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The Best Full-Time MBA Programs In Europe—According To QS

European business schools are an increasingly attractive option for prospective MBAs

Harvard Business School may well have topped the QS Global MBA Rankings 2018 when they were released late last year, but half of the top 10 MBA programs in the world can be found in Europe.

With concerns over visa issues, President Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, rising tuition costs and longer course length, the US isn’t necessarily the attractive option to international MBA students that it once was.

In fact, European business schools are proving to be an ever-more attractive option to prospective MBA students. US programs must adapt or risk losing their supremacy.

Who tops the European MBA rankings?

The top two spots in the European Top 10 are occupied by French business schools, with INSEAD just edging out HEC Paris for the top spot (ranked second and third respectively in the global rankings by QS).

Like Harvard, INSEAD has the prestige that often goes hand-in-hand with longevity. In fact, it was the first institution to offer the MBA in Europe, back in 1957. It was also the first to offer the one-year MBA, as opposed to the traditional two-year program, popularized in the US.  

Ensuring the tricolour dominates the upper echelons of the European rankings, HEC Paris comes in just behind INSEAD. One of the major advantages of the MBA program at HEC Paris is that it offers students a middle ground option, between the accelerated one-year and traditional two-year options.

The 16-month program at HEC allows students long enough to build a strong European network, while still shaving time off the two-year alternatives. With a firm eye on the other end of the MBA pipeline, HEC is also tied with Harvard for the best business school in terms of our employability indicator, something which is understandably at the forefront of students’ minds.

The UK is the most represented country in the top 10 with four institutions. The long-term effects Brexit will have on the UK economy, and the job prospects of international MBA students, are still somewhat uncertain. However, at the current time interest in top business schools such as London Business School (third) and The University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School (eighth) remains high, as does the quality of their MBA programs.

Elsewhere, IE Business School (fifth) and ESADE (seventh) represent a strong showing from Spain, while Switzerland’s IMD (ninth) and Italy’s SDA Bocconi (10th) give the list a truly European feel. Further evidence of this is supplied when looking at positions 11-to-20. Business schools from Belgium, Denmark—Copenhagen Business School—and The Netherlands also appear in the top 20.

A better ROI on your MBA in Europe?

The QS TopMBA.com Return on Investment Report showed that if the end goal for MBA students is the largest possible salary, then the US is the place to go. Led by the elite M7, the top 20 is full of prestigious US business schools. In fact, only one institution breaks into the global top 20; Switzerland’s IMD. While the average post-MBA salary achieved from students at US business schools sits at $89,037, on the other side of the pond that figure is $73,271.

Due to the prevalence of one-year programs in Europe, the opposite is true when we look at how long it takes to pay back the cost of the degree. In the US, the average payback period is 55 months, while in Europe it is only 51 months. Among the top 20 schools for shortest payback period, 18 come from Europe, with no representation from the US.

A truly international experience

While top US business schools are indeed diverse, international demand is shifting away from the US, as reported by GMAC. Three-quarters (75%) of full-time MBA programs in the US showed declining international application volumes in 2017, while the same percentage in the UK reported increased international application volumes.

Throughout the rest of Europe, international candidates make up 90% of the candidate pool, helping to drive growth and diversity at top business schools across the continent.

And it isn’t just in the classroom that MBA students benefit. The cities in which these European business school are located allow students to immerse themselves in cosmopolitan environments, that are perhaps not as typical in the US.

This isn’t to say that Europe doesn’t have its problems. Political uncertainty and high unemployment rates in a number of major European countries is a concern for prospective students seeking work in the country of study, post-graduation.

But MBA students understand the benefits a truly diverse learning environment can bring, whether they decide to stay in Europe after their studies or look elsewhere to further their careers.

For further insight and to see how more European business schools performed in the global context, see the full QS Global MBA Rankings 2018

Student Reviews

Copenhagen Business School (CBS)




CBS: efficient international network

CBS has always been ranked among the best universities in Europe and this means that it has become a sign of professionalism and success. The academic level is great thanks to the good teachers and the atmosphere is proactive and challenging. Lots of events are planned every week and this helps you to find your own way. CBS is not only a business school, it is a great and efficient international network.




