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If there isn’t a European business school on your MBA shortlist, perhaps there should be. There are many distinctive advantages to pursuing an international MBA, particularly in Europe. From the impressive return on investment to peerless global leadership experience, more applicants are taking notice, causing a surge in applications to European programs over the last year.

Concerns about U.S. immigration policy are persuading a significant number of international applicants to look beyond the U.S. for business school. At Fortuna Admissions, we’ve spoken with a great many young professionals in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East who are deciding to refocus their attention from the U.S. to Europe and beyond. In addition to U.S. politics, growing interest among fast-track professionals for the shorter, one-year course length favored by many international MBA programs have students looking to Europe.

If you haven’t yet considered European MBA, here are three great reasons to start:

1. Global leadership: A springboard to an international career.

Top tier business schools like London Business School (LBS) and INSEAD (with campuses in Fontainebleau, France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi) consistently rank among the Financial Times’ (FT’s) top five programs. Both offer unrivalled international exposure by virtue of their truly diverse student communities: INSEAD boasts more than 80 nationalities in its MBA program, while LBS students are 91 percent 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 globe.

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 intensity and pace. If your preference is a two-year MBA in Europe, LBS and IESE in Barcelona, Spain, are the places to start.

2. ROI: The financial benefits 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 FT ranking shows that the one-year MBA can deliver the sort of earnings power and salary increase to compete with the very best two-year programs. With smaller foregone costs (and relinquishing only a year’s worth of salary), schools like IMD in Switzerland – which boasts an eye-watering five-year gain of $194,700 – are attracting more applicants.

The latest Forbes MBA ranking affirms this accelerated return on investment. The 13 European schools in its one-year ranking had a payback that ranged from 2.2 to 3.2 years, while grads from Harvard Business School (still the venerated beacon of business schools) take four years to pay back their investment on average. While Wharton topped the U.S. ranking with a five-year gain of $97,100, seven 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 IE, Cambridge Judge and Oxford Saïd, or a January intake at top tier schools like INSEAD, IMD, RSM and HEC Paris.

 3. Timing: Later application deadlines and a January enrollment.

In general, European schools accept applications later in the season than the top US schools. IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, accepts applications on a rolling basis (meaning this fall is still a potential possibility). And while admissions deadlines for top US programs have passed, anyone eager to apply now should consider a January intake. Now accepting applications for a January 2019 intake are INSEAD (Sept. 19 for R1), HEC Paris (rolling starting Aug. 15), IMD (Aug. 1 and Sept. 1) and Rotterdam School of Management (Aug. 14 and Oct. 16).

Onward to the million-dollar question: Which is the #1 ranked MBA program in Europe?

It depends who you ask. For the BusinessWeek and 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 six years ago (check out the latest Ranking of Rankings, in which INSEAD maintains its third year at #1).

All told, the ticket to a successful application to any international school is your thoughtful research and due diligence—most want evidence of your international exposure and cross-cultural competency. You’ll also want to consider timing-related factors, from how to finance the program to visa considerations and planning a cross-continental move. Language classes for programs like IE start more than a month before the program begins. The unique benefits of any European MBA come with unique considerations, so it’s best to forecast these details in advance.

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 a free consultation.



Written by Caroline Diarte Edwards
Caroline Diarte Edwards is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former INSEAD Director of MBA Admissions. Fortuna Admissions is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools.