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Europe has long been a continent defined by its divisions, whether east and west, Anglo-Saxon and Latin or those pushing to leave or further integrate the EU. But there was at least one uniting factor across Europe this year, the growth of business education.

Most surprising has been the UK’s maintenance of its position in the top 25 of the European schools table, despite fears about the impact of Brexit. London Business School, which retained the number one spot, plays in a different league to many British business education providers. But there are also more UK schools in the top 25, with seven British institutions this year, up from six in 2017. France has six schools in the top 25 but 25 in the complete ranking of 95, compared with the UK’s 22. 

There is an irony in that some of the loudest voices of concern about the UK’s exit from the EU have come from within academia and business schools. Although the reasons for UK schools doing relatively well in the past 24 months are complex, they can certainly thank the drop in the value of the pound, making tuition fees relatively cheaper for students from overseas. Concerns about US policies towards foreign students also make the UK a relatively attractive option.

Britain has also enjoyed a particular boost from the government’s imposition of an apprenticeship levy, forcing employers with a payroll of more than £3m to put aside an equivalent of 0.5 per cent of their wage bill for staff training. In a classic example of the law of unintended consequences, a large part of this money, which policymakers had assumed would be spent on the training of school-leavers, has been used to send senior executives on part-time MBA and masters level business degree courses.

Financial Times European business school rankings 2018

© Leo Novel/FT

Find out which schools are in the top 95 in our table and learn how the ranking was compiled by in our methodology and key. Also, read the rest of our rankings coverage in our the FT European Business schools 2018 magazine.

More than 1,400 people will enrol in “levy-friendly” MBA courses this year alone, according to the poll by TES, the Times Educational Supplement. Cranfield School of Management, one of the highest climbers on this year’s European ranking list, up from 30 in 2017 to 17, was among the pioneers of such MBA courses.

Top 95 schools (by country)
CountrySchools per country
France25
UK22
Germany7
Belgium5
Netherlands4
Portugal4
Spain4
Ireland3
Italy3
Switzerland3
Finland2
Norway2
Poland2
Turkey2
Austria1
Czech Republic1
Denmark1
Hungary1
Russia1
Slovenia1
Sweden1
Total95

Beyond the UK, applications to European business school programmes grew by 3.2 per cent this year, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which administers the business school entrance exam.

European schools are far more reliant on overseas students than their equivalents in other regions. GMAC figures show that 77 per cent of applications to European schools that took part in the survey were from non-native students, compared with 41 per cent for institutions in Asia and 39 per cent to schools in the US.

Fortunately, this is a growing market, with 63 per cent of European schools in the GMAC survey reporting a growth in international applications. It is widely accepted in business education that a more diverse range of nationalities makes for a better student experience because so much learning is through discussion and group projects, which are enhanced by a range of viewpoints and perspectives.

Top in Europe: London Business School

The UK school is top of the composite European ranking for the fifth year running, due to strong performances in the component rankings. LBS had three executive MBAs in the top 20 in this year’s global EMBA table, including two joint degrees with other schools. Its single EMBA has been in the global top 20 since 2015, rising to 14th this year. LBS made history as the first European school to reach number one in the global MBA ranking in 2009 (jointly with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school). Its MBA was fourth this year. 

Top for MBA: Insead

Insead’s one-year MBA is top of the European schools’ programmes. The French school’s graduates from the class of 2014 had the highest average salary at $177,157. About half of graduates work in consultancy or finance/banking — typically highly paid sectors. Insead was the second European school to take the top spot in the FT Global MBA Ranking in 2016. After Insead came first in that ranking for two years running, Stanford, in the US, snatched first place in 2018. 

Top for executive MBA: HEC Paris

The French school is second in the composite European ranking for the fifth year in a row. It has been in the top five of the global EMBA ranking since 2006 as part of the joint Trium programme, but this year was also the highest new entrant for its solo EMBA, in sixth place. Its EMBA graduates, from the class of 2015, take home an average salary of $322,043, with a salary increase of about 68 per cent. More than half of alumni hold a range of top-level senior positions. 

Top for MiM: St Gallen

The Swiss school is number one for Masters in Management and has held the top spot for eight years running. Its alumni have the highest income at $108,621, compared with an average of $63,000. About two-thirds of the class of 2015 from the MA in Strategy and International Management work in consultancy, a lucrative field. One graduate said a focus on group assignments helped students prepare for careers in consulting. The international diversity of the class and faculty gives useful experience of working with people from other cultures, one graduate noted. 

Highest MBA salary increase: Iese

The salary increase for the Spanish school’s MBA alumni (from the class of 2014) is 126 per cent — with average pay of $148,480. About half of graduates are in highly paid sectors such as finance, banking and consultancy. Iese is the highest-placed Spanish school in this composite European ranking, at number five. It is also top in the global ranking of executive education custom programmes — tailor made short courses — for a fourth year in a row. 

Top for open programmes: IMD Business School

IMD is top in this year’s global ranking of executive education open programmes ­— short, non-degree courses — and has been for seven years. IMD is in the top three in most of the categories based on participants’ feedback, such as course design, teaching methods and materials, plus food and accommodation. The Swiss school has the most international faculty at 98 per cent — way above the average in this composite ranking of 45 per cent. 

High climber: University of Economics, Prague

Ranked 60th, the Czech school has leapt 26 places in the European table thanks to a strong performance in the ranking of Masters in Management, the degree for those with little or no previous work experience. The school was ranked 22nd in the global MiM ranking — the highest position it has reached so far. Its alumni had a salary of roughly $68,853 and a wage increase of 52 per cent — just above average out of all schools that featured in this year’s MiM ranking. 

Highest new entrant: Irish Management Institute

In 76th place, IMI is the highest ranked of four new contenders — narrowly beating Germany’s Tum School of Management. The school’s website boasts that for the 10th consecutive year, IMI is the only Irish business school to be globally ranked in the FT’s table of executive education custom programmes — tailor-made short courses. The school is ranked 61st out of 90 schools. IMI also featured for the first time in the executive education open-enrolment ranking this year, in 78th place. 

Scandinavia’s highest climber: Copenhagen Business School

The Danish school is the highest climber out of six entrants from Scandinavia in the European ranking. Copenhagen Business School jumps 18 places to 33. The school’s rise follows its reappearance in the global EMBA ranking at 57. It also entered the MBA ranking for the first time in 2018. One graduate praised the course’s diverse content: “I wanted a programme focused on personal leadership development, entrepreneurship and CSR. I got all three at CBS.”

Gender-balanced faculty: ICN Business School

In joint 71st place, the French school is the only one to report a 50:50 male/female composition of faculty. Schools that achieve this obtain the highest score in the “female faculty” category in the FT business school rankings. Two other schools come close, at 49 per cent female faculty: the UK’s Henley Business School and Slovenia’s University of Ljubljana Faculty of Economics. The average percentage of female faculty is 36 per cent in this composite table ­— slightly higher than the average for the 2018 MBA and EMBA rankings, at a little less than 30 per cent. 

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