As business schools compete to lure the best students and the education market becomes more global, being able to distinguish the best MBA programs for the rest is becoming more difficult.
When it comes to the top-100, MBA rankings are most applicants’ preferred source of information, with the US continuing to dominate most lists followed by Western Europe.
But there have been new regions creeping into the framework, as emerging markets have rolled out high quality courses with an international focus. The US and UK may not be able to rely on their revered status for much longer.
Canada and Australia have been gaining ground in the education race and schools including AGSM of Sydney and the Sauder School of Business in Vancouver have helped edge several MBA programs into the league tables.
Meanwhile, European countries including Belgium and Germany have proven fertile breeding ground for business master’s degrees and both think they can rival the traditional MBA markets.
The rise of Latin America with business schools such as Coppead of Brazil, have entered the fray with a unique focus on entrepreneurship and social impact, while China and wider Asia are attracting a growing slice of the MBA market with booming economies and a growing entrepreneurial scene.
And the few shining stars of India, a country which has seen hundreds of its second-tier business schools forced to close down due to a lack of enrolment, offer western students something new.
For entrepreneurship, candidates are now looking to countries including Mexico and Brazil, countries that are moving away from a focus on academic and technical skills to one of entrepreneurship, innovation and social responsibility.
“Globalization is changing how businesses are run, and is also forcing business schools to evaluate their fundamental role in preparing the next generation of business leaders,” said Dean María de Lourdes Dieck Assad of EGADE Business School in Mexico.
“Belgium does not have the capacity enjoyed by markets like the UK and France,” admitted Frank Fletcher, head of recruitment at Vlerick Business School. But he added that the country can compete with quality of education, experience and opportunities.
“The Netherlands can compete with the larger countries in Europe when it comes to international education,” said Dr Milton Sousa, director of MBA and executive MBA programs at the Rotterdam School of Management.
It is thought that foreign MBA candidates are attracted to these regions in particular due to more relaxed immigration laws and unique learning approaches.
“For the full-time MBA, we are now competing with the top European institutions,” said Ralf Bürkle, director of marketing at Germany’s Mannheim Business School.
Germany has also loosened its visa and employment laws, added Nick Barniville from Berlin-based European School of Management and Technology, “making it much easier for non-EU nationals to take up employment within the country.”
Another indicator applicants can use is the success that graduates have in securing jobs, the salaries they go on to earn and how this stacks up against the cost of their degree. The schools with the biggest brand names produce the smallest immediate returns on investment.
Data from The Economist show that an MBA from Harvard Business School, for example, offers less than a $10,000 increase in immediate post-MBA salary.
Cheaper, shorter MBA programs around the world offer better returns. Graduates from HEC Paris in France make enough extra money to pay off their degrees in less than two years: An HEC MBA costs about $60,000, students enrol while earning less than $50,000 on average, but average post-MBA salaries are nearly $124,000.
It would seem that assessing the quality of a business education is becoming increasingly difficult.