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Meet The Russian Businesswomen Studying At An MBA Campus Near You

Russian MBAs are still looking abroad for their education, and the majority of them are women

Thu Jul 12 2018

Ekaterina Li will step on campus for her full-time MBA at Imperial College Business School in London in September this year.

Working in finance in Moscow, when Ekaterina was weighing up different business schools for her MBA, she didn’t consider any within Russia itself. She knew some local schools offered more affordable, good-quality programs, but still she looked elsewhere.

Why? “In Moscow,” she says, “big companies pay attention not only to your MBA qualification but also the school you obtained it from.

“It may be that you can get the best education in the world in some Moscow-based business schools but, as these schools do not appear in international rankings, their programs are unknown outside of the education sector.”

While Russian business schools are taking steps to internationalize, Russians after a full-time MBA experience are still looking to study abroad.

According to data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)—owner of the GMAT—94% of the 1,752 GMAT tests taken by Russian citizens in 2017 were sent to business schools outside Russia. 42% were sent to the US; 11% to the UK; 10% to France.

And many of those test takers are women. In four out of the five past years, GMAC says, more Russian women took GMAT tests than Russian men. In 2015, it was a 50/50 split.

It’s not easy. Russian students pay much more than they would domestically and often have to take additional language tests to get accepted onto international MBA programs—Ekaterina had to take out a loan and ask her family for financial support.

Yet Ekaterina’s decision was less about leaving Russia and more about attending a business school that would give her access to a wider range of career opportunities—a risk worth taking, she says. Her plan is to stay in the UK for six months after graduation—as her visa permits—before returning to Russia.

“I see this as like a Russian soccer player deciding to play for an English soccer club and then bringing that experience back to the national team,” she says. “Some might call it unpatriotic, but gaining skills from international experience benefits the team in the long-run.”

Read: Business Schools In Russia Target Global Expansion


Although several Russian business schools offer part-time MBA programs, the MBA degree is not officially recognized by the Russian state. The full-time MBA in Russia barely exists. The lack of globally-ranked, globally-recognized MBA programs means that, even for students like Ekaterina who see their future in Russia after graduation, an MBA abroad is a stronger option.

For students like Marianna Alekseeva, who’s after an international career, doing an MBA program abroad is almost a necessity. Originally from Yakutia (Republic of Sakha), in the easternmost part of Russia, Marianna moved to Saint Petersburg to start her career in the technology industry. Last year, she joined the HEC Paris MBA class of 2019. Like Ekaterina, she didn’t consider any MBA programs in Russia.


“The majority of people I know have decided to pursue their MBAs abroad,” she says. “That’s mainly because of the relative infancy of business education in Russia, where local schools struggle to attract a diverse and international student body.

“The entire concept of an MBA degree only developed in Russia less than 20 years ago, and there are just a few accredited institutions offering MBA programs. On the other hand, in Western Europe and the United States, the MBA is a well-established and recognized brand with more than a century-long history.

“Like many students, I view an MBA as a long-term investment in my future, so I only considered internationally-recognized schools with a proven track record and a stellar reputation amongst the business community and potential employers.” HEC Paris—ranked among the best schools in the world and with a network of 57,000 alumni in 135 countries—seemed a good fit.

Marianna has already seen her career progress; she’s currently interning at Google. “The main reason why I’m not considering going back to Russia is that there are very few tech companies with headquarters there, compared to in Western Europe,” she says. “And I want to be part of designing and shaping the future of a company, rather than implementing predefined decisions within a region.”


Elena Budanova is another Russian businesswoman looking to start a career in tech in Europe. To do so, she’s enrolled on the full-time MBA at Nyenrode Business Universiteit in the Netherlands.

“I was looking for an international experience, a diverse group of students I can learn from, and a global perspective to business and society,” Elena explains. “The Netherlands is the perfect place to be, and where I plan to stay.”

What is the future for business education in Russia? For Elena, there’s a lot of work to be done. While business schools in Russia have plenty of potential, she says schools will only improve their offering by further integrating with the global marketplace—something Russian schools are striving to do.

Marianna agrees. “Potential students choose a program based on the relevance of the curriculum to meet their needs; the reputation of the professors, strength of the alumni network; the connections of the career services with potential employers; and global rankings,” she says.

“I’m sure Russian schools are capable of offering compelling curricula and attracting exceptional candidates, but I think they still have a lot to improve on in other areas.”

Student Reviews

HEC Paris




On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.




On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.




On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.





Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.




On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.




On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.




On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.





A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!




On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.