Though the USA seems like a traditional choice for MBA studies, Europe can offer students a great deal in terms of diversity, international perspective, and recruiter appeal. With programmes tending to be shorter, international career mobility makes it easier to land the right job with a high salary for a high ROI. Studying in Europe can prove to be a unique experience, providing students with ample opportunities to broaden their horizons, both academically and culturally.

For the most part, schools in Europe do not have the long history of some of their well known counterparts across the Atlantic. Most business schools in the region were founded only in the second half of the last century. The first American Master of Business Administration programme was founded at Tuck Business School at Dartmouth in 1900, whereas Europe waited another 57 years for the creation of INSEAD.

Even today, six of the Financial Times’ top 10 business schools are American, as compared
to only three European schools. In Europe there was an academic tradition that business and management were not really suitable subjects for a reputable university to teach. This had a big impact on the development of business schools in the region and it was only after the Second World War, when Europe was suffering economically, that universities accepted the
need to become involved in teaching business. Today, however, Western Europe boasts some of the preferred MBA destinations for applicants: IESE Business School, IE Business School, IMD, HEC Paris, INSEAD, London Business School, ESADE Business School, Cambridge Judge, Manchester Business School…

More international

By its very nature, Europe is multicultural because its citizens enjoy frequent business and leisure contact with neighbouring states across a relatively small area. Leading European MBA programmes make effective use of this diversity within the learning environment, with faculty members from Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, the US and Asia. INSEAD notes that its faculty represents 33 nationalities. Though many of them have graduated from American universities, it is their background and different cultural perspectives that are of significance. GMAC reports state that the percentage of international students in European MBA programmes is 83%, while in the US it is only 38%. They are also from diverse backgrounds – some international MBA programmes are particularly stringent about preventing a "dominant" culture from emerging. On Swiss business school IMD's 90-person MBA programme, participants are of 35 nationalities, while Americans comprise just 7 percent of the student population. "By the time yougraduate, you can work with anybody," says Joseph Hartzell, an IMD graduate now working for Novartis in Basel, Switzerland. European MBA programmes focus on the international and multicultural aspects and many institutions have developed exchange programmes with partner universities (mainly from Europe).

Individual attention and language learning opportunities

US schools are generally larger, with an average intake of 287 full-time students, compared with 124 in Europe. And though class size is rarely discussed as a factor of significance,
individual attention can be quite important in an MBA programme. Smaller classes provide a better base for student-professor interaction, as well as the opportunity to learn from fellow students. The average age of MBA students in Europe is higher, most of them professionals in a certain field. Many MBA students have shared that they have been recruited, upon finishing the programme, based on the recommendation of a classmate.

Last, but not least, is the opportunity to learn a new language. Even though English is predominantly the teaching language in most MBA programmes, living in a foreign country and interacting with native speakers can do more for perfecting language skills than years in the classroom.

A diverse and global job market

Usually, European MBA students are recruited by consulting companies interested in analysis and multicultural studies. On the other hand, bank and insurance sectors have also
started to recruit in Europe, because they are looking for people able to work anywhere in the world, in non-structured environments such as the new markets in Asia and South America.

Recruitment possibilities are further increased by greater market mobility on the Old Continent. Thanks to the Bologna Accord, most European MBA graduates have access to the job markets in most countries in both Europe and Asia.

According to the GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey 2012, only 6% of MBA alumni respondents had not yet found employment, a far lower rate of unemployment than among
their non-MBA peers, as the European Union unemployment rate was 10.3% in October 2011 according to the European Commission Eurostat.

Shorter and more focused MBAs

Doing an MBA in Europe is taking advantage of the chance to study a practical diploma relevant to the industry and the multicultural environment. Students will discover that competencies learnt during the MBA can quickly be applied in the every-day life of a company. Due to their integration with companies, EU MBAs offer efficient courses adapted to the market. For example, EM Lyon (France) specializes in entrepreneurship, Vlerick Leuven Gent in Belgium, Rotterdam School of Management (Netherlands) focuses on environmental, social and governance issues, SDA Bocconi (Italy) on finance and luxury brand management. Switzerland has a unique MBA programme, the International Organizations MBA at the University of Geneva (HEC), which prepares professionals for careers in international governmental and nongovernmental organizations and companies.

Generally, MBA programmes in Europe are more flexible and shorter in duration. The length of a European MBA is usually about 10-15 months, and, as stated by ESC Rennes, “This does notmean that because our programme is shorter,quality is lower”. One example is ESADE Business School (Spain), which boasts flexible programmes which students can complete for 12, 15 or 18 months.

Tuition and living expenses are less for a one year European programme when compared
to a two year MBA programme. Also, an MBA student loses just one year of their salary, rather than two, therefore the payback period is less for a European programme than for an MBA in the US. For example, INSEAD states that its MBA graduates recover their MBA expenses in three years or even fewer. After an INSEAD MBA, an average of 2.4 job opportunities are offered to a student, with a salary of around 134,600 US$. In the meantime, programmes in the US are still traditionally 2 years, though recently, under the pressure of tighter budgets and diminished spending, the trend is for them to become shorter in duration.

High return on investment

In fact, the ROI of a European MBA tends to be greater than that of a US MBA. For most MBA candidates the cost of attending business school pays for itself on average in four years. “After ten years post-graduation,” the GMAC report says, “alumni havenearly doubled their return on investment.”

MBA salaries in Western Europe adjusted upwards by almost 10% from the previous year and are now again the highest in the world at an average US $93,400. One example of an excellent return on investment is the Lisbon MBA in Portugal, a joint venture between the Nova SBE and Catуlica-Lisbon business schools. According to the school, the average salary for those who complete the full-time Lisbon MBA programme stands at €58,600.

Measured against the cost of attending the programme, which is €33,000 plus expenses, it’s likely that alumni from the course will have achieved a full return on investment within two years. This is fairly similar for many of the top business schools around the world, but particularly so for those in Western Europe who have 3 to 4 years average return on investment whilst American ones have more like 5 to 6 according to the Business Week survey 2010.

Though according to recent data enrolment on many of Europe’s full-time MBA programmes has slowed down, the situation is stable (due to a significant increase in part-time, executive and specialized MBAs) and the EU remains a prime choice for an MBA degree. There may be many concerns regarding the economic downturn in some Latin countries, but remember that European professional mobility for MBA students is a very common practice. Working professionals tend towards the European MBA whereas recent graduates are more interested in pursuing a traditional 2-year MBA programme from the US. It all greatly depends on what kind of learning experience you are prepared to undertake. For most US students there are many hidden benefits in crossing the Atlantic and receiving a crash course in cultural diversity. And though many US employers might have a preference for high ranked American MBA programmes, more people are looking for the skills which will allow you to be successful in a global economy.

Ultimately, if you choose your school wisely you will be well prepared to meet the needs
of the market, while having invested less time and money.