Last updated: December 5, 2012 2:02 pm

European Business Schools 2012

Ask the Expert

It has been a long hard year for European business schools, as the eurozone crisis drags on and Europe’s economies remain in the doldrums.

On top of all that, European governments are continuing to restrict the number of both work and student visas they issue to those from outside the European Union.

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IN Ask the Expert

Yet Europe’s top business schools are optimistic about the future and are confident they can remain competitive. Are you considering studying at a European business school? If so, find out what Europe’s business schools have to offer.

On Wednesday 5th December, 2012, between 14.00 and 15.00 GMT, a panel of experts will answer your questions about European business schools.

Send your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered during the live session. Or join the debate on this page.

On the panel are:

Franz Heukamp

Franz Heukamp, associate dean for MBA programmes at Iese Business School – ranked six in the FT European Business Schools 2012 ranking

Professor Heukamp joined Iese in 2002. He is a member of the management committee and teaches managerial decision sciences. In 2004, he spent seven months at UCLA Anderson School of Management as a visiting professor.

Edouard Husson

Edouard Husson, dean of ESCP Europe – ranked 10 in the FT European Business Schools 2012 ranking

Before joining ESCP Europe, Professor Husson was vice-chancellor of the University of Paris-La Sorbonne where he was responsible for managing the transition of the Parisian universities to an autonomous governance structure.

Katie Sherning

Katie Sherning, MBA student at Cranfield School of Management – ranked 16 in the FT European Business Schools 2012 ranking.

Having completed an undergraduate degree in civil engineering at Canterbury University in her native New Zealand, Katie Sherning has worked as an engineer and project manager on infrastructure projects for the public and private sectors. She is currently blogging about her MBA experience at Cranfield for the FT.

Roland Siegers
Roland Siegers, executive director of Cems

Following 10 years of working for the Cems alliance, most recently as Cems deputy director, Roland Siegers has now assumed responsibility for the alliance of 28 top Masters in Management programmes across four continents. Cems also has more than 70 corporate partners and four NGOs.

Della Bradshaw

Della Bradshaw

Della Bradshaw, FT Business Education Editor.

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What are the job prospects in the UK and EU? And what are the advantages of studying the EU over the US? I’m planning to study for a Masters in International Business in the UK. My main concerns are diverse classes and job prospects. Do MBA / masters courses from English-speaking nations give more growth and opportunies than other EU nations?

Pradhumna Panwar @dewsdestiny

Roland: Job prospects are linked strongly to the reputation of any given school - top recruiters are seen most often at top schools. Now reputation is determined strongly by the quality of graduating cohorts - so you should look at cohort statistics, both for profiles and academic merit.This is also where you will find indications on diversity.

Beyond that, you might want to check out the networking opportunities provided, eg the alumni base. If you’re interested in an international career, that’s what will really help you, on top of the skills and knowledge acquired.

US vs EU vs UK - top business schools are all global players and some of them will have important contacts in all regions of the world. But one thing is sure - look out for a programme and school that has something to offer in emerging markets, particularly in Asia. That’s the kind of expertise any major recruiter will want to see. They will also be more prone to help you overcome the question of work visas that - despite individual qualification - very much drives recruitment by passport.

Della: It’s a very timely day to ask about job prospects in the UK, Pradhumna, as the Chancellor George Osborne has just announced growth forecasts for the next few years, and they are down on previous predictions. That will obviously make recruiters in the UK cautious.

To try and answer a couple of your other questions...The clear advantage of studying in Europe as opposed to the US is the classroom diversity, of students but also of professors. As most MBA and masters classes in continental European schools are taught in English, the job prospects are probably just as good as for graduates from UK schools - given that you can learn an additional language while you are there is also good news for recruiters.

Edouard: The EU can provide excellent job prospects. Indeed, because of the European economic situation, companies are being driven to innovate more. They will need fresh graduates to feed this growth. This is one of the reasons why we at ESCP Europe created the Institute for Innovation and Competitiveness.

Regarding the issue of language, it is important to have several at one’s disposal. English may be the international language but the mastery of additional languages is essential to demonstrate one’s openness to national and cultural diversity. In our Masters in Management programme, all students take classes both in English and in the local language when they are outside of the UK (German, French, Spanish, Italian).

Franz: The economy in the EU (including the UK) is not expected to grow strongly in the next few years. However, graduates of top tier MBA programmes find good jobs in the EU. There is a continuous strong demand for MBA graduates who show convincing leadership potential, the ability to operate in a complex international environment and who are authentic, honest and hard working.

