Top 5 places to study an MBA abroad

Dan Mason, Editorial manager
October, 2018

Develop an international business perspective, grow your global network of contacts and impress employers by studying for an MBA abroad

Some of the best courses are offered at UK universities, and they attract students from around the world. But if you want to head elsewhere for your MBA, there's plenty of choice - from the long-standing MBA strongholds of the USA and France, to rising powers such as China and Singapore.

What's more, MBA courses are often taught in English, so they're accessible too. Here are some of the most popular destinations.

1. USA

Why study an MBA in the USA? It's the birthplace of the MBA. Harvard Business School established the first course in 1908 and US institutions have been leading the way ever since. If you want employers to sit up and take notice, an MBA from one of the USA's prestigious and globally respected business schools will do just that.

How do US business schools rank? They consistently dominate the main worldwide MBA rankings. Six of the top ten MBAs are in the USA, according to the Financial Times (FT) Global MBA Rankings 2018. Stanford Graduate School of Business takes the number one spot, with Wharton, Harvard, Chicago Booth and MIT Sloan following closely behind.

What does an MBA cost? You'll need significant funds to attend one of the highly ranked programmes. For example, Stanford's MBA is a two-year course and annual tuition fees stand at $70,590 (about £53,520) in 2018/19. The institution estimates that your total annual expenses, including fees, living costs, books and transport, will reach $115,797 (about £87,800) per year. You'll need to explore what financial aid you're eligible for, or seek out less prestigious business schools to find cheaper alternatives.

Anything else I need to know? In the USA, MBA programmes are traditionally two-year courses (whereas most in Europe last one year). One of the defining features of a two-year MBA is that you usually undertake an internship with an employer during the middle summer. Impress them sufficiently and you may get a job offer. However, one-year MBAs are available if you prefer.

Find out more about studying in the USA.

2. France

Why study an MBA in France? Aside from the UK, France is Europe's MBA heartland and the most popular non-English speaking country for international MBA students. It's home to several elite business schools that more than hold their own on the global stage. Add that to the country's famed culture, history and food and it makes a great place to study.

How do French business schools rank? INSEAD, which bills itself as the business school for the world and has campuses in France and Singapore, sits second in the FT Global MBA Rankings 2018. While this is France's best known MBA offering, there are other strong options. HEC Paris, EDHEC Business School, ESSEC Business School and EMLyon Business School are all in the top 100.

What does an MBA cost? EMLyon's one-year full-time MBA costs €38,500 (about £34,530) in tuition fees. Scholarships worth 30% or 20% of fees are offered to students with GMAT scores above 650, the first student enrolled from each nationality, executive women, and students who enrol before the end of December. Fees will vary between business schools though - for example, INSEAD's MBA fees are €84,000 (about £75,340).

Anything else I need to know? France was home to Europe's first MBA programme, at INSEAD. Despite this, and the country's protective instincts when it comes to the French language, MBAs at all the leading business schools are taught in English. Most MBAs are intensive full-time courses, though part time alternatives are available.

Find out more about studying in France.

3. China

Why study an MBA in China? Its rapidly growing importance on the global economic stage, coupled with the rise to prominence of its top business schools, makes China the perfect destination for more adventurous MBA students. Studying in China will give you a different perspective on international business that is certain to catch the eye of potential employers.

How do Chinese business schools rank? There are seven Chinese institutions in the FT Global MBA Rankings 2018. The best performer is CEIBS (the China Europe International Business School) in an impressive eighth place. Another six, including HKUST Business School and the University of Hong Kong, are all in the top 50.

What does an MBA cost? Tuition fees for the 18-month MBA at CEIBS are 408,000 Chinese Yuan (about £45,370). As with other business schools, financial aid is available: in the most recent intake, 30% of students received scholarships worth between 20% and 100% of their fees, while 40% were able to take out a student loan covering 25% to 100% of the cost of tuition. Meanwhile, HKUST's MBA fees stand at 585,000 Hong Kong dollars (about £57,110).

Anything else I need to know? Programmes are taught in English, but don't miss the opportunity to learn Mandarin alongside your MBA studies. This will help you understand the Chinese culture, ensure you can enjoy your stay in the country, and give you a significant advantage when it comes to applying for jobs in the sphere of international business.

Find out more about studying in China.

4. Singapore

Why study an MBA in Singapore? Long known as one of the Asian Tiger economies, Singapore is a dynamic, innovative and business-friendly place to study for an MBA. It's got a reputation for the high quality of its education, and in recent years that has extended into its business schools. English is the main language of instruction in all the country's universities.

How do Singaporean business schools rank? In addition to the Singaporean campus of INSEAD, there are two leading business schools. The National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School and Nanyang Business School are always among the elites when it comes to league tables. In the FT Global MBA Rankings 2018 they sit 18th and 22nd respectively.

What does an MBA cost? At both NUS and Nanyang Business School, the MBA costs 62,000 Singapore dollars (about £34,620) in tuition fees. Financial aid is available in the form of grants and loans from both institutions. Some funding is limited to Singaporean citizens, so check the university website to see what's on offer for international students.

Anything else I need to know? Singapore is one of the most popular Asian destinations for international students. The QS Best Student Cities ranking for 2018 puts it in 15th place in the world. Be aware, though, that the prosperity, low crime rates and spectacular cityscapes that make Singapore so attractive come hand-in-hand with high living costs.

Find out more about studying in Singapore.

5. Canada

Why study an MBA in Canada? It may be less renowned than its southern neighbour when it comes to MBAs, but Canada is definitely worth considering - and not just for its stunning scenery. Its top business schools now compete with the world's best and studying there is generally more affordable than the USA.

How do Canadian business schools rank? Three Canadian institutions appear in the FT Global MBA Rankings 2018. These are McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management, in Montreal, the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, and Western University's Ivey Business School in London, Ontario - 78th, 86th and 90th place respectively.

What does an MBA cost? At the University of Toronto, tuition fees for the two-year full-time MBA are C$116,610 (about £68,630) in total, split across the two years. McGill's international fees for two years stand at C$89,000 (about £52,380), including the cost of an international study trip.

Anything else I need to know? You should enjoy your stay in Canada. Three of the top ten most liveable cities in the world in 2018, according to the UN, are located in the country - Calgary in fourth place, Vancouver in sixth and Toronto in seventh. Meanwhile the UN's World Happiness Index puts Canada in seventh place.

Find out more about studying in Canada.

Also worth a look

There are a growing number of countries vying to be the go-to destination for MBA students. For example, in Europe you can find excellent courses at universities in Spain, Germany and Switzerland. Further afield, the top business schools in Australia and India are strong contenders for your consideration.

Discover more destinations for postgraduate study abroad.