When it comes to a master’s degree in business administration, the United States boasts 5 of the world’s top 10 business schools. But schools on the other side of the Atlantic are giving American schools a run for their money, quite literally. For those seeking a truly global experience in a lustrous program—without shelling out quite as big a fortune—Europe has become an MBA mecca.
European business schools offer a truly international experience, invaluable in today’s business world. Roughly 90 percent of students in top European schools come from abroad, compared with 35 to 40 percent for U.S. programs. “European schools believe that a mixed international cohort makes for a better learning experience and better reflects international business,” says Stephen Hoare, a journalist and communications agency director who specializes in MBA and postgraduate education.
When it comes to value for money, U.S. programs fall to the bottom of the Financial Times’s 2012 ranking of full-time MBA programs, largely because they take two years to complete, while yearlong programs are common in Europe. Tuition and fees for a top full-time U.S. MBA program can leave you with a debt of US $120 000. Total costs for Europe’s finest—the programs at London Business School and France’s INSEAD—are about $85 000 and $72 000, respectively.
To be sure, most engineers get an MBA for a career change, whether to move into management, change industry, or become entrepreneurs, and one advantage of a two-year program is that students get a chance for a summer internship. “For an engineer who’s changing careers, or wants to, [an internship] can be very valuable,” says Dan Bauer, the managing director and founder of the MBA Exchange. Whether that’s worth the additional cost and time is a personal decision. IEEE Spectrum put together this list of programs in Europe that stand out, based on several different published rankings—including those by the Financial Times and The Economist—and after speaking with consultants and other experts.
In the end, most students, be they engineers or not, American or Asian, are looking for the same things when they choose schools, Bauer says: “A prestigious brand and a location that will not only be satisfying to live in while attending school but also beneficial after school.”
London Business School
Tuition and fees: US $84 623
Average salary: $152 981
Located in a pulsing capital of the world, the London Business School gives a truly global experience. The flexible full-time program can be completed in 15, 18, or 21 months and offers the best of the North American and European models. Another strength is its vast alumni network spanning more than 120 countries.
International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland
Tuition and fees: $92 019
Average salary: $144 045
At just 90 students, this is a small program, but alumni rate it most effective at landing stellar jobs for its grads. They also report the highest satisfaction for achieving their goals, whether it’s a career change or networking. According to The Economist, the school has superb global business contacts and gets healthy support from its corporate partners.
Special mention: IESE Business School–University of Navarra, Barcelona; INSEAD in Fontainebleau (France), Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and United Arab Emirates
STRONG TECHNOLOGY FOCUS
Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Cranfield, England
Tuition and fees: $53 800
Average salary: $125 196
Cranfield and Warwick boast strong ties with industry and to parent universities that are leaders in science and engineering education and research. A majority of graduates from both schools go on to work in the IT/telecommunications field. Both programs are quickly moving up and taking their places among the best in Europe.
Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England
Tuition and fees: $55 650
Average salary: $132 758
You can’t beat ties with one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Then there’s the invaluable proximity to the “Silicon Fen” region around Cambridge, which is home to a cluster of high-tech businesses.
Special mention: Grenoble Graduate School of Business, Grenoble, France, for its lower tuition and fees ($35 625) and opportunities to specialize in such areas as innovation management and biotechnology.
CALLING ALL ENTREPRENEURS
Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, Oxford, England
Tuition and fees: $63 898
Average salary: $134 805
Entrepreneurship is a leading area of study at Oxford and one that’s top‑rated by alumni. As The Economist puts it, “the Oxford ‘brand’ is a huge attraction, particularly in North America. And brand names matter when you’re planning to venture out on your own.”
Special mention: International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne; Judge Business School, Cambridge
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
Tuition and fees: $65 234
Average salary: $121 061
Getting into this highly selective program is tough, but once you’re in, you’ll be on a large, modern campus an 18-kilometer train ride from central Paris. The school takes pride in French culture, and learning the language is a requirement. A win-win for those seeking professional and personal fulfillment. Special mention: ESADE Business School, Barcelona; IESE Business School–University of Navarra, Barcelona
Sources: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Business School Compartor" (Tuition and Fees); Financial TImes, "Global MBA Rankings 2012" (Average Salary)
This article originally appeared in print as "MBAs in Europe."