Among the advantages of studying in Europe over the US are the more diverse class and faculty makeup and curricula that focus on international business in a globalising world. For example, our MBA has over 80 percent international students from more than 50 countries and all continents. You also have the option to study part of the MBA in cities across four continents – São Paulo Paulo, New York, Nairobi, Shanghai, Singapore and of course Barcelona.

As the FT overview shows, there are excellent MBA programmes in non-English speaking nations – also, the UK may be the part of the EU that takes longest to overcome the current economic slump once the Eurozone countries have found a way towards renewed growth.

Katie: The job prospects in the UK and EU will depend very much on what sort of industry you are looking to get into, your experience and how it relates to the particular role you are after.

Personally, I chose to study in the UK as I hope to work here upon completion of my MBA. Furthermore, the programmes at a particular few business schools in this region offered what I was seeking from an MBA.

The classes are very diverse, which is consistent with the multicultural nature of cities such as London. In our cohort, diversity is embraced and our programme is very international with more than 20 nationalities represented.

The MBA/masters courses in English-speaking countries will not necessarily provide more growth and opportunities than other EU nations, as the opportunities very much depend on what you wish to do following your MBA and the framework you are using to measure these prospects.

There are many students on our course who are doing extremely well but for whom English is not their first language. Many of the top business schools including our own have support services to assist these students, where required.

Since CEMS operates mainly in Europe and in some other countries abroad: Australia, Canada and China to name a few, why is there no cooperation with the US? I heard that it is impossible to find a partner university in the US, what can be done about that?

Pius Binder

Roland: Cems accepts only the best. This applies to students and to member schools offering masters in management courses. In North America, the market for a Masters in Management is currently developing, but so far only a handful have launched such programmes, eg Ivey School of Business, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and Virginia’s McIntire.

We will most likely never take more than two US schools on board, so we can’t get this wrong as Cems membership is a very deep long-term commitment to a strategic alliance and to a joint vision. We will closely monitor the current developments and approach top schools that are entrepreneurial enough to see the business opportunity and first mover advantages that the likes of HKUST, Tsinghua, Keio, NUS, University of Sydney and IIM Calcutta have already seized in Asia Pacific, or FGV-EAESP in Brazil.

Della: The big problem is that US business schools focus on MBA programmes, not on Masters in Management degrees. For this reason, most of them are ineligible to become members of Cems. I think it is one of the great divides in business education: the US schools largely believe there is only one postgraduate business degree, the MBA; European schools teach a range of degrees for a range of age groups and needs.

Franz: While this seems to be a question directed at our colleague from Cems, I should like to point out that there are several top-tier MBA programmes that have a strong exchange programme with schools from all continents. This is an advantage of two-year programmes: there is time for an exchange and an enriching learning experience.

I am currently taking French as my second language within Cems, like 30 percent of my colleagues back here in Austria. However, there is only one spot for HEC Paris per semester and two for Louvain. How can we reach the level necessary in another foreign language if access is highly limited to destinations where these languages are spoken? Especially France, where there are no summer courses offered (at least I do not find them). This is not true for Spain, since Esade is offering summer courses…

The online learning cooperation offered within Cems, in order to prepare for the language test seems to be of limited usage especially considering a language as an organic learning process, which for sure requires a stay in the country where the language is spoken. How can Cems overcome this limitation?

Pius Binder

Roland: You will see us roll out in the next months a policy to encourage students to take a language “out of their comfort zone” to fulfil Cems requirements, by offering dedicated Cems language courses as MiM electives. This could be Chinese, Japanese or Arabic for Europeans and Americans, and German, French or Spanish for students from Asia. Until this is fully in place, we will work with the language departments in the schools to find individual solutions.

Hello everyone, I am planning to do a Masters in International Business at Grenoble Graduate School of Business next year. Do I have to take up an MBA in the future to boost my career in international business? It would be great if you could comment on the pace of growth upon pursuing a Masters in International Business and an MBA with a specialisation in international business.

Jayanth Reddy

Franz: The master programmes have students that are typically younger than MBA students, with less prior experience and slightly different aspirations at that moment in time. That changes the learning process and, upon graduation, MBAs generally go to more senior, top salary positions and would generally be better suited for general management responsibilities than masters’ students.

Over time, these differences may not persist. I suggest you think beforehand what your future goals are and where you see yourself in five or 10 years. That may help you choose the right type of programme.

Della: It’s hard to comment on your particular circumstances, Jayanth, but more generally there are a range of further degrees and programmes for you once you have graduated with a Masters in International Business - MBA, Executive MBA, short executive programmes, specialised degrees...

If you look at the enrolments for MBA programmes generally, there are always a good proportion of students who studied business or management at undergraduate level. Some undergraduates may feel they have hit a ceiling and need an MBA to progress, but most do not.

