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Home Education Higher Education Business and executive education in Europe
Last update on 22/12/2022

Business and executive education in Europe is of the highest quality, with some of the world’s most elite schools offering a range of postgraduate and executive programs.

Europe is home to some of the world’s most elite business schools that are consistently at the top of the global rankings. Institutions across the continent have the courses and the networks to attract the finest talent. At the more senior levels, executive education in Europe such as executive MBAs and short, tailored programs offer the brightest business minds the chance to hone their skillset and progress their careers to the next stage. We take a look at what’s on offer on the continent.

What is an Executive MBA degree?

Executive MBA degree programs are designed to help mid-career professionals expand their knowledge and become better, more rounded leaders. The first EMBA program launched in 1943 at the University of Chicago in the United States; just under 40 years later, the Executive MBA Council founded to ensure that all EMBA programs (counting just about 50 at the time) strive for excellence in education. Now, there are hundreds of EMBA programs around the world, all of which battle to rank among the best.

Business school lecture

Average EMBA students are about 40 years old and have approximately 14 years of work experience. Programs typically last one to two years and most are joint offerings from universities in various countries to allow students to take advantage of each university’s strengths and expertise. Students often receive sponsorship from their employers or scholarships to fund the programs. Tuition levels are relatively high (anywhere from €60,000 to 100,000 and beyond) due to the inclusion of several international trips. Over 90% of EMBA programs, according to EMBAC, offer international trips as part of the program.

It is the format of the program that most clearly differentiates itself from standard full-time or part-time MBA programs. Whereas full-time MBA programs are immersive, executive MBA programs are structured so that students may maintain their jobs outside school. Classes are typically on weekends or during full weeks months apart. They generally cover the same core subjects found in the MBA, but more tailored towards the students’ collective experience in the workplace. The type of EMBA program you choose is based, in part, on the structure of the program they offer.

What is an MBA degree?

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a typically full-time degree program that began in the early 20th century in response to the industrializing world. The first MBA program in Europe began in France in 1967, but now there are equally excellent programs all over the world. Students are typically younger than those in EMBA programs (often in their late 20s to early 30s. Many came directly after earning undergraduate degrees. These students have little to no work experience just yet; they are often earning their degrees to make themselves more marketable to future employers. On the other hand, EMBA students are often developing their skillsets for current employers.

Because MBA programs are more intensive (they often don’t allow for students to also maintain full-time work), they provide more opportunities for students to specialize through electives. Modular or part-time MBA programs have grown in number over the past few years, as students are more eager to combine work experience with higher education — and many cannot forgo work to continue studying.

What is a Master of Advanced Studies?

The Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) degree is a postgraduate degree available in select countries. The curricula of such programs are comparable to MBAs but are tailored towards specific fields such as architecture, international affairs, or engineering. Some universities may offer entirely unique programs, such as a MAS in Healthcare Organization Leadership. These degrees are particularly useful for mid- or late-career business individuals who plan to remain in a specialized field.

Non-degree programs: the DAS and CAS

The Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) is a postgraduate study program that aims at educating those who have already undergone undergraduate education and are currently in the workforce. The purpose of the DAS is to encourage continuing education for business leaders, as it is not often a requirement as in other industries that base their practices on evolving knowledge, such as medicine.

The CAS, or the Certificate of Advanced Studies, has a similar aim but require fewer course credits. It is a useful tool to add to a curriculum vitae or to further specialize your skill-set according to the industry in which you work. Course credits from these programs are sometimes transferable to a qualifying master’s degree, allowing you to shorten the duration of the program.

Business education students studying

Because these non-degree programs are short and intense programs, they are often completely customized to the relevant field. For example, you can earn a DAS in financial management or a CAS in banking, which can be even further tailored to asset management or real estate, respectively.

There are numerous types of business degrees, diplomas, and certificates that can help executives strengthen their knowledge and make them better managers. Just make sure you choose the right program, whether it’s an EMBA, MBA, DAS, or CAS.

Business education in Europe: what’s on offer?

Getting a business education in Europe has long been a fast track to the top for business leaders and groundbreaking entrepreneurs across the globe. With schools based in the heart of some of the world’s most thriving financial districts, the continent has been perfectly placed to deliver learning aimed to meet the challenges of the market and link the best talent to leading global companies. European business schools consistently score highly in the global rankings for both general business education and executive education.

The best business schools in Europe are very well linked to not just the local, but the global business environment. They can develop students’ knowledge and skills, as well as open doors to many new opportunities.

Business school students

There are three main levels of business education in Europe:

  • undergraduate education, including degrees such as the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA);
  • postgraduate education, including degrees such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and doctoral programs;
  • executive education, including the executive MBA and Advanced Management Programs (AMP).

Many of the specialist business schools in Europe offer only postgraduate and executive education studies.

MBAs and postgraduate executive education in Europe

The majority of business schools and universities offering postgraduate business education in Europe offer the Master of Business Administration (MBA) as well as other course options. These will typically last either one or two years and be available as full-time or part-time courses. Programs involve a more intense and specialized course schedule than business studies at the undergraduate level. These programs aim to hone participants’ skills and knowledge in areas such as finance, management, business strategy, and marketing. In addition to MBA and executive education programs, offered courses include:

  • Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Research (MRes) in subjects such as business, management, or finance.
  • Masters in Management (MiM) programs.
  • Postgraduate diploma courses in business or management.
  • Ph.D. studies specializing in areas of business and finance.
  • Specialized short courses in leadership skills.

