More Americans Heading To Europe For Their MBAs

Drawn by shorter, less expensive and more international diverse business schools, more Americans are looking at top European MBA programs as an alternative

A generation of American artists, writers and doctors headed to Paris for inspiration during La Belle Epoque. Hollywood film stars flocked to post-war Rome in search of the La Dolce Vita. And Wall Street bankers made London their second home as the Big Bang deregulation of the 80s and 90s transformed London into a center of global finance.

Now there is a fresh generation of Americans heading to Europe in search of personal and professional development. They want to go to business school, and see the shorter, internationally diverse MBA programs of the old continent as an increasingly attractive alternative for their resumes and bank balances.

The GMAC Prospective Students Survey 2018 already captures the declining appeal of a US business school education among international students. Less than half (47%) of those surveyed stated a preference to study in the U.S., down from 56% in 2016, as Poets&Quants Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne details in this piece.


Among the same group over the same period, those preferring to head to a European business school has increased from 26% to 33%. But it is not just applicants from Asia, Latin American, the Middle East and Africa that are thinking twice about U.S. study plans.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in interest for the top European schools from the U.S. market over the last eighteen months,” explains Caroline Diarte Edwards, co-director of Fortuna Admissions and former Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at INSEAD. “While the rest of the world has reacted to a changing political climate and concerns about visa opportunities in the U.S., a growing number of American applicants are looking to enhance both their personal and professional development with a more affordable international study experience.

Diarte Edwards points to the ROI of the one-year MBA that is underlined in the most recent Forbes ranking. “While it takes Harvard Business School students 4 years on average to pay back their investment, the thirteen European schools in the one-year ranking had a pay back that ranged from 2.2 years to 3.2 years.”


Nine of the top ten European business schools take part in the CentreCourt MBA Festival, which through September 2018 brings together 34 of the world’s top 40 business schools to meet with MBA applicants in cities across the US and Canada. All of them are reporting a sharp increase in demand from the U.S.

Benoit Banchereau, director of MBA admissions at HEC Paris believes that the personalized approach to candidate outreach at CentreCourt and other networking events has really made it’s mark with applicants who might feel like just another applicant among the thousands applying to the big U.S. business schools. “The small size of our MBA cohort, limited to 250 students, guarantees a personalized learning experience that prioritizes each individual and their unique goals. But that tailored approach starts with the first connection with our team, and the opportunity to receive feedback and a preliminary evaluation to help you on your MBA journey.”

HEC Paris saw a 21% increase in U.S. demand in 2017, and the trend has continued with a 16% increase in applications in the first six months of 2018. For Banchereau the idea of studying at one of the top 5 European schools is on the radar screen of those who were unable to secure a place at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and other M7 schools, but want an MBA from a globally recognized institution.

MBA students at HEC Paris

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