More Americans Heading To Europe For Their MBAs

An INSEAD graduation at the Château de Fontainebleau in France, one of three INSEAD campuses


“When U.S. applicants look at the advantages of graduating from HEC Paris, which has ranked #1 or #2 in the Financial Times’ European Business School ranking since the ranking began in 2005, they start to realize that they can transform their career in just 16 months and take advantage of HEC Paris’ privileged access to top companies in Europe and worldwide.”

Down the road at INSEAD, interest for the MBA from Americans and from applicants of other origins based in the U.S. continues to be strong. U.S. News reported a 35% growth in U.S. applications to the school 18 months ago, and MBA Admissions Director Virginie Fougea confirms, “We had an increase a year and a half ago and volumes have remained at a significant level.”

In the INSEAD classes of 2018, Americans represent 8%, closely following the Indians, who are at 9% and preceding the Chinese, French, Spanish, Canadians and Brazilians, who are all between 5% and 6%.


“Profiles of applicants from the U.S. are very diverse and of good quality,” says Fougea. “In addition, they all have in common the willingness to be part of a global and international network. Some of them have gained varied multi-cultural experiences within the US, others have worked for multinational companies with colleagues from diverse backgrounds.”

It is a similar story at IE Business School in Madrid, which over the past three years has experienced constant growth in applications for the IMBA from the U.S. “For the Fall 2018 intake applications submitted are almost 17% up compared the same period last year,” says Deise Klein Leobet, International Development Director for North America.

So what are the reasons behind the increase? Klein Loebet believes that more and more U.S. MBA candidates are realizing the value added of going abroad for their graduate business studies, especially if they already hold a degree from an American university. “An MBA is and should be more than just a degree. It’s a life changing experience for most students and the fact that they are abroad gives them the opportunity to grow in so many additional ways. Being exposed to different cultures – European MBAs are among the most diverse worldwide – the opportunity of mastering a foreign language, and also being challenged to see problems and find solutions using different decision-making lenses are definitely triggering the interest in going abroad for the MBA in the U.S.”

MBA students at Spain’s IE Business School


Based on her experience working with recruiters from top U.S. companies, Deise also confirms that having an MBA from abroad often puts candidates in a privileged situation compared to the ones that hold a degree from a domestic school. “Recruiters more and more value international experience and cultural literacy as part of the skillset they seek in their future employees.”

Global cities like London and Paris are also part of the appeal, and are home to world-leading Cities like London and Paris, where world-leading companies are based mean opportunities for career progression and change. “London is not only one of the top financial centers in the world, but fast becoming one of the most important technology hubs,” explains Phil Carter, Head of Programmes Recruitment at Imperial College Business School. “Being a part of one of the leading universities for engineering, science and technology, on a par with MIT and Stanford, means that you are surrounded by innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. In London there are investors, employers, and multiple opportunities to network on your doorstep.”

For Alison Lane, who relocated from New York to join the Imperial MBA, the London network events organized by the school were a great place to start the next stages of her career. “I met an alumnus who connected me with another alumnae in his class, who in turn put me in touch with a contact from a large firm. Now they’re the number one company that I want to work for.”


There are no Brexit Blues for other top U.K. schools, including the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. “We have a strong brand here in the U.S.,” says Amy Philpot, Head of MBA Recruitment and Admissions. “Although the market for MBAs is declining generally in the U.S., it seems the market for overseas MBAs is buoyant for us. We have a number of concentrations that have resonated with American applicants, and have candidates coming with an interest in Arts, Energy, and Healthcare. The much more diverse international intake and one year program appeal to those who want to have an intense learning experience and get back into the market again with a fresh, genuinely global perspective.”

The return to the job market is foremost in the minds of many MBA applicants, and improving economic conditions in Europe are helping to drive regional demand. “85% of our international students stay in Europe after they graduate,” confirms Brandon Kirby, Director of Admissions at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). Graduates can apply for a ‘job’seeker’s’ visa, which allows them to stay in the Netherlands for one year post-MBA while searching for a job. “So we have a very strong success rate of being able to place graduates from around the world in the Netherlands and also in other European countries as well.”

But a growing number of applicants are also looking for a sense of purpose to their next career steps, and RSM is a pioneering example of a European perspective that revolves around the role that business schools and their students play in society. As part of a mission to be a force for positive change in the world, the school is integrating the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified by the United Nations into the MBA curriculum.

“We still firmly believe businesses need to make decent profits to survive,” says the Dean of RSM, Steef van de Velde. “But we are in a part of the world, where the stakeholder is more important than the shareholder. Everyone pays huge taxes and has a base income. The stakeholder’s value is important. The main goal of life here isn’t to be very rich, it’s to be happy.”

Happiness and a force for positive change? Compelling reasons for any prospective MBA to consider Europe.

Fortuna Admissions

Matt Symonds is a Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, author of “Getting the MBA Admissions Edge” and co-host of the CentreCourt MBA Festival. Fortuna Admissions is composed of former Directors and Associate Directors of Admissions 12 of the top 15 business schools. 

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