Executive education in Europe: how does it differ from general business education?

Executive education programs are generally targeted at those who have already reached a certain level of seniority within the business world, such as executives, senior managerial staff, and business professionals. They are more specialist than degree programs and can last from a few days to over a year, aimed at improving specific skills such as leadership and strategic management.

Most schools offering executive education in Europe will have an executive MBA program that lasts around 12–18 months. Many also offer AMP or management development programs that focus on more specific areas, as well as custom programs that are tailored towards the needs of specific businesses or organizations. Study often takes place in multiple locations, is usually part-time and – apart from the executive MBA – leads to professional certification rather than a degree qualification.

Executive education in Europe is notable for engaging with elite leaders, academics, and executives from the global business community and thus offering unique networking and career development opportunities for participants. Topics studied can include areas such as business analytics, corporate governance, and negotiation. Executive education in Europe can set you up for a rewarding career opportunity abroad.

Advantages of business and executive education in Europe

Best quality education

European business schools are globally renowned for the quality of their educational standards and program content, which is reflected in their generally high performance in global rankings. In fact, courses are designed and taught by some of the most respected academic figures in the business world.

Elite networking and career opportunities

Schools have great links to big multinational companies and elite business institutions, meaning that students can gain access to some of the most respected global forums, conferences, events, and employment schemes.

Diverse environment

Business education in Europe offers the chance to learn with international students from all over the world in some of the most diverse and multicultural global cities. Considering how widely business etiquette differs around the world, a diverse group of students will make you more flexible when it comes to handling cultural differences at the office.

More specialized programs

European business schools have a wider range of course options in general than American schools, allowing for more specialization at both degree and executive levels.

MBA students

The Executive MBA at IESE Business School, for example, gives students the chance to learn from innovative methods taught by some of the world’s most respected business professors, as well as the chance to participate in an Executive Management Simulation Program in either New York, Shanghai, or Sao Paulo.

Where to enroll in business education in Europe

The following are some of the best-rated European business schools for business and executive education:

Business schools in France

HEC Paris

HEC Paris consistently ranks as the best business school in France and amongst the best in Europe. The school runs an MBA program, as well as several MSc and executive education programs.

Students at HEC Paris
Students at HEC Paris


INSEAD is a global institution with a European campus in Fontainebleau, France. The school ranks consistently amongst the world’s best for MBA studies. They also offer executive education, including an executive MBA.

Visit our directory to find business schools in France.

Business schools in Germany

ESMT Berlin

Founded in 2002, ESMT Berlin is a private non-profit business school offering MBA and both open and custom executive education programs.

IESE Business School, Munich

A world leader that is consistently top-ranked in Executive Education, IESE has a campus in Munich. They offer a range of MBA and executive education programs.

Visit our directory to find business schools in Germany.

Business schools in Italy

Università Bocconi

Bocconi is a private university in Milan that offers a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. This also includes an MBA for which it ranks consistently well.

Business schools in the Netherlands

Erasmus University Rotterdam

One of the largest universities in the Netherlands, Erasmus University Rotterdam is home to the Rotterdam School of Management, ranked by the Financial Times as one of the top ten business schools in Europe. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs taught mostly in English, as well as MBA and executive education.

Visit our directory to find business schools in the Netherlands.

Business schools in Spain

IESE Business School, Spain

A world leader that is consistently top-ranked in Executive Education, IESE has European campuses in Barcelona and Madrid. The school offers a range of MBA and executive education programs.

IESE Madrid
The Madrid campus of IESE

IE Business School

IE Business School is based in Madrid. The school offers both undergraduate and postgraduate study including MBA, master’s in finance and management, executive education, and doctoral programs.

Visit our directory to find business schools in Spain.

Business schools in Switzerland

IMD Business School

Based in Lausanne, IMD Business School is another top-ranked school for executive education. They offer only MBA and executive MBA programs.

University of St. Gallen

The University of St. Gallen specializes in business administration and economics. Its prospectus includes bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs.

Visit our directory to find business schools in Switzerland.

Business schools in the UK

London Business School

The London Business School was ranked as the number one overall business school by the Financial Times in 2018. They offer a range of postgraduate as well as executive education programs.

Said Business School

The Said Business School is the business faculty of the University of Oxford. The school runs both undergraduate and postgraduate business programs, including an executive MBA.

Visit our directory to find business schools in the UK.

How to apply for business or executive education in Europe

The process and requirements for applying for business or executive education in Europe depend on factors such as the country you are applying in, the school you’re applying to, and the level of study you want to enroll in. In general, the higher up and more specialist the program, the higher the requirements threshold.

Most schools require a demonstration of your suitability for the program (e.g., qualifications, experience, passing an entrance exam) plus payment of the course fees. Students from outside the EU will need to make sure they have the relevant visa to begin their studies. Study costs also vary across countries and institutions. You can search for scholarships to study at European institutions at this portal, as well as by enquiring with your place of study.

Firstly, you can apply for an Executive MBA at IESE Munich by attending an open day or setting up a meeting with a program advisor. Next, you need to complete a course application form, take an entrance test, and attend an interview. The Admissions Committee will then assess your suitability for the course. Full course fees are 72,700. Limited scholarships are also available.