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March 15, 2019

The True Cost of MBA of Top Tier Universities in Europe

MBA has never really been the cheapest career path, but its entry point in Europe only keeps getting higher and higher.

For example, after Belgium lifted its cap on higher education tuition fees, the cost of a one-year MBA from Ghent-based Vlerick Business School has risen two and a half times in just over a decade, from €15,000 in 2005 to €37,000 in 2016. Between 2013 and 2016, the MBA tuition fees of HEC Paris have risen with €8,000, up to €56,000.

And it’s not just that the cost of an MBA is getting higher, but also harder to gage. Tuition fees for MBA from top tier universities in Europe are usually just the tip of the iceberg, with some major expenses being completely unaddressed and overlooked.

It’s crucial for applicants to take all aspects of getting an MBA into consideration before plunging into a venture that can end up costing them more than it can give them in return, both in terms of money and overall quality of life.

True Cost of MBA


First, you’ll have to take a GRE or GMAT test which cost $205 and $250 respectively. If you happen to get a low score, which is easier than you might think as every test has very specific requirements, you need to retake the test and pay again.

Let’s not forget you have to spend time studying for these tests, the time which you could have spent earning money. Not to mention many people need to take a few private lessons to prepare for the specific formats and tasks of these tests, which is another expense that shouldn’t be written off.

You see – just the very first step toward getting an MBA, or in fact even the preliminary steps before it, can set you back with a good few hundred dollars, not counting the time you need to spend studying for the test which is another intangible sacrifice you need to come to terms with.

Application Fees

Then, there are the application fees. While they may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things, in the beginning, with a mountain of fees towering over you, those can be a disheartening glimpse of what is yet to come.

Application fees range between €100 and €275.

Cost of Living

Studying in university comes with a lot of trivialities which may seem insignificant from afar, but first-hand, they accumulate to quite a decent extra expenditure.

You need to consider the cost of traveling to the university, plane tickets if you’re going to move to another location (which is likely if you have your mind set on a specific, renowned business university), books you may have to purchase, possibly babysitting fees.

Another financial facet that’s dreadful in any life situation is the cost of changing flats and moving your belongings. In 2 years, you might be able to skip that, but the unlucky ones may even have to do it more than once.

Even once you account for all that, you still need to have a reserve for a myriad of other little things that usually come up along the way, especially if you’re in a foreign country.

Last but not least, there are also costly trips and networking experiences which may not be mandatory, but definitely have an impact on the overall experience and your opportunities afterward, even on a grander scale for the best universities. If you’ve already paid so much money to study in a place like this, it won’t make much sense to save on those extra miles.

Losing Out on Salary

Let’s not forget that the cost of education always goes beyond the money you’re paying for it and to the money you’re missing out on in the meantime.

For mature professionals who already have a career, giving up the steady income of a full-time job is a major caveat that can more or less double the cost of an already very expensive MBA.

University Fees

Needless to say, this is the part where an MBA from top tier universities can seem way beyond reach, or not even worth reaching out for.

For example, QS’ highest-ranked European MBA program INSEAD currently costs €80,800, going from €71,000 only two years ago, and €45,000 around a decade earlier. So, at this rate, who knows how much it will cost next year. It’s worth mentioning that INSEAD’s program is condensed into a 10-month period which would reduce some of the associated costs. Nevertheless, it’s still an amount that would hang over most people’s shoulders for a while.

The True Cost of Top Tier Universities in Europe


UniversitiesCity, CountryFees(Euro)Cost of living per year(Euro)
InseadFrance80,80025,000 – 30,000 (10 months)
Iese Business SchoolSpain89,95031, 500- 39,900 (15 – 19 months) (per Iese)
SDA Bocconi Italy88,82420,400 (1 year) (per SDA)
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus UniversityNetherlands52,00018,000 (1 year) (per RSM)
University of St GallenSwitzerland50,000 – 61,750 (full-time – part time)11,500 (1 year) (per UniSG)

The rise in The Appeal of Online MBA

Such sobering stats are bound to urge aspiring business professionals to look for alternatives, like an online global MBA. It’s no wonder that there was a 69% rise in the number of business schools that offer online MBAs, accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

And this rise isn’t credited to lower costs or a lack of better alternatives, but to their high value-added ratio and unmatched flexibility.

For reference, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s iMBA costs €19,500 and can be completed entirely online, creating a lot more leeway for a balancing act between studies and work, so mature professionals don’t have to sacrifice their income and lives altogether the way they would otherwise.

Urbana-Champaign is witnessing a steady rise in applications to its iMBA, and so do other business universities which follow its model of flexibility and cost-efficiency that don’t come at the expense of quality and future opportunities.

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