The Lure of an MBA in Europe

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Oct 5, 2020

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As business becomes more global, applicants may ask themselves if they should consider heading abroad for an MBA in Europe. In many cases, the answer will be yes. Recruiters overwhelmingly agree that candidates with international experience outperform those without. The best business schools attract international students and faculty of the highest caliber. Plus, in terms of rankings, elite European programs perform as well as many top programs in the United States.

There are several factors to consider as you weigh whether an MBA in Europe will help you reach your career goals. From cost to duration to brand reputation and more, keep the following in mind as you make your decision.

Why do an MBA in Europe?

Most of our clients targeting EU MBA programs cite these compelling reasons. First, the programs boast a high return on investment (ROI), as most last just one year. For example, you can complete an MBA program at INSEAD in as little as ten months. Compared to a two-year or US MBA programs, lower tuition and opportunity costs look enticing.

But even for the longer EU MBA programs, such as London Business School and IESE Business School in Spain, tuition fees are lower. In a study that SBC conducted across its EU applicant pool, shorter duration and lower tuition costs were reasons endorsed by 48% of respondents.

Secondly, EU MBA programs are more global in nature, compared to even the most "global" US program. They attract students who want a truly international experience with their education. They also attract professionals planning to work in Europe after their studies.

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We consider an MBA in Europe an excellent complement to an undergraduate degree earned in the US. It positions students for global careers better than doing both college and an MBA in the same country or continent.

If your professional goal is to live and work in Europe, pursuing an MBA abroad is arguably the best introduction to local business life. Keep this fact in mind: INSEAD, LBS, and HEC Paris place less than 10% of graduates into US-based employment roles. Meanwhile, they place 50-to-66% of grads in Europe.

Work Visas

The new two-year, post-study work visa, which returns to the UK for international students graduating in summer 2021 or later, will make it easier for new MBAs to find jobs—and for employers to hire them. This is incredibly valuable at a time when the US's political climate, and recent H1B Visa restrictions, have deterred some internationals from venturing to the US. An MBA in Europe suddenly seems much more attractive.

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Specialized Industry Recruiting

MBA hopefuls may also favor specialized industry recruiting where the EU has the edge over the US. While the US is the technology industry hub (tech is still a nascent market in the EU), Europe dominates the fintech industry.

London is considered the fintech capital of the world because of the banking passport legislation that governs Europe and standardizes products across the 27 countries. Europe has an advantage over the US in the fintech industry because the US must contend with legislation that varies by state and can be an impediment to digital banking.

Competition

For some MBA applicants, the relative competitiveness of the schools is another factor. We had a client last year who experienced rejection from every US program to which she applied, but got accepted to LBS. Coronavirus and Trump/visa issues may have impacted this and forced US schools to change their approach.

Generally, EU schools are more open to having larger percentages of international students, particularly from Commonwealth countries (e.g., India). Meanwhile, US schools are more competitive for those with overrepresented backgrounds in the applicant pool.

Current Demand for the MBA Degree

MBA demand is counter-cyclical to the economy. Therefore, demand has skyrocketed. Opportunity costs have lowered. MBA applicants typically are debt-free in their twenties and can incur the expense of the education. Some young professionals see the MBA as an escape from unemployment or furlough status.

But, at a deeper level, many of the MBA applicants we've talked to in recent months tell us that they need the sophisticated knowledge inherent to MBA programs to navigate the dynamic business changes ahead. MBA hopefuls need the degree to gain the tools to thrive in the radically-changing business landscape.

Technology, supply chain, and other disciplines will become reimagined within the business school environment. That is a huge lure. It's an exciting time for young, MBA-aspiring professionals. Many see the MBA classes of 2022 and 2023 as symbolizing new beginnings and hope.

Cathy, an INSEAD MBA graduate on our team, believes the global crisis may jolt young professionals towards more meaningful careers. The MBA experience can enable that purpose-driven path.

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"Pre-INSEAD, my goal was to enter social impact investing after graduating," she shares. "At that time, the economic downturn did reinforce the idea of pursuing a meaningful career. My INSEAD experience further encouraged me to do so, with its emphasis on its community being a 'Force for Good'."

Demand will continue to increase significantly for the top MBA programs. More than that, the caliber of the applicant pool with respect to diversity, leadership, industry, and career visions will skyrocket in the application season that is upon us. Both quality and quantity are about to be re-defined.

Which EU Programs Stand Out?

Brand and ranking almost always correlate to applicant demand, strength of recruiting, and ROI. INSEAD, London Business School, Oxford's Saïd Business School, and Cambridge's Judge Business School are in higher demand internationally. While INSEAD and LBS are undoubtedly the best ranked, programs like HEC Paris, SDA Bocconi in Italy, and IESE shine in each of their respective home markets/countries.

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HEC has risen lately in the ranks. The Financial Times 2019 rankings had them #1 European MBA program & #3 globally, and #1 EMBA. The FT rankings are considered the most transparent and respected. So, if someone plans to work in France, HEC Paris has a fantastic network and can tap into its 'premier' undergraduate network.

Imperial College Business School in London is also another one to watch, especially for innovation and science/engineering. They're very active in the B-school community, organizing the annual EdTech forum and leading in Europe on flexible offerings. Like Oxford and Cambridge, Imperial benefits from the strong foundation and brand of the underlying university.

The "pure business school approach" of LBS and INSEAD are enticing to many MBA applicants. But Imperial, Oxford, and Cambridge leverage the cross-university collaboration quite well to help boost their appeal.

How Can Candidates Find the Right MBA in Europe?

Read, read, and read some more. Pore over the websites of all schools that interest you to learn about the curriculum, teaching methods, professional clubs, extracurricular offerings, and student life.

Sign up to receive email announcements with admissions updates and information. As you consider earning an MBA in Europe, think diligently about fit with personal and professional goals. Consider ranking reports and brand reputation, which is by far the most influential reason for selecting an MBA program across the applicant pool.

The key factor is career potential. Business schools have developed comprehensive career services, but participants themselves should propel their success. Take time and effort to set clear career goals before applying for a business program.

Based on those goals, choose the most appropriate business schools considering all that they can offer: curriculum, network, learning environment, business exposure, and career services, among other aspects. Business schools care deeply about your success, but ultimately, your career and lifestyle are your responsibility.

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Next, location and program length will influence your decision. Post-MBA career preferences should drive your location choices. Professionals who want to work in the EU, therefore, should focus on doing their MBA in Europe.

Finally, be self-aware. The right program varies by the candidate. Much depends on the student's professional profile and career aspirations, as well as what they do once at the program. Fit with and performance at the program are essential.

For example:

a low-performing LBS student won't get the ROI from the program
a high-performing Imperial College student who hustles to attain the right-fit summer internship at an elite company will enjoy a great ROI for his or her MBA experience
a liberal-arts-educated applicant who needs the MBA to learn hard skills will find ROI at almost every top EU MBA program


Which Sectors Might Grow During this Economic Crisis?

It's too soon to know what changes will occur concerning the sudden economic crisis. For now, we've seen that MBA grads continue to flock to lucrative and popular consulting. Likewise, tech has continued to see a lot of growth and interest among MBAs, especially in product manager and product marketing manager roles.

MBAs look for growth opportunities these days, and tech companies can offer that growth and development. Healthcare also continues to expand with roles in administration and health technology. Fintech will surge as well, because of the need to overhaul into contact-free payment processes.

The State of Company Sponsorships

Sponsorship from companies has decreased due to budget concerns. We've heard that companies such as Deloitte, which has had a robust GSAP sponsorship program for full-time MBA applicants, has heavily curtailed their sponsorship plans as a result of COVID-19.

We anticipate far fewer companies will sponsor going forward, as it's an extension of a trend underway since 2008. Instead of company sponsorship, we expect applicants to value and actively seek an MBA tuition scholarship as a way to lower costs.

Another factor that explains decreasing company sponsorship is that applicants often don't want to return to the same employer post-MBA. Many young professionals are now eager for higher impact roles and hope to change to a new environment after the MBA.

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Transformation, the MBA, and COVID-19

MBA programs are the epicenter of innovation and adaptability and have effectively pivoted with virtual social and academic-rich programming. In many cases, the virtual method can enhance the experience. It offers more robust access to experts, recruiters, mentors, change-makers, etc., across the world who can easily Zoom to educate the next generation.

“MBA experiences themselves are meant to be transformative," says Cathy, our SBC INSEAD MBA expert.

"What better place to be challenged, and to develop professionally and personally, than in an environment conducive to collaboratively resolving issues with sustainable solutions, and with creativity and intelligence?" she adds.

For example, "In the INSEAD community, the pandemic has already sparked constructive solutions to tackle the spread and even combat COVID-19. The pandemic is strengthening the MBA community and experience. Regarding issues of racial equality, these are the impetus for the important discussions that take place between cohorts and professors, faculty, and staff, further unifying the networking and connections across the MBA cohort."

There are numerous advantages to seeking an MBA in Europe. You might be motivated by the lower tuition cost, strong ROI, international network, cultural diversity, or even language learning options.

A cultural immersion experience of this kind is not without its challenges. But most participants would agree that studying abroad is not just financially rewarding, but personally fulfilling as well.

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Stacy Blackman Consulting is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from every M7 program and the elite European MBA programs. If you are looking for guidance on your MBA application, we can help with hourly and comprehensive consulting services. Contact us to learn more.