IESE Expands Incoming MBA Class By 22%

IESE campus in Barcelona, Spain

IESE campus in Barcelona, Spain

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of declining interest in two-year, full-time MBA programs has been greatly exaggerated.

IESE Business School today (Sept. 13) reported that it expanded its incoming full-time MBA class by 22% to a record 356 students, adding a fifth cohort for this academic year. The Spanish school said it had seen increasing demand for the traditional MBA from quality applicants, causing it to add the extra section of students. Aided in part by the strength of the dollar against the Euro, the United States is the second largest source of students for the new class, behind only Spain. Nearly 10% of the incoming students are from the U.S. this year.

Unlike U.S. business schools, where greater transparency over school stats is common, IESE declined to disclose the total number of applicants for the new class. A spokesperson said that overall applications have risen 37% since 2013 and that the acceptance rate for this year’s class was 24%. In a typical year, IESE is estimated to receive roughly 1,800 applications for its full-time MBA program.

It is the last MBA class entered under Dean Jordi Canals, who just completed an extraordinary 15-year run as leader of the school. Over that timeframe, Canals took over what was largely a regional school, known mainly in its home country of Spain, and helped transform it into an international powerhouse of business education. Last year, Poets&Quants ranked IESE third among non-U.S. MBA programs, behind only INSEAD and London Business School. Franz Heukamp, a German-born professor at IESE, succeeded Canals on Sept. 1.

By increasing its MBA intake to 356, IESE now far exceeds the size of the entering class at HEC Paris, which enrolled a class of 203 this year. But it has a long way to go to catch other leading European schools, including INSEAD, which now enrolls more than 1,000 MBA students a year, London Business School, with an intake of 425, or IE Business School, with an entering class of 411.


IESE Departing Dean Jordi Canals

IESE Departing Dean Jordi Canals

The school not only boosted its enrollment this year, it also increased  the average GMAT score for the class to 690, up ten points from 680 a year earlier. That score puts IESE ten points above its Spanish rival IE Business School and just a point better than HEC Paris in France. IESE’s Class of 2018, moreover, boasts students from 64 different nationalities, a record for IESE in terms of diversity of students´ country of origin. Last year, students came from only 50 countries. The new, higher representation from around the world also edges out IE Business School, with 62 nations represented, and HEC Paris, with 54 countries represented.

Outside of Spain, the countries with the most representatives are the U.S. (36), Brazil (22) China (20) India (20) Japan (16) Mexico (15) and Peru (15). IESE also said there has been a significant 66% increase in the number of students coming from mainland China compared to last year.

“The news is a testament to the concentrated effort carried out from IESE´s admissions team at strategic locations around the world – both at the schools international campuses (Barcelona, Madrid, Munich, New York and Sao Paulo) and in other locations such as Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai,” says a spokesperson for IESE.

The school did less well enrolling women who represent only 28% of the class, exactly the same percentage as last year when the school increased females in the mix by seven full percentage points from a mere 21% two years ago. This year’s 28% number is below most European rivals, including HEC Paris’ 30%, IE Business School’s 31%, and London Business School’s 35%. IESE’s enrollment of women is also well below all the elite U.S. schools, including Harvard, Northwestern, Wharton, and Yale–all of which are above the 40% mark, with Wharton at 44%, while HBS, Kellogg and Yale are at the 43% mark.


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