The UK is highly regarded as a mogul of both business and education, and so it only makes sense that the top business schools in the UK enjoy strong reputations for combining the two. There are plenty of business schools across the UK offering top MBA programs whose atmosphere, communities and course programs are all seriously competitive - not least, in the global metropolis that is London, about which you can read more in our separate guide here.
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Students from all over the world are drawn to the UK’s education system, particularly its top business schools and universities – it is, indeed, the world’s second most popular study destination. Leading schools thrive off students with a competitive nature willing to fight for a place at their institution, and entry into leading MBA programs can be cutthroat.
Despite this, the UK is predominantly a welcoming and easy place to settle in to, an advantage of its huge diversity, particularly within its cities.
UK society is very multicultural. You’ll be able to see this in the variety of everything from the food to the rich tapestry of arts and culture that comes with a population as diverse as the UK’s.
To get a proper taste of the UK, one should embrace the drizzly summers to brave the huge and varied selection of annual music festivals as well as to partake in a traditional fish and chip supper at one of the many seaside towns.
Oh, and if you’re worried about the food, the UK is making strides towards correcting its bad culinary reputation, evidenced by a recent boom in street-food pop-up markets. One stereotype is true – the British really do drink as much tea as is often suggested! The local pub tends to be at the center of British social life, although café culture has been given a serious boost in recent years as Brits come to take their coffee increasingly seriously thanks to an influx of antipodean baristas.
So, being afraid of missing out on the pleasures of the table need no longer force your hand…
Study your MBA in the UK and take advantage of top business schools’ reputation
According to the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report, UK schools account for 6 of the top 20 business schools in Europe, with UK-leader London Business School sitting second only to INSEAD, the French institution at the pinnacle of the list.
London Business School, together with Imperial College Business School, are based in the UK’s capital, combining high caliber business education with the hustle and bustle of a diverse and enriching city.
It cannot be disputed that London, as the capital city of England as well as the UK, is a cultural and business hub, through which careers in finance and, increasingly, technology can flourish. However, high quality business schools in the UK offering top MBA programs aren’t limited to the capital city.
The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (collectively known as Oxbridge), two of the oldest and most culturally significant universities in the world, have a long-standing history as figureheads of excellence in education.
Oxford’s history of teaching dates as far back as 1096 while Cambridge University was founded after disagreements with the residents of Oxford; it should be no surprise therefore that the two institutions have an on-going rivalry. This rivalry is not just limited to academics however and the competition between the pair can be seen in all sporting events involving the two – most notably the annual Oxbridge Boat Race.
Of course, it’s not all just about sport at Oxford and Cambridge, and their business schools – Oxford Saïd Business School and Cambridge Judge Business School respectively – are, together with London Business School, counted among the top business schools in the UK.
Which business school is the best for you to study your MBA in the UK?
Imperial College Business School and Cranfield School of Management complete the UK’s current top five, but notable mentions must also be made for the MBA programs of Warwick Business School, Manchester Business School, and Scotland’s finest: University of Edinburgh Business School.
As well as their excellent courses, the top business schools in the UK also have a reputation for student communities, with numerous clubs and societies on offer, allowing people to meet over a common culture or shared interest.
Take a glimpse into what some of the clubs and societies the UK’s top business schools have to offer:
London Business School (@LBS):
Women in Business Club, Photography Club, Poker Club, Out in Business (LGBT), Commodities Club.
Cambridge Business School (@cambridgejbs):
All sporting societies, Whiskey Appreciation Society, Tolkien Society, Korean Society, Faith Forum.
Oxford Business School (@oxfordunion):
Newcomers’ Club, Sports, Chess Club, Oxford Entrepreneurs, Experimental Theatre Club.
Imperial College (@icunion):
IQ (LGBT) Society, Women in SET, Felix Newspaper, Robotics Society.
