When it comes to choosing a world-class MBA program, the dice still falls in favor of the United States which is after all more than 100 years old. But things are changing now and a glance at numbers suggest that more and more business schools across Europe, Asia and Australia are attracting the best students and faculty from across the world. To remain competitive and be on top these same institutes are willing to spend more time and money ensuring that their faculty and campus are top quality.
But what are the real pros and cons between choosing an MBA program in America, or any of the ever-increasing breadth of courses offered in Europe? And what are the significant differences between American and European MBA programs?
In terms of the growth in students and ranking, Europe is fast catching up to the United States. Promising to simplify degree qualifications and nomenclatures, the 1999 Bologna Accord has added some uniformity to European higher education. The purpose of the Bologna Process (or Bologna Accords) is the creation of the European Higher Education Area by making academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe, in particular under the Lisbon Recognition Convention. It is named after the place it was proposed, the University of Bologna, with the signing in 1999 of the Bologna declaration by Education Ministers from 29 European countries. About 46 countries including all the 27 members of the European Union, with the exception of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, San Morino, and the Ukraine have decided to adopt the Bologna Accord this year – 2010. The continental business education market has grown as a result, particularly for Masters in management courses.
With more than 500 MBA programs being offered in Europe and nearly 700 in the United States it is still a tough choice for students to decide which continent to go to. But what are the basic differences between the two regions? Speaking generically, schools in the U.S. are much larger with an average student strength of nearly 300 while in comparison European schools have an average student population of around 125 for an MBA program. The second distinct difference is the length of the program. Typically speaking a European MBA is one year in length while a U.S. program runs for two. Leading and well reputed American business schools might have more world renowned faculty than European schools but that does not necessarily make the programs superior. The faculty might be famous but may not be actually great teachers and also with busy careers the amount of time they devote to students might be extremely limited.
An important difference is that European schools have a significantly higher percentage of non-national students and faculty members than their American counterparts. Of the top business schools in the United States - Wharton, Columbia and Harvard - roughly 33 to 45 percent of students came from abroad. That figure is close to 90 percent at some of Europe’s top-ranked business schools, including London Business School and INSEAD. A survey of the proportion of overseas faculty members at those schools reveals a similar trend.
Clearly, differences in MBA programs reflect the differences in national and regional business cultures. But like globalized business, b-schools around the world are becoming more alike each year, with many school’s developing globally-focused curricula. Meanwhile, dozens of new trans-national partnerships are developing between US, European, and Asian business schools.
Wherever one chooses to study, doing an MBA abroad is arguably the best-possible introduction to business life in that country. And most would agree that taking up the challenge of studying abroad cannot be only financially rewarding, but personally rewarding, too.