Advantages of attending a top non-US business school

By Jean-Philippe Odunlami, Senior Consultant, The MBA Exchange

Historically, business schools located in the United States were viewed universally and exclusively as the “best in the world.” However, over the past decade, this picture has changed dramatically as international (non-US) MBA programs have caught up and even surpassed many respected US programs. Today, in fact, two of the world’s top four business schools (as ranked by are #2 INSEAD and #4 LBS. A third international program, #8 CEIBS, is included among FT’s worldwide top 10.

This expanded definition of “the best” is a testament to the efforts, determination and resources of international programs that have made themselves highly competitive. Diversity at the top also reflects a rebalancing in the world of business, with the emergence of new economic powers that require business leaders equipped with a truly global perspective. This dynamic has been further propelled by the visa-tightening policy in the US, which makes international programs even more valuable and appealing.

There are a number of key reasons why savvy applicants should at least consider top international MBA programs, whether in their home region (for non-US applicants) or elsewhere:

• International programs offer access to a broader, more international network, often with regional strength (e.g., Europe, Southeast Asia, Middle East, etc.). In contrast, US schools are more domestic in their class profiles. Even #1 ranked Stanford indicates 41% international students whereas LBS has 91% international students.

• Some business schools feature campuses in multiple regions (e.g., INSEAD) and/or ties with MBA programs in other countries, including the US. Attending an international school can thus be a great way to get the “best of multiple worlds.”

• Many non-US MBA programs are only one year in duration. This can be very important for students who plan to go back to the same firm post-MBA, especially those being fast-tracked to a leadership position and/or to take over a family business. Furthermore, one-year international programs have a lower cost than traditional two-year US programs in terms of tuition and foregone income – even if cost-of-living expenses may be somewhat higher.

• The average age of students at top non-US business schools like INSEAD and LBS (29) is 2-3 years older that at US schools – a plus for more experienced MBA applicants seeking classmates with the same personal and professional maturity.

• Attending a program closer to home can be beneficial for non-US students in terms of career networking and access to local resources.

In addition to the tactical advantages of attending international programs, there are also some strategic implications. Businesses in every country need hires with cross-border know-how, experience and networks to facilitate expansion into new territories (especially emerging markets). This is prompted in part by relatively lower, long-term growth prospects in the US and other developed markets. Along the same lines, the growth of regional networks and agreements, such as ASEAN and TPP, means increased career opportunities for international and regional “experts”. Lastly, a number of countries are experiencing long-term booms because of favorable demographics and a rising middle class (e.g., Indonesia, Vietnam, etc.). These markets are difficult to penetrate without the kind of trusted, local knowledge and networks gained through classmates, alumni, research, and field experiences provided by international MBA programs.

So, if you are interested in a global career – or want to become a leader in your home region – your first step in pursuing an MBA education should be to get a free, expert evaluation of your candidacy. This will help you determine your current competitiveness, priorities for improvement, reasonable timeline, and potential target schools.

At The MBA Exchange, we have unparalleled experience working with international applicants AND anyone targeting international programs. Our consulting team is based in 11 countries on 4 continents and we’ve worked with clients from more than 70 countries worldwide. In addition to helping maximize your chances for MBA admission, we can help you in devising a career plan customized to your situation, location and goals.