Good academic career

I did my Bachelors at CBS and their academic excellence and career opportunities led me to pursue my Masters in Accounting, Strategy and Control. I was very lucky to go on an exchange in Singapore for one semester it boosted me to get a career in a global firm. I like that it is super modern and has all the facilities for the business student in 2019. Especially, I liked the library and Bitlab where I spent most of my time studying. However, note that it is very demanding and studying here is no joke. Everything is very competitive and you are among the most excellent business students in the country. The interaction with international students helped me to see different perspectives in business and culturally and I was lucky to make friends from any part of the world. CBS is like a brand in Denmark. Every serious business company prioritizes us over any other Danish university and also it is free for European citizens. Overall, I have a very satisfying experience at CBS and I'm looking to continue my academical career even further.




CBS is one of the best!

All I have to say regarding my experience at CBS is that it is AMAZING. Having been tutored by world-class academic staff, I can definitely support that I am receiving the best of quality regarding my studies in Digital Marketing. Staff is very friendly and easy to approach. In addition, the facilities we enjoy are top class and meet any demands. Keep in mind that, EU citizens do not pay any fees. Student life might be non-existent here, but the location of the University in The very center of Copenhagen has a huge variety of choices to offer to students regarding their entertainment. Accommodation might be a problem, but early research of the market can be very useful. In addition, the University promotes diversity. In CBS University you can meet people from the whole world which is quite interesting. I definitely suggest CBS for any student who he's interested in pursuing a career in marketing or business.




The ideal business school

I have been enrolled in this university for 2 semesters. What I took from this experience is that there is nothing better out there for those looking for professional growth while being guided by some of the top-notch professors in Scandinavia. They have a really strong focus in technology and digital transformation and they are up to date to guarantee you land a job in the modern fast-evolving world. They also embrace diversity which means many students come from any part of the world and it takes the entire learning experience to another level. You simply learn from every other student cause everyone has different experiences and background which makes you open your mind and see the world from a different angle. In Denmark, even businesses prioritize people who graduate from CBS as it's commonly perceived as the most prestigious university for business graduates.

José Pedro



A Place of Personal Growth

In CBS you can expect an environment of proactive thinking and growth. The university staff is always open to help and to debate. The teaching methods balance theoretical knowledge and practical skills enabling the student with capacity and confidence to enter the job market successfully. The existence of students from all over the world stimulates discussion and promotion of different cultures, ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend this university for students in business-related areas.





The environment here is really great. Despite the well organized buildings and libraries, there are also places for students to just stay and relax also even study in the corners of each campus. The professors are mostly really nice and try to interact with students a lot. So, to sum up, the environment is really nice for studying here.




Quality education

Quality education where it emphazises the importance of academic. No finger to put on this aspect of the school. However, sometimes the administration and IT can be lacking a bit, but in general a really good choice for education!




Best Time!

Classes are challenging and conducted in a professional manner. CBS offers a wide range of possibilities to develop outside of the classes! Libraries and other facilities on the campus are very well adjusted to the student needs.




A heavily theory-based curriculum combined with an ever-stimulating environment

I am currently a Master student at CBS, but I have also completed a Bachelor's Degree in this university. I am quite satisfied with my studies and the teaching level. However, when compared to other business schools, it becomes apparent that most courses at CBS strive to find a good balance between theoretical insight and real-life examples. Compared to my exchange university, the projects that I have found myself writing at CBS have a far less practical application and also leave little room for creativity. If the teaching is heavily theoretical, on the bright side, the university arranges a number of events throughout the year to encourage students to apply their knowledge, in the form of career fairs, case competitions, and other events organized by student associations. In my experience, teachers are very easily approachable and happy to answer your questions. A foreign student like me will find a more international environment at Master level, since the number of international (or at least non-Scandinavian) students enrolled in the Bachelor programs is quite low. However, all communication (both oral and written) from teachers and the university offices is always in English. Administrative offices, student guidance services, the career center, and the international office are definitely worth a mention. All of the requests that I have had throughout the years have always been met with kindness, promptness and efficiency.