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Why European B-Schools Have The Best Online And Distance MBAs

Have you considered online and distance MBAs? They are growing more popular each year. According to new global rankings, European b-schools are ahead of those in the US. Find out why!

Sun Jan 26 2014

When it comes to online and distance learning MBAs, Europe's top business schools are ahead of their North American counter-parts, according to new global rankings by education and careers company QS.
Despite the stellar reputation of States-based schools and their position at the top of most global full-time, traditional MBA Rankings, QS ranks seven of the top-ten online and distance programs in Europe.
And they go a long way to confirming that online MBAs, which hit the headlines two years ago in the US and have since grown in popularity across Europe, are a real and credible alternative to the traditional b-school model. 
The new table, QS Distance Online MBA Rankings, is the first dedicated exclusively to online b-school and distance programs internationally. 
Spain's IE Business School tops the list, beating Warwick Business School to first-place.
Other leading European business schools made it into the list, including; Manchester Business School (5th); Imperial College Business School (6th); Oxford Brookes Business School (7th) and Henley Business School (8th).
In total, six of the top-ten business schools are based in the UK. 
The rankings, by QS Top MBA, include just 30 online and distance learning programs, reflecting that this is still a relatively new format for teaching MBAs.
Top-placed IE Business School, which is also considered a top-20 school for full-time traditional programs by the Financial Times, came ahead of a raft of schools from the US, UK and France. 
IE, which has a strong entrepreneurial reputation, also offers an International MBA, Global MBA+, Executive MBA+, Global Executive MBA and IE Brown Executive MBA program.
There has been a rise in online/ distance programs in recent years, but the difference in quality between them varies significantly. There is little regulation of the sector, with some online-only programs and Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) causing controversy in the MBA community.
This month BusinessBecause reported that a female 'MBA student' was learning a full b-school curriculum online, from top schools such as Wharton and Harvard, for little more than $1,000
In October last year, the American University of London (AUOL), an online-based business masters platform offering qualifications based on previous experience, caused a storm when it awarded a dog an MBA degree for $7,000.
Reporters from BBC Newsnight coaxed the online-based university into awarding an MBA to a fictitious person created by the program, sending the university a fake CV with made-up work experience. Two weeks after paying the fee, Pete The Dog was a registered MBA graduate.
MIP Politecnico di Milano, a leading Italian business school, recently announced a new online-based MBA program that they developed with Microsoft. The Flex EMBA is set to launch later this year. 
Norwich Business School in England offers a ten-week course with FutureLearn, and Durham University Business School is developing four of its own Moocs - crisis management, social media, strategy and organizational change – alongside its £19,000 three-year Online MBA.
Grenoble Ecole de Management, a top business school in France, is also developing Moocs in geopolitics, innovation and research methods. 
In September, British-based Open University (OU) joined FutureLearn – a platform offering courses from universities online. OU works with over 25 UK universities, including Bath and Reading (Henley), which both have high-ranking business schools under their belt. 
Other commentators have lambasted Moocs as marketing gimmicks. However, the QS Distance/Online MBA Rankings are designed to help applicants identify the best programs - at a time when little other information is available. 
Their ranking methodology looks at the key issues for prospective MBA students, with a total of 18 indicators considered in order to draw up the final ranking, including: Employer reputation, average years of work experience, applicants per place, average GMAT score, accreditation, students enrolled and completion ratio.
Reflecting post-MBA-jobs, one of the biggest drivers among applicants, employer reputation is the most significant part of the rankings.
Demand among applicants for online/distance learning programs is also increasing. According to a recent report by QS Top MBA that surveyed 70,000 applicants (4,000 of which responded), interest in online learning has risen to a high of 16.2 per cent. 
The combined number of those interested in online learning and distance learning is 23.5 per cent, according to data from the report. The number of applicants interested in full-time study declined by 0.7 per cent, according to the same study.
"The last three years have seen a gradual shift away from the full-time MBA degree in favor of alternative modes of study," says the report. 
"This suggests that the market for MBA study as a whole may be expanding. While numbers on full-time programs remain healthy, the increased availability and profile of alternative MBA programs means a business education has become an option for additional candidates whose circumstances make full-time study a less viable proposition." 
Better technology, greater availability and more reliable accreditation of alternative study modes have expanded MBA options, the report added.
MBA applicants are also more attracted to online and distance programs because they are less disruptive to their personal and professional lives. 
The top North American schools are Indiana University Kelley School of Business and Thunderbird School of Global Management. Of the 30 schools ranked by QS Top MBA, 17 are based in North America, with the remaining 13 from Europe.
The full QS Distance/Online MBA Ranking 2014 can be viewed here: