Great MBAs are cheap in Europe right now

Come for the MBA, stay for the history
Come for the MBA, stay for the history
Image: Paul Hanna/Reuters
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If you’re applying for an MBA, you probably know a little math, you may understand the concept of Return on Investment, and you might even pay attention to currency fluctuations. So you’re probably thinking about business school in Europe.

European business schools like HEC in Paris or IE Business School in Madrid have traditionally been destinations for American students who want international experience or careers overseas. With the decline of the euro and pound against the dollar over the last two years, these schools are increasingly attractive to students pinching pennies as well.

“The European MBA is getting cheaper,” said Peter Todd, the dean of HEC,  whose program is ranked 15th in the world by the FT. “People are seeing higher potential returns to European programs than before.”

Many European MBAs have the additional appeal of being one-year programs, compared to two years for a traditional US MBA. That reduces both the cash students pay and the opportunity cost of time spent out of their careers.

An MBA from HEC costs 81,065 euros, including tuition, housing, meals and other costs. That equates to about $91,684, at today’s exchange rates. That’s not cheap, but it’s about 18% less than the $111,869 the same program would have cost you at 2014 exchange rates.

By contrast, an MBA at Harvard Business School will run you $204,200 over two years. (Both Harvard and HEC offer financial aid).

That value proposition is at least one reason why US applications to European programs are surging. HEC saw American applicants double for the classes that started in September 2015 and January 2016, following modest annual increases during the previous years. At IE, ranked 12th, US applications climbed 18% in the last year and four-fold from 2011.

“In the past, we used get the very adventurous professional,” said Deise Leobet, who runs IE’s US marketing and career placement office.  ”Now, we’re getting people who are choosing between Wharton and IE, Berkeley and IE. It’s not only for the adventurous ones.”

European schools have also stepped up their marketing in the US.

IE now has offices in New York, Miami and Los Angeles and sponsors events like business plan competitions, in order to expand its brand awareness in the US.

The business school of Imperial College in London has increased spending on US-facing advertising on Google and on MBA-focused websites like Poets & Quants, appeared at more fairs, and held webinars for US applicants, according to Diane Morgan, the associate dean of programs. Imperial has seen a 145% increase in traffic from the US to its website.

Imperial, which charges 45,000 pounds ($64,000) in tuition for its one-year MBA, doesn’t explicitly advertise itself as a discount degree, Morgan said, but it does discuss the potential cost savings with prospective students.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Diane Morgan of Imperial College Business School as the assistant dean of students. She is the associate dean of programmes.