Comparing Top EU MBA Programs Vs. Top US Programs

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, May 17, 2021

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INSEAD in France, London Business School, Oxford’s Saïd Business School, and Cambridge’s Judge Business School are among the top EU MBA programs. While INSEAD and LBS rank highest, HEC Paris, Italy's SDA Bocconi, and Spain's IESE shine in their home markets.

There are several factors to consider while weighing 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.

Cost and ROI for Top EU MBA Programs

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First, these 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 program, 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 survey of SBC's EU applicant pool, 48% cited reasons such as shorter duration and lower tuition costs.

Global Experience

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.

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.

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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.

Niche Work Opportunities

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.

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 member 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.

Less Competitive Admissions

For some MBA applicants, the relative competitiveness of the schools is another factor. We have seen better admissions odds for top EU programs relative to the M7 top US programs for a typical applicant. We had a recent inquiry who experienced rejection from every top US program to which she applied but got accepted to LBS.

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.

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Why Choose a top US MBA program over a top EU program?

Reputation matters. Top schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and others are in demand because top employers source their talent from these student pools. This is especially critical for students wishing to make an industry and/or functional pivot post-MBA.

Career potential is the key advantage that US MBA programs have over European (EU) schools. Applicants highly favor top US MBA programs across the career-related attributes of reputation, recruiting, and networking as compared to EU programs. In a survey of the SBC client pool, applicants reported as follows:

  • 75% said reputation is stronger for US MBA programs than non-US MBA programs
  • 62% said US programs will accelerate their career path
  • 54% said US programs have strong professional networks

“Between the on-campus recruiting opportunities and broad-reaching alumni networks, there is tremendous value in a US-based MBA,” shared a current top-five MBA career coach who works for the SBC team.

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Access to US employers is a key advantage of top US MBA programs for international applicants. One client shared, “I would like to change markets and go to the States. But it’s difficult coming from a German undergrad.”

Industry switchers also favor the US MBA program. As one respondent commented: “Coming from a non-business background, I am looking for two-year MBA programs versus the European one-year MBA.”

Many consider the depth of coursework and intellectual rigor better in a two-year, top US program. As one of our clients echoed, “case-based and experiential pedagogies that are popular across US schools is why I’m applying instead of my local EU programs.”

And, for many US-based applicants, it’s merely a matter of logistics. A client said, “Travel costs would be prohibitive for an international program; I wouldn’t like to travel overseas away from family for an extended period.”

How to decide: US or EU

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Differences between US and EU programs also include the composition of the student class and geographical outplacement profiles.

Do you want a student class that is US or international dominant? If your preference is fewer US students (10%) and a dominant (90%) international student class, programs in the EU such as INSEAD, LBS and HEC Paris are excellent choices. If you favor a US peer group with around 30% international students, US MBA programs are your best fit.

Next, think about where you want to live upon graduation. INSEAD, LBS, and HEC Paris place under 10% into US-based employment roles and many more, at 50-to-66%, into Europe. If you prefer to work in the US, the US MBA programs dominate with 87-to-89% outplacement to the US.

Europe or the US? Wherever your career path leads, an MBA will help.

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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.