Warwick Business School (@warwickbschool):
TED x Warwick, ASE (Athiest, Specularist, Humanist), Anti-Sexism Society, Cheese and Chocolate, Student Arts Festival.
When researching and selecting schools to apply for, it’s advisable to cover every possible factor that could contribute to your success and overall happiness, not to mention your return on investment. Worth checking out are blogs being run by existing students, and especially those hosted by the business schools themsleves. Take a look at London Business School’s blog, and get inside the student experience.
Another important consideration to take into account is the overall success of graduates at the various business schools within the UK. To make this easier you can find a breakdown of fees, course lengths and percentage of graduates employed within 3 months in the Practical Information tab abover, as well as information on average graduate salaries and bonuses in the Careers tab.
Employer Index, GMAT scores and percentage of female students at top schools
QS’s ‘Employer Index’ – upon which the Global 200 Business Schools Report is based – assigns schools a score based on the number of times the 4,300 employer respondants mentioned the school as one to which they look when hiring. The top school is given a 100, and then incrementally reduced scores are given to the schools below.
According to the latest edition of this, here’s how the top business schools in the UK are rated today, along with some other stats:
London Business School:
Employer Index – 100 Female % - 33 GMAT Score – 698
Cambridge Business School:
Employer Index – 66.3 Female % - 30 GMAT Score – 680
Oxford Business School:
Employer Index – 99.3 Female % - 25 GMAT Score – 698
Employer Index – 58.6 Female % - 29 GMAT Score – 660
Cranfield School of Management:
Employer Index – 51.5 Female % - 30 GMAT Score – 650
With world-class graduate salaries, diversity and high Employer Index scores, it is easy to see why these schools are among the first choices for prospective MBA students. To look into your study options further, see the latest Global 200 Business School Report and the QS Jobs & Salary Trends Report, which are available as free downloads.
The UK’s top business schools benefit from strong career prospects
MBA graduate salaries in the UK remain strong, despite the lingering effects of the financial crisis, and compare favorably with the best that mainland Europe has to offer.
According to the latest QS TopMBA Jobs and Salary Trends Report, the average graduate salary among ‘Elite Global’ European business schools is US$107,432 with a bonus of roughly US$15,000 on top of this.
Check out your school's average MBA Salary
The top business schools within the UK are all very competitive in terms of salaries, bonuses and percentages of students being employed within three months of graduation. According to the Global 200 Business Schools Report, this is how the UK’s top five fare:
London Business School:
Average MBA Salary - $113,779 Bonus - $18,698
Average MBA Salary - $108,736 Bonus - $13,724
Average MBA Salary - $99,000 Bonus - $7,000
Average MBA Salary - $97,000 Bonus - $11,750
Cranfield School of Management:
Average MBA Salary - $ 98,100 Bonus - $ 11,988
A popular goal for many MBA graduates is to move into positions within economics, investment, insurance or stock. As such, environments such as London’s finance district and the Bank of England (pictured) are often targeted by alumni of the UK’s best business schools.
Where will your MBA study take you?
Ellie Holyoake, manager of MBA talent initiatives at KPMG EMA, has stated that while at KPMG the structure of an individual’s role varies widely from graduate to graduate, playing on their strengths to ensure they are getting the best of themselves. Although they hire all year round and are always accepting new applications, they actively seek graduates from reputable schools with transferable skills.
“We come across a lot of people with experience in operations or management so they would be perfect fits in some of the strategy roles that we have. Very few MBA graduates will be ACA or ACCA qualified, therefore the more traditional tax and audit routes are less of an option as a career path but, certainly our growing advisory practices are a natural home, leveraging the industry experience many MBAs have.”
Though London dominates the job market in terms of the sheer volume of opportunities, including those outlined by Ellie Holyoake, MBA graduates are not limited to the capital. Opportunities are plentiful across the whole of the UK, as the above figures demonstrate.
