GMAT: MBA in US vs. MBA in Europe

In terms of cutting-edge MBA programs, the United States continues to lead the world. Naturally, it was this country that invented the MBA about 100 years ago. The Financial Times has already declared the world’s top four business schools to be Wharton, Columbia, Stanford and Harvard. So, why should a student take a big step across the Atlantic?

There are several advantages to studying in an American university, as opposed to a European one. Here are the pros and cons that you should take a good look at before you send in your applications:

Birth of MBA–Invention and innovation: As you are aware, the MBA degree is an invention of the United States. So, it has the right institutions for it, and the passion, knowledge base and need for it to flourish. It also had the right university base for business schools to do well in, something that Europe did not have.

With such a grand heritage, this large country has developed schools which are big brands now, namely Harvard University and Stanford University, famous worldwide. You may study at any top-notch business school and get kudos for it, but getting an MBA from America’s Ivy League business schools is an experience only some people can savour.

Ranking–Go with the best: If you consider the ranking of European universities, you will find that they are catching up very fast to their American counterparts. By promising to simplify the qualifications for a degree course and classifications, the 1999 Bologna Accord will make uniform European higher education in the near future. Consequently, the business education scene in Europe has grown exponentially, particularly the MBA courses.

Size of schools–Big means more choice for students: American schools are much larger than European. They sit atop reputed universities, which give students the advantage of widening their opportunities to learn. For example, if you’re at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania, you could choose your elective from 1,500 courses available to you.

You can do this because you have access to the medical school, engineering school, law school, etc, and the business school. You can choose your own elective because you see a business opportunity there and specialize in something of your interests and design it to suit you. However, European schools do not have that structure and therefore offer fewer courses for electives.

International class faculty–Choose your academic environment: All the best-rated business schools have the finest and most distinguished faculty, particularly in the US. This attracts international class business book authors because they can leverage well with a wide and impressive academic environment. Who doesn’t know of the world famous management guru, Philip Kotler, who lectured at the Kellogg School of Management. Or Dr Dipak Jain, present dean of INSEAD and erstwhile Dean, Kellogg School of Management and Michael E. Porter who is linked with Harvard.

Though European faculty is becoming more competitive, yet they still need to do some amount of catching up with the US.

Duration of MBA program–What’s your personal style? MBA programs in the United States are longer than others. Usually, they extend to two years, but often they can be condensed into 16 months by students working hard through the summer holidays. However, putting yourself through a longer course has the advantage of being able to learn better and absorb oneself in special interest projects. Of course, only those students can enjoy this luxury if they have the resources for this and the right circumstances, since by and large, US business school programs are prohibitively expensive.

On the other hand, MBA programs in the Continent are shorter, sometimes just 10 months and very intensive. This depends on one’s personal style and whether one can take that kind of pressure. Whereas a longer course can be acceptable to most students as depending on what you learn, you can change track and specialize in an entirely different subject. A shorter course will have no time for such reflection. Some students might prefer going through a short course, while others might find that studying for two years will not be as fast-paced and disturb their personal lifestyle.

Individualized business school culture–Where do you fit in? When you choose a business school, it doesn’t depend on the academic course and its superb facilities but also about your personality and whether you will feel at home there or not. Here, the difference between business schools in the US and Europe is that the former produce very competitive students who are bursting with energy to compete in the market place and become top-notch entrepreneurs in specific areas. However, the European schools take in personalities that are of all types and produce graduates who eventually become consultants.

For a student, it’s not easier to secure admission in an European university–in fact, both are equally tough and challenging. But finding one that suits your personality and gives you what you want in academic terms is where the challenge lies.

Gaining international experience–A new world view: The highlight of an American MBA program is students securing international experience. While the best business schools in the US are very international and expose you to a different environment and force you to adapt to this new way of life, studying in Europe gives you the chance to learn a foreign language.

If you live in a European country and go to business school in your home country, you will come across an international group since these colleges take in foreign students from all parts of the world. Getting this exposure is important as it gives you a foreign perspective of business experience as you interact with several international students and develop a worldwide network.

These days, European business schools are also getting to have an international structure. This means that they have campuses in other parts of the world, just like Nottingham  University Business School has a campus each in Singapore and Malaysia. Students have the option of starting their course in one campus and finishing at one of the others and gaining that international edge.

A difference of teaching styles–Classroom or ‘free time’? European business schools are more classroom-oriented because their teaching style is more of the tutoring type. However, American business schools allow  students to pursue their more ‘free time’ to pursue their areas of interest. Another aspect that varies is in the matter of assignment presentation and the business school’s individual grading policy. Not only do these differ from school to school but country to country also. While European schools adhere to international standards like GAAP (General Accepted Accounting Principles), American schools have their own version of it.

Alumni and Milk rounds–Where size matters: The last difference is in the area of their alumni associations and the recruitment assistance they get. Whereas both types of schools have strong  alumni associations and get tremendous recruitment support, yet it is believed that there’s nothing to beat the American alumni associations. Not only are they large, but also extremely well-funded and have larger milk rounds than their European counterparts.

With these differences before you, you will now be in a better position to take a call on the kind of business school you want to attend.

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