MBA Programs in Europe

Obtaining an MBA qualification is a paramount issue. The increased demand has had a considerable impact on the number of providers in Europe, offering canditates more choice and flexibility than ever before.

The MBA market in Austria, Germany and Switzerland for instance covers about 120 providers and 150 programmes. In the UK, MBA education has practically doubled in the last ten years, with over 170 programmes on offer.

Is an MBA an MBA?

The range of master’s programmes becomes broader every day. Some schools offer “junior MBA’s” for students who have just graduated from university and at the other end of the scale is the “executive MBA” for managers with ten years of practical business experience. In terms of format, there are full-time and part-time programmes, distance-learning or modular formulas and increasingly European schools offer an integrated approach, tailoring the format on offer to the learners’ needs. Furthermore, most European schools now offer specialised master’s programmes, with Luxury Brand Management, Fashion or Sports in their portfolios.

The efmd philosophy with regards to MBA programmes can be best summarised as “there are no best schools as such, but MBA programmes that suit best an individual’s needs and expectations”. Needless to say, there are stringent institutional quality criteria for efmd membership and even more so for the EQUIS Quality Label.

Selecting an MBA programme is a highly individual task. At institutional level, the ratio of applicants to places is often a good indicator, as well as average GMAT scores, faculty ratings by students and percentages of foreign students and faculty. Students and graduate ratings of programme content and career services offer interesting insights on the value of a particular MBA programme.

But what are the most important factors for students in Europe when choosing a business school? According to the “Which MBA? 2001” survey, a school’s reputation is the overwhelming criterion followed by location and programme content. Other key criteria (in order of importance) are: quality of teaching faculty, tuition and living costs, published ranked position, friends’ recommendation and staring salary of graduates. The above criteria are then followed by (in equal position) career services, teaching methods, advertising, and published guides.

Definition of MBA Programmes in Europe

A fast changing environment and a general concern in the education profession have brought efmd to develop guidelines to clarify what is widely acceptable in the management development field. Extensive consultation processes with all stakeholders involved in Europe, especially the EQUAL associations and EQUIS schools, have led to as common recommendation. The purpose here is to propose a simple segmentation by major degree types and to promote agreement on the terms to be used to designate them in English. The Master’s level is achieved after 4 or 5 years of higher education, usually preceded by a first university qualification. A further segmentation can be made for younger students, specialised masters and MBA’s, according to the following criteria:


Typically, an MBA programme in Europe is shorter than in the US. In general MBA courses in Europe run for a year. American schools in general would have more star professors the their European counterparts. However, the experts may devote only limited time to teaching or may not teach at the MBA programmes at all. The size and culture of a school are often overlooked when considering business schools. In general, schools in the US are larger, with an average intake of full-time MBA students of 287, compared with 124 in Europe.

European schools have a significantly higher percentage of non-national students then their American counterparts, and the same picture emerges when analysing non-national faculty member. However, internationalisation does not translate directly into number of foreign students or faculty. Alliances and exchanges, for instance, contribute to an overall international culture.

From recent discussions at the efmd MBA Directors meeting, we learnt that European MBAs were more than relevant in the world of business. When comparing notes on the value of an MBA, organisations like Novartis and Andersen made it clear that the choice of MBA recruitment depended very much on previous experience of the graduate, quality of the school and the appropriateness of the individual for the particular environment. At the same meeting, the scientific validity of rankings was heavily debated between leading business education journalists and the European MBA directors.

Technology is one of the drivers in the changing MBA programmes environment. There is a clear trend towards increased demand in executive and part-time MBA’s, and ICT applications are a key element. The HEC School of Management in Paris, for instance, offers “MBA discussions forums” where potential candidates, alumni, professors and staff have real time discussions. The internet is also an integral part of ‘live case studies’ in most European schools. Intranet and extranet features increasingly offer services for admissions, recruitment and on-campus information, from the course syllabus to informal social activities. Furthermore, the latest technological applications make a big difference in research activities and internationalisation opportunities.

Apart from the added value of ICT applications, a key factor is still “people” learning and sharing in a business school. Innovative faculty who change the way people think and good students who participate actively in an MBA programme make it a unique experience. Or to quote Angel Cabrera, Dean of Instituto de Empressa in Madrid: “The main building blocks for training managers of the future at I.E are innovation, a responsible entrepreneurial spirit, academic excellence and a commitment to new technologies.”

The top two reasons for people to want an MBA qualification are “to open new career opportunities” and “personal development”. Ultimately, potential students have little doubt about their increased success in the corporate world, both in rank and in salary.

The average salary for an MBA graduate from a top business school in Europe is estimated at €85,000. Such a figure should obviously be treated with caution. It does not reflect differences in types of programmes or age experience of graduates. Overall, salaries for graduating MBA’s have increased by over 25% in the past four years according to the MBA Career Guide annual survey of over 250 recruiting companies. Consulting is the sector consistently at the top end of salaries paid to new MBA graduates. The fees for most MBA programmes range from €10,000 to €40,000.


The European Foundation for Management Development (efmd), based in Brussels is an independent non profit membership-based association of management education providers and leading companies. It is Europe’s unique forum for information, research, networking and debate on innovation and best practice in management development, efmd is becoming the recognised centre of excellence for management education and development in Europe by exploiting its networking skills, promoting worldwide cooperation and setting quality standards and values.

Martine Plompen is responsible for Knowledge and Communication Services at the European Foundation for Management Developments (efmd). She is the editor of several directories and reports on management learning in Europe. Recently: The European Directory on Executive Education in Europe: Unleashing the Power of Learning: Executive Education and Development in Europe. Martine contributes regularly to magazines and newsletters on subjects of learning technologies and executive education. Previously, she worked for Alcatel Bell Telephone and was Secretary General of the European Women’s Management Development Network.


European Foundation for Management Development

Rue Gachard 88

B-1050 Brussels

Phone: 32/2/629 08 10

Fax: 32/2/629 08 11




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