Higher Education

Business and executive education in Europe

Learn more about business and executive education in Europe, including the top schools, differences between programs, and how to apply.

executive education in Europe
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By Expatica

Updated 21-2-2024

Universities across Europe offer a diverse array of opportunities for aspiring business leaders. Consistently ranked among the world’s best, opportunities range from prestigious business schools to smaller, more flexible programs. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or looking to advance to the next level, there are plenty of options for those seeking business and executive education in Europe.

Read on for more about the following topics:

Types of business and executive education

There are numerous business degrees, diplomas, and certificates available to help executives strengthen their knowledge and make them better managers. With so many options, it’s important to choose the right program, whether it’s an EMBA, MBA, MAS, DAS, or CAS.

What is an EMBA degree?

Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree programs help mid-career professionals expand their knowledge and become more competent and well-rounded leaders. One difference between an executive MBA and a traditional MBA is that an EMBA is designed for students with full-time jobs and classes work around that schedule.

A professor lectures his students in a business school class

On average, EMBA students are older, around 39 years old, and have approximately 15 years of work experience. Tuition levels are relatively high (anywhere from €60,000–100,000 and beyond) due to the inclusion of international travel. Over 90% of EMBA programs, according to EMBAC, offer international travel as part of the program.

Classes are typically on weekends or during full weeks months apart. They generally cover the same core subjects found in the MBA but are more tailored towards the students’ collective experience in the workplace. The type of EMBA program you choose is based, in part, on the program structure they offer.

What is an MBA degree?

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a full-time program started directly after an undergraduate degree. These students have little to no work experience yet; they often earn their degrees to get started in their careers after graduation.

Because MBA programs are more intensive (they often don’t allow students also to maintain full-time work), they provide more opportunities for students to specialize through electives. Modular or part-time MBA programs have grown 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 an MAS degree?

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 tailored toward specific fields such as architecture, international affairs, or engineering.

Some universities offer unique programs like a MAS in Healthcare Organization Leadership. These degrees benefit 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 program that aims to educate 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.

The CAS, or the Certificate of Advanced Studies, has a similar aim but requires fewer course credits. It is a valuable 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.

Since these non-degree programs are short and intense, they are often entirely customizable 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.

Business education in Europe

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 some of the world’s fastest-growing financial districts, European business programs aim to meet the market’s challenges and link the best talent to leading global companies.

European business schools consistently score highly in the global general business and executive education rankings. The best business schools in Europe are well-linked to the local and global business environment. They can develop students’ knowledge and skills and open doors to many new opportunities.

Executive education students sit at a table together for discussions

There are three main levels of business education in Europe:

  • Undergraduate education, including degrees such as the Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Postgraduate education, including degrees such as the 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.

Getting an EMBA or MBA in Europe

Most business schools and universities offering postgraduate business education in Europe offer the MBA and other course options. These typically last one or two years and are 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 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
  • PhD 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 target those who have already reached a certain level of seniority in 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 leadership and management skills.

Most schools offering executive education in Europe will have an executive MBA program that lasts 12–18 months. Many also provide AMP or management development programs that focus on more specific areas and custom programs tailored to the needs of particular businesses or organizations.

Study often takes place in multiple locations, is usually part-time, and – from the executive MBA – leads to professional certification rather than a degree qualification.

Three women sit together speaking at a business conference
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

Executive education engages with elite leaders, academics, and executives from the global business community, thus offering unique networking and career development opportunities for participants. Topics areas can include business analytics, corporate governance, and negotiation.

Education quality

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

Networking and career opportunities

Schools have excellent 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.

Diversity

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 much worldwide business etiquette differs, a diverse group of students will make you more confident when handling cultural differences at work.

Specialized programs

European business schools have a wide range of course options, allowing for more specialization at both degree and executive levels.

MBA students in class, one woman raises her hand

For example, the EMBA at IESE Business School allows students to learn from innovative methods taught by some of the world’s most respected professors and attend an Executive Management Simulation Program in New York, Shanghai, or São Paulo.

Where to enroll in business education in Europe

Some of the best-rated business schools for business and executive education can be found in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.

Business schools in France

ESSCA

ESSCA School of Management is a business school with campuses across France and around the world. A top-ranked management school by the Financial Times, they offer several five-year MBA programs, including several entirely online.

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, and several MSc and executive education programs.

INSEAD

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 EMBA.

Visit the Expatica directory of business schools in France for more options.

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.

Looking for more? Try the Expatica directory of business schools in Germany.

Business schools in Italy

Università Bocconi

Università 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, which 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, which the Financial Times ranks among the top 10 business schools in Europe. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs taught mostly in English, as well as MBA and executive education.

The Erasmus University Rotterdam campus on a cloudy day
Photo: RSM erasmus/Wikimedia Commons

You can use the Expatica directory to find business schools in the Netherlands.

Business schools in Spain

IESE Business School, Spain

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

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.

The Expatica directory can help you 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 EMBA 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.

Check out the Expatica directory for more business schools in Switzerland.

Business schools in the UK

London Business School

A top-ranked program both in the UK and worldwide, London Business School offers a range of postgraduate business and executive education options.

Saïd Business School

The Saïd Business School is part of the University of Oxford. The school runs both undergraduate and postgraduate business programs, including an EMBA.

For more, visit the Expatica directory of 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. Generally, the higher up and more specialist the program, the higher the requirements threshold.

Female student sitting at table at the library, using laptop and writing notes
Photo: fotostorm/Getty Images

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 must ensure they have the relevant visa to begin their studies.

In most cases, you start the application process for an MBA or EMBA by attending an open day or setting up a meeting with a program advisor. Next, you must complete a course application form, take an entrance exam, and attend an interview. The Admissions Committee will then assess your suitability for the course and accept or reject your application.

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