European Schools Increasing MBA Intakes

IESE in Barcelona


If the U.K. does start to look less attractive to MBA candidates, that could offer an opportunity for those who have a bullish view about the U.K. post-Brexit. LBS’s David Simpson says that over the past 15 to 20 years LBS has always had high numbers of applicants from North America and from India, and has seen strong growth over the last decade from Latin America and from the rest of Asia, but “we would always like more applicants from Europe.” Why don’t they get as many? Because top-quality European candidates have often taken pre-experience courses like master’s in management (MiMs) or other specialized master’s degrees (see The Rise Of Specialized Master’s In Europe). Also, they have a rich variety of continental MBAs to choose from. But they might have a better chance of getting into LBS than they think.

The popularity of MiMs raises a big question (see Europe Is The Land Of The MIMs). Pre-experience master’s are the most popular business qualification in Europe, and becoming more so. Does that mean the MBA has become less appealing over time? Some employers in Europe are keen to hire MiM graduates, HEC’s Banchereau says, because they are younger and therefore cheaper, but have similar skills to MBAs. They are, put simply, a good deal for employers. However, he is unconvinced by this argument. “If they need someone right now to fix something or to improve the business, firms will pay for someone who can actually deliver right away, he says. “I don’t buy this story that companies will make a better deal hiring only management and not MBAs anymore. I think an MBA is still a very good investment.”

The MiMs vs. MBAs question is a reminder that even in a globalized world, regions have their own needs. Good quality business education can be found on every continent now. Will that mean Asian students, for example, will stay closer to home rather than head to Europe in the future? “The increasing quality and number of local schools offering MBAs on the Asian continent might shift demand in one way or another,” says Tino Elgner from IE Business School. “But the growing global nature of business and its requirement for cultural literacy will on the other hand possibly push even more students to consider an international option for their MBA experience.” British schools often see Indian students who have taken a master’s-level business degree in their own country come to the U.K. for an MBA, so they have international experience and a better-known business school on their CV.


Tino Engler of IE Business School

Will students from other regions start looking to Europe? Elgner thinks that “improved economic situations and a growing middle class especially on the African continent might be correlated with higher application numbers from that region.” That would benefit everyone in the class “by helping to complete our understanding of what it means to do business around the world while sharing best practices.” Elgner adds: “The question of how we can make graduate management education even more accessible to even more parts of the world, through scholarships or other financial support options, is something that is heavily on our radar, something that arguably should on everybody’s radar in general.”

Diversity is not just about nationality, though. LBS’s MBA intake will be 40% women for the first time this year, and the school is very proud of the fact. IE says that it has also seen a “slight increase” in the numbers of women applying. All business schools these days are trying to attract more applications from women. Also, people with non-traditional MBA backgrounds are welcome. “We’re all seeking out those people who’ve done something a bit different” says LBS’s Simpson. “The fact that we’re opening the doors wider than ever for our MBA and other programs, means that if there was any risk of the pre-experience master’s cannibalizing their market, it’s removed.” In other words, because in Europe lots of people take a MiM, the MBA is becoming a qualification for people without previous business degrees, for example people with arts and NGO backgrounds.

In the wake of the financial crisis more bankers applied for the full-time MBA than had done historically, says Simpson, because they had trouble keeping their jobs but that trend has now trailed off. LBS still gets lots of applications from engineers and consultants, but also these days an increasing volume of people “who are really interested in making a positive impact on the world, whether that’s through social entrepreneurship, impact investing, or making a difference, especially, where they come from.” In the past people often came to LBS and stayed in London for several years before heading home, but now far more leave straight away “to make an immediate difference,” says Simpson. So, people from non-traditional MBA backgrounds or from developing countries with a strong conscience are welcome.

One thing that will continue to be attractive to students is the lower cost of a European MBA, compared to an American one. Most last just one year, in contrast to the U.S. standard of two, and are therefore more affordable. Frugal MBA candidates might also want to keep an eye on the pound, which could become cheaper depending on what sort of Brexit happens. “I think cost is actually quite a huge positive factor for students to make the decision to come to Europe,” says Benoit Banchereau. “It’s still a good deal to do an MBA in Europe and to reimburse your loan afterwards, especially when you actually get the good job that you wanted to get in the end.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.