If your shortlist of business schools doesn’t include a European program, it should. There are several distinctive advantages to pursuing an international MBA, particularly in Europe. From the impressive ROI to peerless global leadership experience, more candidates are taking notice and targeting the international MBA.
While even the very top US schools are seeing falling applicant numbers, European schools have maintained strong appeal. As my Fortuna Admissions colleague Matt Symonds cited in his article, More Americans Heading To Europe For Their MBAs, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in interest from the US market for the top European schools over the last 18 months. While the rest of the world has reacted to a changing political climate and concerns about visa opportunities in the US, a growing number of American applicants are looking to enhance both their personal and professional development with a more affordable international study experience.
As an INSEAD alum and former Admissions Director at the school, I’m admittedly enthusiastic about encouraging candidates to explore the unique benefits of an international program. Here are a few reasons my Fortuna Admissions colleagues and I think that now is an ideal time to consider Europe for the MBA.
3 REASONS TO CONSIDER AN MBA IN EUROPE:
1. Global leadership & a springboard to an international career.
The international focus of INSEAD, LBS, IESE and other top European schools is more relevant than ever, given increasing international division, social fragmentation and trade conflict. Top tier business schools like London Business School (LBS) and INSEAD (with campuses in Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, with a San Francisco hub opening this month) consistently rank among the Financial Times’ (FT’s) top five programs.
Both INSEAD and LBS offer unparalleled international exposure by virtue of their truly diverse student communities: INSEAD lauds more than 80 nationalities in its MBA program, while LBS students are 91% international and hail from some 63 countries. INSEAD and LBS put a premium on training business leaders who excel at working across cultures, with deeply engaged and far-flung alumni networks and relationships with top recruiters across the world.
As two of Europe’s most prestigious programs, INSEAD and LBS have several points of distinction, including course length: INSEAD pioneered the one-year MBA, offering a highly efficient and cost-effective format for those who can take the pace and intensity.
2. Return on Investment (ROI) of a one-year program.
Speaking of course length, many European business schools favor the shorter, one-year course length over the traditional two-year program, creating notable cost savings. The latest FT ranking shows that the one-year MBA can deliver the sort of salary increase and earnings power to compete with the very best two-year programs. With smaller foregone costs (and relinquishing only a year’s worth of salary), schools like HEC Paris – which boasts a salary increase of 133% – are attracting more candidates. (This compared to the salary increase at Harvard Business School of 110% or Wharton of 107% salary increase – still the venerated beacons of business schools.)
The latest Forbes MBA ranking affirms this accelerated return on investment. The 12 European schools in its one-year ranking had a payback that ranged from 2.4 to 3.6 while grads from HBS and Stanford GSB take just over four years to pay back their investment on average. While Chicago Booth topped the US ranking with a five-year gain of $94,400, six business schools from Europe emerged with a stronger ROI over the same span.
If you’re favoring the one-year option, it’s time to consider INSEAD, HEC Paris, IE, Cambridge Judge and Oxford Saïd, or even a January intake (see below).
3. Timing: Later application deadlines and a January enrollment.
In general, European schools accept applications later in the season than the top US schools.
European MBA programs are still accepting applications for a September 2020 intake, including INSEAD, LBS, Oxford Saïd, Cambridge Judge, HEC Paris and IESE. If you are looking for a two-year MBA in Europe, LBS and IESE are the place to start, and their admissions deadlines arrive soonest – round 3 closes March 5 and March 3 respectively, although both also have a fourth round (LBS R4 deadline is April 22 and IESE is May 5). Cambridge Judge has a round 4 deadline on March 9 (R5 deadline is May 4) and Oxford Saïd’s R4 deadline is May 5 for a fall intake. HEC Paris has deadlines for its September on April 1, May 4 and June 8, although it encourages non-EU nationals to apply sooner because to visa and housing requirements.
There’s still time to apply for a fall matriculation at INSEAD (R4 deadline is Feb. 26), although it’s also shrewd to consider a January intake. Other top schools with a January intake include IE Business School, IMD, RSM and HEC Paris. The final deadline for IMD is on September 1st to join a select class of 90 students, while HEC Paris also has a January intake for aspiring entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, accepts applications on a rolling basis (meaning this fall is still a potential possibility).
Onward to the million-dollar question: Which is the #1 ranked MBA program in Europe?
First, the distinction of Europe’s best business school depends who you ask. For the FT, INSEAD commands the lead. Pose the same question to The Economist in the past year, and you’ll hear HEC Paris. Forbes, on the other hand, ranks IMD and LBS at #1 (in separate league tables for one- and two-year programs).
To account for the variability in methodology and results, our team began aggregating the results of all four global rankings of European schools to discern a snapshot of overall performance. The result is the Fortuna Admissions Ranking of MBA Rankings, which we debuted seven years ago (check out the latest Fortuna Ranking of Rankings for European Schools, in which INSEAD maintains its fifth year at #1).
If you’re feeling inspired to pursue a European MBA, know that the unique benefits come with unique considerations. You’ll also want to consider language requirements and timing-related factors, from visa considerations to financing the program and planning a cross-continental move. Language classes for programs like IE start more than a month before the program begins. All told, the key to a successful application to any international program is your due diligence and thoughtful research – most want evidence of your international exposure and cross-cultural competency. While the window is closing to apply to top US schools for fall entry, if you are looking to apply to business school now, your timing is still excellent to submit a great application.
For more advice on what top European programs are looking for and advice on positioning your application view my article, Applying to INSEAD: Advice for 6 Typical Profiles.
Caroline Diarte Edwards is Director of Fortuna Admissions and former Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at INSEAD. If you’d like more guidance on applying to a European business school, reach out to Fortuna for a free consultation.