Online and flexible learning, stagnant economic growth and shifting employer attitudes towards education have brought the value of the MBA degree into question.
But in Europe, business schools’ flagship programs are in rude health, according to a report which collected data from more than 30,000 leading employers.
The study by QS, an education and research group, assessed data from 33,000 employers including Bain & Company and Google, and 46 leading European business schools to determine the return on investment of the degree, and the strength of the MBA jobs market.
Employers value the full-time MBA more than any other postgraduate business qualification, according to QS.
Over the past 15 years, MBA salaries in North America and Western Europe have grown by nearly 28%, to $94,135 on average, according to data compiled in a separate report by QS.
The average salary for European MBA graduates is $91,586 compared to $45,500 for a masters graduate.
The 10-year return on investment (ROI) was highest in Europe, averaging about $670,000. After 20 years, the average ROI of European MBA graduates is $2.9 million, according to QS.
Some 20 business schools in Europe enjoyed 20-year ROIs of at least $3 million. This includes HEC Paris, IESE Business School, INSEAD and ESADE Business School, with Imperial College Business School in the UK also crossing the $3 million mark.
With strong salaries and a preference for one-year MBAs, European MBA graduates can recoup their business school investment in just 30 months, on average.
The quickest payback is seen in Germany, according to QS, where MBAs recouped their investments on average in 23 months.
At Durham University Business School in the UK, MBA graduates regain their investment in just 20 months, according to the report.
The data show that 85% of full-time MBA graduates in Europe landed a job within three months of graduation.
At the UK’s London Business School, 100% of MBAs were employed within three months of graduating.
At EMLYON Business School in France, graduates reported salary increases of 110%, with Vlerick Business School in Belgium posting the strongest salary gains, 155%.
Some of the highest salaries are netted in the financial services and banking industries – $95,050 – which is nearly $42,000 more than a masters graduate earns in those sectors.
But employers in the metals and mining industries reported MBA salaries of $134,250 – the highest of all sectors – despite recent falls in commodity prices.
Technology masters graduates earn on average $60,034 in salary, the highest of the popular specialized business programs.
However, figures released by the FT in 2015 as part of its global MBA rankings show that while MBA's salaries are increasd, the boost to earnings has fallen by nearly a third from its pre financial-crisis peak.
Managers are often attracted to Europe because fees are typically lower than in the US, where business schools prefer two-year MBA programs.
Program fees in Europe average $49,413, but fees rise to an average of $63,531 in Switzerland, which also suffered from a surging currency in 2015, after the Swiss National Bank abandoned a currency ceiling put in place in 2011.
But the highest post-MBA salary increases were in Switzerland, $69,433, according to QS.
Elsewhere, 94% of MBAs at Henley Business School are employed within three months of graduating, while 92% of MBAs at Grenoble École de Management are employed at three months, and 91% of IE MBAs are employed at the three month mark.
QS said that it plans to in future release similar investment return reports for other regions.