INSEAD, which splits its full-time MBA across France and Singapore and is ranked within the top-five of the MBA rankings, suggested that choosing a destination is now much less important.
The latest applicant survey by QS, the business school research company, found that 51% of business school applicants are picking their school based on location, up from 41% in 2011.
However Pejay Belland, director of admissions at INSEAD, said: “Initial location choice no longer matters, as multiple locations allow for many networking opportunities, being exposed to different perspectives about the world economy, [and] adoption of different business practices.”
Where a school is based impacts many other aspects of an MBA – including career opportunities, the attractiveness to faculty, the design of the program and even cost.
But commenting on the increased globalization of business schools, Pejay said: “An MBA is no longer just about grasping the fundamentals of business, but about developing deeper cross-border collaborations with people from diverse cultures and understanding various markets in countries such as China, India or Brazil.”
The global nature of business and the growth of emerging markets have contributed to business schools like INSEAD delivering MBA programs in multiple locations, while many more have set-up campuses in emerging marks such as Africa.
INSEAD believes that such global experiences provide a boost to students’ CVs – their MBAs have the opportunity to go on exchange programs at campuses in Europe or Asia, and to study a module in the Middle East.
But for many MBA students, location remains the most important choice, according to several other leading business schools, while most GMAT test-takers send their scores to locations outside of their home countries.
Anna Bacigalupi, an admissions manager at MIP Politecnico di Milano, disagrees that location no longer matters to MBAs: “No – it’s always important, since most of their classes and activities will be taken in the initial location.”
Mark Thomas, associate dean for international affairs at Grenoble GSB, said that for multi-location programs that have an equal percentage of study time in each destination, initial location choice may be less important. But he added that such programs are still rare.
“Most companies will consider first and foremost the issuing university on the MBA degree,” Mark said.
Sara Jones, an MBA graduate of London Business School, said that affordability, proximity to industry and alumni distribution were the most important factors in choosing a study location.
“The most common question that I have heard from anxious prospective students… Is where to apply for an MBA,” Sara said.
She added that London was the most affordable city on her list – although the rent was “not necessarily cheap” – primarily because it had one of the best transportation networks, among other factors.
She said that alumni distribution is also key, while choosing a certain MBA location can give you exposure to large multinationals: “There were many companies that I wanted to learn about, such as Amazon and Google, which had their local divisions in London.”
“I did not take such a crucial decision lightly,” Sara added.