Planning to pursue an MBA degree is a big choice, but the right choice doesn’t necessarily mean going big. A small class size gives quality education too. Here are some of the key assets to consider in your search.

MBA students around the world are seeking to use their newly acquired business degrees to advance in niche businesses, businesses of their own in newer industries, just as much as to reach the peaks of large corporations. This has broadened the horizon for smaller schools to enter the scene and has expanded the rankings of the best programmes worth considering to a top 100 rather than a top 20. Getting an MBA is a big move for your career as well as your profession. You get a better qualification, your CV is highly strengthened and your market value is boosted by the precious experience. Therefore, making a wise decision is important.

The top universities in international rankings are usually large schools with great marketing, which makes it hard to even consider other possibilities. Still, Stanford, which is always in the top three, is considered a relatively small school, compared to Harvard and Booth, for example. So, small does not necessarily mean weak.

A 2011 study by Business Week Magazine shows that there is no clear correlation between class size and student success in MBA programmes. Dartmouth Tuck, for example, even exceeded Harvard in alumni job placement after graduation, with an intake which is almost four times smaller.

A good fit

An MBA degree should suit your personal interests, ambitions and circumstances. It is probable that you will have more ability to structure and design your own curriculum in a smaller class than in a larger one. If you know exactly what you wish to achieve, and are determined not to be diverted from your path, look for an environment which will allow you just that.

More specialised

Specialised MBAs are usually smaller programmes. Additionally, they often exist to fill a particular niche in a particular place. For example, it makes sense for a top-notch IT programme to be located somewhere near Silicone Valley, right? Or for an art MBA to be situated somewhere in Italy…

Such specialised programmes teach very particular skills and knowledge, delivered by a select faculty staff with a name in the industry. They are very much practice oriented and very hands on. So, smaller classes and a more focused, almost intimate atmosphere is a must.

Relaxed atmosphere

If you have joined an MBA programme in your 30s, you probably already have about five years of working experience. So, maybe deliberately becoming part of a group of strong egos, brilliant, promising and intense as they usually are, would not be the best way of spending two years and all of your savings. You really need to be a particular type to appreciate this.

What if you do not thrive under pressure and you are looking for a more intimate atmosphere where you know you would be better able to focus and give your best? What if you wish to use your MBA in a more creative industry than finance and management? It is almost certain that a smaller programme will then be much more appropriate for you than a cosmopolitan, throbbing mega-campus.


Although help is available to cover almost all of your expenses in an MBA programme, cost still is, and always will be, a major issue. The average cost of a European MBA programme with a class size between 30 and 100 people is 30,000 EUR. In comparison, the North American MBA programmes tend to have two to three times bigger classes – up to 300 people in one class!

Choosing your MBA programme carefully is a process all candidates diligently go through. But class size isn’t one of the most common considerations applicants keep in mind. Finding the environment, where your profile will fit perfectly and where you will be able to tailor your programme in a way that maximises your MBA experience is crucial. Don’t underestimate the small programmes, because small is indeed beautiful and small can be your perfect MBA match.