For many graduates, taking on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme is the next logical step in their career progression. Typically lasting between one and two years, an MBA is a highly prestigious and beneficial qualification aimed at experienced business professionals and is designed to prepare them for more senior positions – usually within management.
But with thousands of schools across the world offering the course, it can be difficult to choose the best one. Luckily, as ever, we are here to help. Utilising the most up-to-date university rankings in the Financial Times, we’ve placed our research hats on and compiled a highly useful breakdown of the top programmes across the world.
So, if you’re ready to take that next big step in your career, these are the schools that will really set you apart from the crowd…
10. IESE Business School (Barcelona, Spain)
Based on the beautiful Mediterranean coast (although overseas options are also available), IESE’s MBA program is world-renowned and regularly features in the top 10 lists of various respected publications such as The Economist and the FT. Alongside core modules, students undertake a summer internship, with the option of overseas placements and an exchange programme in the second year. Spanish lessons are also incorporated into the programme for those looking to develop sought-after language skills and they come in handy, with students from over 60 nations currently studying on the course.
According to the FT, IESE alumni experience an average salary increase of 133 per cent after three years of graduating, as well as over 92 per cent of graduates accepting employment within three months. Notable alumni include former mayor of Barcelona Joan Clos, Repsol CEO Antonio Niubó and former chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Overall Tuition Fee: €88,150 (£77,700) (2018 entry)
Application Costs: $200 (£147) to apply plus €10,000 (£8,815) holding and commitment fees
Parent School: University of Navarra
Duration: 19 months
9. Booth School of Business (Chicago, USA)
The first of several US universities on the list, Booth School of Business claims to offer the world’s ‘most flexible’ MBA programme. Built on a multidisciplinary curriculum, only one class is compulsory (Leadership Effectiveness and Development), suggesting the emphasis is on cultivating strong leaders. It is also internationally focused, with the opportunity to spend a term studying abroad at one of the school’s 33 partner institutions.
Impressively, over 98 per cent of graduates are in employment within three months of completing the course, while the school boasts several notable alumni, including McKinsey & Co. founder James McKinsey, former US Treasury deputy Roger Altman, as well as Peter Peterson, the former US Secretary of Commerce and founder and chairman of the Blackstone Group.
Chicago Booth also has an evening/weekend option for those looking to study part-time.
Overall Tuition Fee: $79,339 (£58,490) (2018 entry)
Application Costs: $250 (£184) to apply plus $3,000 (£2,210) commitment fee
Parent School: University of Chicago
Duration: 21 months
8. IE Business School (Madrid, Spain)
Although much shorter than many of the options on this list, IE’s programme is still renowned and recognised by the likes of Forbes and the FT. Available in either Spanish or English (free Spanish lessons are available before and during the course), the school describes their perfect candidates as ‘unconventional thinkers’. With a student body representing over 70 countries, they are also extremely diverse.
Although only 88 per cent of graduates are in employment within three months – one of the lowest figures on this list – notable alumni do include women’s rights activist Karan Gupta, distinguished investment banker Claudio Aguirre and Khamis Gaddafi, a military commander and the youngest son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Overall Tuition Fee: €72,200 (£63,710) (2018 entry)
Application Costs: €125 (£110) to apply
Parent School: IE University
Duration: 12 months
7. Columbia Business School (New York City, USA)
Based in the heart of NYC, Columbia’s MBA programme has the distinct advantage of having direct access to leaders and companies in one of the busiest business and financial districts in the world. Many top business leaders speak regularly at the school, offering invaluable networking opportunities and insights, while students also have the luxury of having a highly prestigious Ivy League university on their CV.
This is reflected in the exceptionally high tuition costs, although student loans, as well as various fellowships and scholarships, are available (the average scholarship award is around $20,000 or about £14,740). Around 90 per cent of graduates are in employment within three months, while notable alumni include business magnate Warren Buffett (one of the world’s wealthiest people), renowned equity investor Henry Kravis and Ellevest CEO and cofounder Sallie Krawcheck.
Overall Tuition Fee: $160,696 (£118,500) (2018 entry – estimated as second-year cost subject to increase)
Application Costs: $250 (£184) to apply plus non-specified holding and commitment fees
Parent School: Columbia University
Duration: 2 years
6. London Business School (London, UK)
The first British entry on the list, London Business School – like Chicago Booth – also claims to offer one of the most flexible MBAs in the world, with a similar emphasis on tailoring modules around individual needs. The 2017 class has over 63 nationalities, with a teaching faculty drawn from over 30 countries, and it has been consistently praised for its exceptional curriculum and teaching methods by the likes of Bloomberg, Forbes and The Economist over the last 10 years.
The school boasts an impressive post-MBA employment rate, too, with 93 per cent of alumni accepting work within three months of graduation, while notable alumni include Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler, chief UK Brexit negotiator David Davis and Capital One co-founder Nigel Morris.
Overall Tuition Fee: £78,500 (2018 entry)
Application Costs: £190 to apply
Parent School: University of London
Duration: 15, 18 or 21 months
5. Cambridge Judge Business School (Cambridge, UK)
Like its parent university, Cambridge Judge has strict entry standards, accepting only those that were in the top 25 of their respective undergraduate classes; this is reflected in the relatively small intake of just 200 students each year. The course itself is structured around four key learning milestones, assessed through team-based and individual projects and involving extended engagement with external companies and advisors.
Eighty-eight per cent of graduates find themselves in work within three months, while notable alumni include Olympic gold medallist Tom Ransley, influential oil magnate Badr Jafar, as well as Alison Brittain, the current CEO of the Whitbread Group.
Overall Tuition Fee: £53,500 (2018 entry)
Application Costs: £150 to apply plus £7,950 commitment fee
Parent School: University of Cambridge
Duration: 12 months
4. Harvard Business School (Boston, USA)
As one of the most prestigious business institutions in the world, Harvard Business School naturally offers a challenging curriculum based on case method study, a teaching format pioneered and developed by the school’s own faculty. This is complemented by another self-developed study method called FIELD, comprising of small interactive workshops that encourage students to analyse and develop their leadership styles.
Unsurprisingly, over 91 per cent of HBS MBA graduates are in employment within three months, with extensively notable alumni including former US President George W Bush, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as well as Michael Bloomberg, the founder, CEO and owner of the eponymous finance and media behemoth.
Overall Tuition Fee: $157,554 (£116,210) (2018 entry – estimated as second-year cost subject to increase)
Application Costs: $250 (£184) to apply
Parent School: Harvard University
Duration: 2 years
3. Wharton (Philadelphia, USA)
The third Ivy League school on the list, there are over 65 nationalities present in Wharton’s 2018 MBA intake. Priding itself on the business experience and pedigree of its esteemed faculty, there is a huge range of modules available to study, as well as the opportunity to spend a semester in San Francisco.
The school boasts an impressive post-graduation employment rate of 95 per cent within three months, with an MBA from Wharton seen by employers as a highly prestigious and distinguished qualification. The calibre of Wharton alumni is no less remarkable, with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, former Apple CEO John Sculley and the 45th President of the US himself, Donald Trump, all among the school’s alma mater.
Overall Tuition Fee: $162,672 (£119,970) (2018 entry – estimated as second-year cost subject to increase)
Application Costs: $265 (£195) to apply
Parent School: University of Pennsylvania
Duration: 20 months
2. Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford, USA)
Based just outside technology mecca Silicon Valley, Stanford GSB describes itself as ‘fuelled and surrounded by innovation’, and it’s easy to see why. Students have access to all specialist schools on the campus, and this collaborative, cross-disciplinary culture sees many choose to pursue a joint or dual degree. There is also an international focus, with global study trips and internships offered; this reflects the diverse, multinational makeup of both the faculty and the student body.
Eighty-eight per cent of Stanford GSB students accepted job offers within three months of graduating in 2017, while its alumni read like a veritable who’s who of the American business world. These include Nike co-founder Phil Knight, former US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Time Warner CEO and chairman Jeff Bewkes.
Overall Tuition Fee: $153,738 (£113,390) (2018 entry – estimated as second-year cost subject to increase)
Application Costs: $275 (£203) to apply
Parent School: Stanford University
Duration: 2 years
1. INSEAD (Fontainebleau, France)
With additional campuses in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, INSEAD (or the Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires, to give it its full title) is the only dedicated business institution on this list. It’s also the shortest course here, although this clearly works in its favour: INSEAD’s MBA programme is consistently recognised as one of the best in the world.
It adopts the same case method way of studying as Harvard, and also employs the use of business simulation games - the frameworks of which are used by countless other institutions across the world. The course has no specialisations or majors, and instead is built around the individual’s needs and interests; it is also one of the most diverse programmes on the list, with the 2017 class comprised of students from over 93 countries.
Finally, as if one world-class business school isn’t enough, there is also the opportunity to spend a semester at Wharton, the third-placed university on this list, with the two schools having a reciprocal exchange agreement in place.
Eighty-nine per cent of INSEAD's 2017 students accepted jobs within three months of graduating, while its alumni include countless Fortune 500 CEOs, politicians and senior finance personnel. Some of the more well-known include former Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann, Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam and Lloyds Banking Group CEO António Horta Osório.
Overall Tuition Fee: €82,000 (£72,360) (2018 entry)
Application Costs: €250 (£220) to apply
Parent School: None
Duration: 10 months
While these schools represent the elite of the business world, you should remember that MBAs are not intended as entry-level qualifications, and you should have around three years’ significant experience before undertaking a General MBA. You should also realistically possess a graduate degree due to the fierce competition for places, although some schools will waive this requirement if you can demonstrate exceptional professional performance. Additionally, most of these schools will require you to take an entrance exam during the application process – typically the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).
Are you currently thinking of doing an MBA? Let us know where you are studying in the comments below…
Several of the courses on this list are residential, and boarding/rent/accommodation fees are not included in the costs given in this article. You should take this into account when potentially budgeting for your studies.
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 9 January 2018.