somewhat local bias. This becomes increasingly true as you exit the most elite programs, and enter second-tier and third-tier programs. Local alumni networks are quite powerful.”

And Frank believes that with the bedrock price difference between one-year European MBA degrees and two-year U.S. degrees, currency fluctuations have a relatively insignificant impact.

IE’s experience supports Frank’s view. The school has seen a steady increase in interest from American students over the past five years, but for reasons other than currency differentials, says associate director of financial aid Francisco Chabran. “The constant dominating factor for Americans’ interest in IE has been the international experience and the fact that the cost is significantly less than schools in the U.S.,” Chabran says. “That being said, in terms of conversion of personal funds or loans secured in the U.S., there definitely is an uptake in American students asking questions about how they can take advantage of the current exchange rates and transfer their money to euros as fast as possible.”

At London Business School, MBA admissions director David Simpson says the school’s prospective international students are always interested in currency fluctuations. “Whilst we believe that the relative price comparisons and differences caused by currency changes are carefully considered by applicants, they are just one factor in a long list when it comes to people choosing between schools,” Simpson says. “They tell us that location, employment statistics, quality and diversity of the student body, and student life and community activities are far larger considerations.”

The chart below shows tuition for top schools among Poets&Quants‘ 2014 Best International Business Schools.

School Location P&Q rank Tuition in euros Tuition in dollars
INSEAD France, Singapore 2 65,800 $71,557
IE Business School Madrid, Spain 4 61,900 $67,307
IESE Business School Barcelona, Spain 5 75,400 $81,990
SDA Bocconi Milan, Italy 7 47,000 $51,156
HEC Paris Paris, France 8 52,000 $56,550
ESADE Barcelona, Spain 10 59,700 $64,979
Rotterdam School of Management Rotterdam, Netherlands 19 44,500 $48,389
Mannheim Business School Mannheim, Germany 21 36,000 $39,189
ESMT Berlin, Germany 22 38,000 $41,360
EMLYON Lyon, France 38 38,000 $41,360
The Lisbon MBA Lisbon, Portugal 45 36,000 $39,189
TIAS Tilburg, Netherlands 48 37,500 $40,817
Vlerick Business School Brussels, Belgium 58 37,000 $40,227
School Location P&Q rank Tuition in pounds Tuition in dollars
London Business School London, U.K. 1 67,750 $103,895
Cambridge (Judge) Cambridge, U.K. 6 44,960 $68,841
Oxford (Said) Oxford, U.K. 9 47,925 $73,381
Cranfield Cranfield, U.K. 12 36,000 $55,122


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