A Guide to the MBA in Europe
Written by Mark Bennett
Considered the ultimate business qualification, there is much to consider when applying for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). You may decide to stay in your home country and do your MBA part-time or by distance-learning, or you may opt for an overseas experience. For example, American or Indian students may wish to choose a European location so they can get valuable insight which will set them apart from others back home.
While the Masters in Management remains the most popular business qualification offered by European institutions, one year and two year MBAs are gaining ground. Worldwide, student recruitment for MBA programmes tends to target working professionals, undergraduate students, and international students. However, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organisation which manages the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) reported that European programmes also actively recruit women and entrepreneur/business owners.
European MBAs generally tend to come with opportunities to acquire another language and they may come with interesting business specialisations such as fashion, luxury goods or even wine trading!
European MBA rankings
So what are the popular European destinations for MBA programmes? The UK, France and Spain continue to dominate the European rankings of business schools but a small number of Italian, Danish and German institutions consistently make it into the top 50. Always to be taken with a pinch of salt (as the British say), rankings of universities or business schools can give you some useful information, but it has to be considered in context, especially if you are looking for a particular type of MBA and/or a specialisation.
While the USA remains the top choice for MBAs and Asia is gaining ground as a provider globally, European business schools have fared well considering the economic climate. Perhaps this is because undergraduates and young professionals (not funded by their employers) are the biggest group. International students show a steady interest European programmes, with a third of programmes in Europe showing an increase in demand. Whilst a very diverse bunch, most European countries are characterised by a cultural openness, international outlook and most often a flexible immigration framework.
Top five MBA programmes in Europe 2023
|HEC Paris, France
|London Business School, UK||2|
|IE Business School, Spain||3|
|*These rankings have been provided by the QS Top Universities Global MBA Rankings data.|
An important factor in choosing a business school is the accreditation of its MBA. The most prestigious accreditation bodies are:
- AACSB - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (based in Tampa, Florida, with an Asia office in Singapore).
- AMBA - The Association of MBAs (based in London).
- EQUIS - European Quality Improvement System (based in Brussels).
Each of these will provide a mark of quality to programmes. Less than 1% of Business Schools worldwide have been recognised with a triple crown accreditation so you can be sure that these are top-quality, although others with fewer accreditations or none, that feature high in the rankings are not to be ignored. The European triple accredited business schools, are in:
Being a professional qualification, MBA programmes provide a high employability rate for their graduates and work opportunities are available in the numerous global and local companies, throughout Europe and beyond, especially in emerging economies keen to engage with partners in European countries.
When choosing at which institution to study, there will be other considerations for the success of your post-MBA career:
- Local employment market, including recent trends in new (international) business settlement: this is important if you want to stay in the country or are looking long-term for a career in a global company;
- Guest lectures from private sector experts;
- On-campus recruitment from private sector firms;
- Graduate employability rates and destinations (national and international);
- Size of alumni network (networking is, after all, an important factor in the business world); and
- Career services available.
A 'European' MBA need not be taken only in one European country, or solely in Europe. Options are available to:
- Get a joint-MBA between two or more European institutions which have partnered up such as the University of Bradford and the University of Perugia or Euromba.
- Study a so-called European MBA which is delivered by a US institution in conjunction with a European partner, for example at the Tippie Business School in Iowa.
- Study at a European institution which has a branch campus(es) abroad such as INSEAD (France/Singapore) or ESCP Europe (France/UK/Germany/Spain/Italy)
The traditional MBA can be 12-24 months full-time, although there are part-time and distance learning options as well as an executive option. Most programmes will start in September but business schools may have several entry points or alternative start dates depending on the type of MBA and the institution.
Each MBA will have a specific curriculum but as a general rule, the structure will include core courses, which provide students with an integrated body of basic practical skills. In addition, about a third of the credits will be gained from elective courses which students can choose from.
Business schools may also offer out-of-classroom activities so if you are after practical experience as part of your MBA, check what is on offer in your course. For example:
- Competitions, a group activity sometimes involving local business (and a cash prize!);
- Research papers/dissertations;
- Consultancy, undertaking projects on request from business and non-for-profit community;
- Compulsory or optional periods of time abroad (including in partner overseas institutions as described above).
You’ll be expected to have a minimum GPA of 3.0/4.0 (or its international equivalent such a UK upper second class bachelor) for your undergraduate degree. A GMAT score is often required and generally a minimum score of 500-600 will be required but there is huge variation in the requirements.
Excellent verbal and written skills are required and if English is not your first language, you’ll have to provide evidence of proficiency through an English language test such as TOEFL or IELTS. Similar requirements will apply in other languages, if you are opting for a bilingual programme or for a programme delivered mainly in the local language.
- Minimum 2-3 years relevant professional experience (some institutions will accept one year).
- Personal statement.
- Successful interview for shortlisted candidates.
In brief, admissions officers will be looking for candidates who:
- Can demonstrate motivation, maturity and leadership.
- Have relevant work experience, including successful projects which can illustrate their attributes.
- Have a strong academic background.
MBA tuition fees vary considerably depending on which institution you choose. In Europe, these range from €11,000 to €40,000 (executive or international MBAs may carry higher fees). So it can be a considerably cheaper option than an MBA in North America, for example.
Most MBA programmes will carry an application fee up to €100, depending on the institution. Others will apply an administrative fee for non-EU students. Once accepted onto a programme, it is likely you will have to pay a non-refundable deposit to secure a place, although this is then redeemed against your tuition fees once you have started the programme.
Other fees and costs
Institutions will sometimes have additional fees for student services, either optional or compulsory. International students are also required to have adequate health insurance and will have to subscribe to a policy through their institution. For living expenses and accommodation costs, consult our student guides to living in European countries.
If sponsorship from your employer is not an option, you may wish to explore scholarships to support your MBA studies. Business schools may offer MBA entrance scholarships, based in on merit or scholarships created from donations and legacies, recipients being selected on merit but on a wide variety of criteria. External organisations, such as banks and financial institutions may also have scholarships on offer.
MBA programmes in European countries
To find out what programmes are available in Europe, check the FindAMasters and FindAnMBA databases.
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Last updated: 04 March 2021