Companies that hired 25 or more MBA graduates in the UK
According to the QS Jobs and Salary Trends Report, the following companies hired graduates from the UK specifically:
UK MBA Grad Employers
A T Kearney
McKinsey & Co
Along with this is the actual prospect of employment. The UK is currently fourth on the global list of countries that have the largest appetites for hiring MBA graduates, with Germany the only other country to represent Europe in this top 10.
If you’re a bilingual MBA graduate you will be even further ahead of the game as recruiters increasingly value language skills. Opportunities in the UK are such that large employers like KPMG will source talent internationally as well as from UK MBA programs.
“There is a general trend towards mainland European school graduates – from INSEAD, IESE, IE, etcetera – coming to work in the UK. At KPMG we do hire from UK schools but we are actively going onto the campus of mainland European schools to seek out talent to join our team,” says Holyoake.
There is no doubt that by studying an MBA in the UK, you’ll have gain access to a wealth of fantastic employment opportunities alongside a network of fascinating and intelligent people from every corner of the world.
You can always give yourself an advantage by forming a strong network. Studying at a top business school in the UK will give you a chance to form many professionally beneficial relationships, as will simply living in the one of the UK’s fast-paced and vibrant cities.
And new opportunities arise all the time alongside the more traditional paths of financial services or consulting – for instance, London’s thriving tech startup scene, centering on the ‘Silicon Roundabout’ has provided a career path for many an MBA in recent years.
How much are MBA fees in the UK?
To study further within the UK, all EU and UK students pay the same amount in tuition fees. Of course, as is typical in higher education, the costs vary from institution to institution. The QS Global 200 Business Schools Report provides an insight into these variations, including, the average cost of fees that you would expect to pay at a leading business school, the number of months spent on the course that this money buys you, and the percentage of international students that attend the respective schools.
London Business School:
Average MBA Fees - $97,000 Course Length - 21 months 91% international
Cambridge Business School:
Average MBA Fees - $57,000 Course Length - 12 months 97% international
Oxford Business School:
Average MBA Fees - $54,000 Course Length - 12 months 94% international
Average MBA Fees - $56,000 Course Length - 12 months 65% international
Cranfield School of Management:
Average MBA Fees - $52,500 Course Length - 13 months 75% international
How do I know if I’m eligible to get in?
Your eligibility to study at your chosen school will depend on the institution and the course’s entry requirements. One of the key entry requirements for MBAs at any top school is a high GMAT score. To do well you may want to look at some tips and advice and a few blog posts relating to GMAT preperation.
What you ought to know about visas
I’m an international student, what do I need to consider?
If you are looking to study overseas, you will also need to consider any possible visa restrictions.
The first question to ask yourself is simply ‘Do I need a visa as a student visitor?’. If you are studying an MBA and are from outside the European Economic Area or Switzerland, the answer is yes. Students from within the EEA or Switzerland are treated the same as domestic students.
What type of visa will I need?
You’ll need to apply for a ‘Tier 4 (General) Student Visa’. It can be easy to mistake this with a ‘Student Visitor’ visa (attending courses under six months long), so make sure you check that you are applying for the correct visa.
Do I need to be accepted onto the course before I apply for my visa?
Yes, you must already be accepted onto a course of study in the UK before you apply for your visa. Not only this, the institution you are hoping to attend must also fulfil certain criteria in order for you to obtain your visa.
This criteria requires your chosen course to be officially accredited by one of the accreditation services in the UK (or overseas, if the course is only partially based in the UK), or a licenced sponsor under Tier 4 of the points-based system. Click here for details on the accreditation services and the points-based system. Most reputable UK Schools are accredited, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much about this.
How can I qualify for a visa?
As a Tier 4 (general) student, you need a score of 40 points. In order to score these points, you must complete the appropriate stages.
Once you are accepted onto a suitably qualified course and your English language skills are deemed acceptable you are awarded 30 points.
Secondly, 10 points are awarded for proving you have enough money (also known as ‘maintenance’ or ‘funds’) to cover your course fees and living costs.