One of the interesting developments in the US is that some of the brand name schools are offering accelerated MBA programmes to those who have already studied business or economics, but as this is in the early stages, it is unclear whether this would include masters degrees from European business schools.

Edouard: It is an excellent idea to start your business education with a general management programme such as a Masters in Management. It’s important to have a very good grasp of the fundamentals of business (corporate finance, marketing, people management, supply chain) before specialising in international business. This will give a good start to your career.

After a few years of experience, you could then embark on an Executive MBA to apply your knowledge to the learning in the classroom where you can also specialise in areas such as international business.

At ESCP Europe, we put an accent on the international dimension of today’s business environment. For example, in our MiM programme, our students study on at least three of our five campuses, and in many cases receive a double degree with partner universities. Both our Executive MBA and MiM programmes are recognized for their international exposure.

Is work experience a prerequisite for top business schools in Europe?

Suyash Sengar @suysh911

Della: For a masters degree? No. For an MBA? Yes.

Katie: The admissions requirements differ across the European business schools. As a current MBA student, I find that previous work experience is very helpful for the course as it assists with understanding course material and often allows us to make quick links with its application to business.

The lectures and learning methods at Cranfield School of Management are very interactive and strongly benefit from the contribution of all members of the cohort. These contributions are not always based on previous career experience but this is often the case.

Contributions have also been as a result of reading, following certain industries or as a result of personal interests, to name a few. Our cohort this year has a variety of number of years in employment from five years to in excess of twenty years and also covers a huge range of industries and geographies.

Edouard: Top European business schools have work experience as a prerequisite for part of their programme portfolio. For example, at ESCP Europe we have thematic MScs as well as a Masters in European Business that have this requirement, in addition of course to the executive programmes.

But historically, European schools have developed programmes that do not require work experience. The advantage of this approach is three-fold: provide a general management approach; provide the opportunity to explore a given professional orientation with specialisations; allow them to participate in exchange programmes with partner universities globally.

An important aspect of the European approach is the requirement to carry out internships to receive the degree. Top European business schools are well-established with a network of companies that propose a large range of both career and learning opportunities.

Franz: Work experience is a prerequisite in MBA programmes, but not for Masters in Management programmes. The MBA programme builds on your experience in the learning process and makes it a much richer experience.

Our MBA students love to be in class because they get to discuss fascinating case studies which relate to their prior work experience, which really intensifies the learning process. You want to be an active learner, not just someone who sits there and listens.

Given the resources of the very wealthy US business schools, how can European schools continue to compete for the world’s best faculty and students?

Della: Well, they can certainly compete for students because of the diversity of the programmes. Go sit in on a class on a masters or MBA programme at almost any European business school and it is like a mini-UN meeting. That diversity is also appealing to some faculty. But more attractive to many faculty is the different topic focus.

In the US, for example, developing markets research and teaching is likely to focus on Latin America, whereas European schools are more likely to focus on the Indian sub-continent or Africa.

But on salaries you are right - it will always be difficult for European schools to attract the top faculty.

Roland: I seriously doubt that endowments will continue to keep US business schools ahead of the pack for long. Especially as Asian business schools have been seen to be able to make very competitive offers to top faculty.

As to Europe, few will probably be able to make a match on the monetary side any time soon - but Europe has more to offer than that: quality of living, innovative interdisciplinary teaching approaches, inspiring diversity.

As one example of many, take Aalto University’s International Design Business Management programme that combines multidisciplinary research and learning across the areas of business, design and technology.

The best Masters in Management programmes are still offered in Europe and recruiters value the deep analytical capabilities of graduates and their openness of mind - not the worst starting gear for the journey into the unknown that we’re finding ourselves on these days, and probably a competitive advantage over the US business education environment that has shunned away from innovation in past decades.

Where do European schools see growth potential in the coming years as the Eurozone economy stagnates?

Edouard: The crisis in Europe may have two positive consequences. First, it pushes us to innovate. Since students have to take their destiny in their own hands more than ever before, ESCP Europe supports them in their entrepreneurial objectives in creating their own companies.

Furthermore, we have to be even more open to the global dynamic, by attracting more and more non-European students and continuing to send the Europeans out to experience the world. Today a European school must have a global perspective.

Roland: Definitely in attracting students from emerging markets. Quality business education takes a long time to build and the top schools in North America, Europe and Asia will see increasing demand that cannot yet be matched by local supply.

Also, I see a further rise in joint programmes that give you the best of all worlds - like the World Bachelor in Business at Bocconi, HKUST and USC: four years, three continents, or the Cems Masters in International Management that stands for quality education on four continents. This is the kind of initiative that Europeans have a competitive edge in launching and pursuing.

