Flight to Quality: Top Business Schools in Europe

by Vault Education Editors | March 08, 2010

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When jobs are scarce and employers have the upper hand in MBA recruiting, they tend to visit fewer, more elite schools. This flight to quality affects admissions numbers, alumni giving and more--ultimately reinforcing the school rankings that determined the elite schools to begin with. The schools at the top of the heap that benefit from this flight, however, are able to expand and further solidify their brand.

In Europe, London Business School and INSEAD are the top two (and most international) schools. Each is increasing the size of its 2010 incoming class--LBS by 25 percent and INSEAD by almost 5 percent (from 937 to 980). But how will this affect the schools on the cusp of international prominence? As Matt Symonds describes in his March 2010 article in The Economist Special:

At whose expense are they expanding? What appears to be happening is that, as the job market for MBAs remains tough, more students are turning to schools with a worldwide reputation. Thus it seems to be the schools one rung down--those hoping one day to join the global elite--which are eyeing application numbers nervously, worried about the impact that huge classes at LBS and INSEAD will have on their already pressured programmes.

Symonds argues that these "cusp" schools will specialize in order to gain strength in particular markets. EM Lyon, for example, will highlight its entrepreneurship focus and Judge Business School will promote its Cambridge history. IE Business School was ranked No. 1 among one-year programs by The Wall Street Journal and should be able to ride out the flight to quality. Says Symonds: "If there is one unifying factor among these schools it is that they have succeeded in communicating what sets them apart. The lesson seems to be that a school without a mega-brand needs to think hard about its target market and how to appeal to it."

But the next question is: Will this affect life in the trenches? Will students have to change their career plans to be more in line with the schools new direction? Or are these "branding" tactics simply a repackaging of what students already know? Read what students are saying about employment prospects and more at top European schools:

ESADE Business School

IMD

IE Business School

Judge Business School

Nyenrode Business Universiteit

Said Business School

Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School

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