Ways of funding your MBA
How can I fund my MBA?
Funding your MBA is a serious consideration, as the prospect of self-funding your studies can be intimidating. It is recommended that you do your research while applying for funding and indeed choosing which schools to apply to.
Many courses offer scholarships for eligible applicants, as well as the option of an unsubsidized Stafford Loan for US citizens (more here). Each university has its own policies, bursaries, loans and scholarships on offer for its MBA students.
QS MBA Scholarships
At QS, we understand that an MBA can be incredibly expensive and so offer a selection of our own scholarships. Click here for more information and for a list of scholarships offered through QS.
London Business School MBA financial aid:
The Prodigy Finance Loan is available to students at London Business School, for more information on this, please click here.
As well as this loan, London Business School offers the Salary Sacrifice scheme. It works in a similar way to an undergraduate UK student loan, in that it deducts a portion of your salary after you have graduated and started work in a graduate role. To find out more, click here.
Cambridge Business School MBA financial aid:
Cambridge Judge offers an extensive list of scholarships and bursaries covering a number of candidate factors such as sector of work, nationality, gender, academic achievement and more.
For more information on Cambridge’s wide-ranging list, click here.
Oxford Business School MBA financial aid:
While the list at Oxford's Saïd Business School isn’t as extensive as Cambridge Judge, the school offers scholarships dependent on factors such as prior academic performance, work experience, as well as interpersonal and leadership skills. To find out more, click here.
Similarly, Oxford is also part of the Prodigy Finance Loan scheme, for more information please click here.
Also, depending on your country of origin, other forms of external finding may be available to you. Click here to read more.
Imperial College MBA financial aid:
Imperial offers scholarships of varying amounts for a range of candidates. Scholarships are categorized as Industry Specific, Military, Women’s, Young Talent, Emerging Market and Imperial Loyalty. Applying for these often requires a written essay.
More information is available here.
Warwick Business School MBA financial aid:
Warwick has over £2 million (US$3.3 million) in scholarship funds to offer its students, targeted at those who will be high acheivers (in the top 20% of their class), or who will bring diversity and outstanding experience, or for those who will be successful ambassadors of the Warwick MBA both during and after graduation. For more information on this, please click here.
Warwick also has many other, non MBA specific scholarships on offer. For more information on these, please click here.
Career Development Loans are available to EU residents, with an unrestricted right to remain in the UK. More information on this is available here.
Traveling around the UK
If you’re not a British citizen, the country’s vast network of trains, winding roads, trams, tube lines, ferries, cars and bicycles can be a bit overwhelming at first, and often difficult to navigate. While stopping and asking for directions can be a great way to meet locals, it is arguably much easier to be prepared from the outset.
Tried and tested smartphone apps such as CityMapper for navigating your way around London, are absolutely failsafe. They will find your current location and get you from A to B in the quickest, most cost effective way possible. If you need to quickly zip around London and want to avoid using the tube, check out the taxi service app Uber – you can often find promotional codes online offering £20 discounts which can be incredibly useful.
In addition, London’s trademark Black cabs are part of the city experience in themselves as well as being instantly recognisable. Unlicensed taxis and unbooked minicabs, on the other hand, should be avoided (for more important information on taxis and minicabs, see TFL's Cabwise information page).
Also worth downloading are the National Rail app, for all your train ticket purchasing needs, Bus Checker – the national app for the arrival of buses, the PDF file of the London Tube Map, and Google Maps. Megabus and Megatrain will transport you across the country for an absolutely miniscule fee, though you might have to adjust your preferred travel time to fully reap the cost-cutting benefits here.
Utilize the web and track down locals for guided tours, meet-ups and networking events to amplify your residence in the UK. You’ll find that while people living in the UK are often given a bad reputation for being cold and unfriendly, especially in London, that this is not true. Check out the Good Deed Feed in the Metro, the UK’s free national daily newspaper if you need proof!