Franz: There is a huge need for management talent that can operate and do business worldwide. Europe has a clear advantage in this respect, we have a lot of experience in doing business around the world. We are seeing at Iese a demand for our programmes from the Americas (US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Chile), Asia (Japan - we have the largest community of Japanese students in an MBA outside of Japan - Korea, China and Indonesia) and African countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast).

Edouard, is the European crisis not jeopardising the very principle of your school, which defines itself as the ‘European Business School’? Is Europe still a model, especially in education, for the world? Is your school a good way to integrate public careers in Europe?

Jean Filippi

Edouard: Please see my answer to the previous question.

Which business school would you recommend if one is looking for masters / MBA courses with low tuition fees? Is a Manchester Business School MBA good enough to get a good job in the UK? Is it better than the University of Edinburgh Business School?

Pradhumna Panwar @dewsdestiny

Della: Some European countries still offer masters programmes for free - check out the Scandinavian business schools here.

Looking at the Financial Times MBA 2012 rankings, Manchester Business School ranks at number 31, University of Edinburgh at number 83. But I think there is more to a “good job” than that. In particular, what kind of job do you want? My advice would be to go to the careers development office at each of the business schools you are considering and find out where they placed students lasts year. Then go for the one that most fits with your aspirations.

Franz: Good MBA programmes are worth their tuition fees, so instead of disregarding all options, I recommend you also ask what possibilities exist to finance the MBA – there are options out there.

For example, the Global Loan programme of Banco Sabadell we offer at Iese has facilitated the financing of the MBA for many students over the years - all you need to be eligible is to be admitted to the programme.

I am currently considering engaging in an MBA, sponsored by my company, and am in an international sales position. How do you define the value of a ‘European’ approach and culture, as opposed to other MBA offers (eg American or Chinese)?

Additionally, within this rather rich offering, and the complexity of the European culture, how does the teaching and scholar approach of your institutions make a difference? And why would a ‘European’ approach be better?

Thanks indeed for your insights, Albert

Della: For me, the one thing that distinguishes European business schools from those in Asia or the US is diversity or multiculturalism and the nuances that go with that.

Franz: There is a long tradition of European countries interacting with other parts of the world and it is not a coincidence that the European MBA programmes are the most international and diverse ones.

Speaking for our own programme, two elements that relate to your question stick out:

1. The case study teaching method we use extensively on our programme incorporates a diverse range of backgrounds and opinions. It enables our students to be well prepared to thrive in an international and global environment like the one you want to work in.

2. We have developed a special course on globalisation, led by Prof. Pankaj Ghemawat, an international authority in the field. The course directly addresses the complexity of international business and gives you a set of tools to work with.

Roland: Frankly, I do not think there is such a thing as European business education. Research and teaching are becoming more and more global, and that is a good thing as it may allow us to find global solutions to the global issues we will face in the coming decades: energy, climate, distribution of fair chances to access education, etc.

I would encourage every business student to think about cultural differences as a resource to indulge in and use as a source of creativity - and ideally have experiences in as many cultural settings as possible. This is what makes Cems successful - beyond our European roots that we are proud of.

I’m thinking about doing an EMBA but am hesitating between choosing a programme in Europe or in Asia. Everything seems to be happening in Asia but European schools seem to have more experience… What would you advise? What are the main strengths of European schools? Do any of your programmes have an alliance with Asian b-schools?

Katy

Della: I think the big question is: what do you hope to get out of an EMBA? If you are working for company where Asian knowledge is important, or if you want to work there in future, studying in Asia would be a great way of gaining knowledge of doing business there. There are issues of time and cost to consider, though.

There are several European schools that have alliances with Asian schools. Take a look at our rankings here.

Edouard: European schools’ main strength is that we embrace diversity. Sustainability is part of our DNA. Our EMBA participants are very committed to social entrepreneurship and giving back to society. Because of the European open-minded approach, we send our EMBAs and masters students alike to Asian countries in parternship with Asian schools.

If you come to our school, you will have many opportunities to experience the Asian business culture both though our faculty and our company relationships in Europe and Asia.

Franz: You are right, many things are happening in Asia and you want to be in a programme that prepares you for it. There are several good European programmes that have links with Asia - we are, for example, closely linked to Ceibs since its foundation in 1994 and several other excellent schools in Asia. You can go on exchange for a term or study a shorter module there.

The strengths of the European schools are in their ability to foster the timeless qualifications of international mindset, communication skills, ability to work in teams, etc. You may want to look at programmes that are very good with respect to knowledge about Asia and at the same time offer a lot more than that - this is where European programmes may have the edge.

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