The Allure of Pursuing an MBA in Europe

Europe boasts a rich history of academic brilliance, cultural diversity and robust business environments that beckon students from around the globe

While many people aspire to pursue an MBA, the choice of the right program and location are a crucial consideration. In the global mix, Europe has long been a prominent destination for MBA aspirants, due to its history of academic excellence, cultural diversity and strong local business environments offering employment for graduates.  

“Europe has a long tradition of business education,” says Pascal Michels, senior MBA admissions consultant at Melo Coaching. Pascal joined Menlo from Spain’s IESE Business School, where he was the director of MBA admissions.

“If the MBA is undoubtedly an American invention, European business schools have begun offering the degree since INSEAD and IESE launched their respective MBAs in the 1950s,” he points out. “Most people would still consider Europe to host the best programs outside the US.”

He notes that MBA programs in Europe differ in terms of structure, specializations and other offerings when compared to those in the US and elsewhere. “When INSEAD launched the first full-time MBA outside the US, they also invented the one-year program, which has become the prevalent model in Europe, emulated by universities like Cambridge and Oxford,” Michels says.

“Many European programs offer flexible durations, allowing participants to condense or stretch their studies,” he adds.

“The UK and Europe offer a higher percentage of one-year MBA programs than in the US,” agrees Amy Major, director of the MBA program, recruitment and admissions for the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford in the UK. “And when one considers structure, core versus elective balance, you see a wider range of options.”

Cultural exposure and diversity: a unique European advantage

Additionally, Major says that studying in Europe expose MBA students to diverse cultures and languages, more so than the cultural exposure in other locations. “An MBA in Europe allows students to be amongst a hugely diverse student body,” she says. “European programs are more diverse than US schools, where you see a larger percentage of domestic students.”

At the Saïd Business School MBA students come from 63 nationalities in classes with 97% percent international students. Major adds that the overall costs of pursuing an MBA in Europe compare favorably as well to those in the US and elsewhere, considering tuition and living expenses.

“It is well-known that the costs of an MBA in the UK are typically half the cost of some of the top-ranked US programs,” says Major. “The potential time out of one-year versus two-year MBA program can be a significant consideration for many students, particularly when considering the global cost-of-living crisis and when one thinks of time out of the workplace and the associated living expenses.”                                                                                             

That said, Major believes that some major US schools may be better placed in offering fuller scholarships than in the UK and European markets, which may go some way towards levelling the costs.

In Germany, ESMT Berlin believes that the overall cost of an MBA in Europe is typically lower than in North America in absolute terms.

“Tuition fees are typically lower, scholarships are available, healthcare is significantly lower, and schools tend not to have hidden fees or complicated pricing structures,” says Rebecca Loades, director of MBA programs at ESMT. “Plus, the shorter duration means students spend less time out of the workforce,” she adds. “In some countries such as Germany, students may be able to work and study at the same time and might even be able to deduct some costs from their income taxes.”

Post-study transition: entering European job markets

Moreover, post-study work visas can easily facilitate a graduate’s transition into the job market. For example, in Germany an 18-month work visa is easily granted and not tied to an employer.

Loades says that where a graduate goes to work after completing their MBA depends on personal career goals, personal interests, prior experience, and networking with companies and alumni. “We find that 85 percent stay in Europe post program. Germany is very welcoming to international talent,” she adds.

In France, Sara Vanos, the executive director of marketing and admissions for MBA programs at HEC Paris, says: “Pursuing an MBA in Europe is a great way to introduce yourself to the continent, especially if you are looking to settle and work in Europe following your MBA. Many of our students from other regions of the world end up staying in Europe to work after they graduate.”

Being located just outside of Paris allows MBA students to indulge in the Parisian lifestyle but also gives them access to internships in “the City of Lights”, Vanos says. “In addition, our proximity to Paris offers students a gateway to exploring other nearby countries in Europe, opening them up to many cultures.”

HEC Paris students can partake in career treks, often in Europe but also across the world. “Last spring, our students participated in a consulting trek to Dubai, a tech trek in Amsterdam and a luxury trek in Milan,” says Vanos.

Specializations reflecting regional expertise

European MBA programs have specializations that reflect their respective regions, notes Conrad Chua, executive director of the MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School in the UK.

“For example, we have concentrations in digital business and entrepreneurship, a reflection of the rich tech ecosystem around Cambridge. Other examples of specializations in other programs include luxury goods management, and even wine making. This is a reflection of the wide range of economic expectations that different regions in Europe have,” Chua says.

He adds that European MBA graduates can find employment in a wide range of industries or regions. “Europe has certain pockets of excellence in finance, technology and specific industries such as fashion, luxury, brands, automotive and sustainable industries.”

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