Affordable study destinations for your MBA |

Affordable study destinations for your MBA

By Laura L

Updated Updated

When you’re investing a significant amount of money in an MBA, it’s helpful to take the savings where you can. If you choose to study a full-time in-person programme, there are often additional living costs to consider, especially if you’re planning to relocate.  

Thankfully, some of the world’s top 100 full-time MBA programmes are located in some of the most affordable cities according to the QS Best Student Cities ranking. So, instead of thinking about your spending, you can focus on getting a world-class education and advancing your career. 

Here’s our list of some of the top MBA programmes in affordable cities around the world, in descending order.

Affordability ranking  City  QS Full-time MBA Ranking 
15th Bangalore

Indian Institute of Management 


32nd Mexico City

EGADE Business School 


36th Lyon

EMLYON Business School 


44th Berlin

ESMT Berlin 


=53rd Shanghai

CEIBS Shanghai 


=74th Paris

HEC Paris 


95th Singapore

INSEAD Singapore 



INSEAD Singapore - 95th most affordable student city



The full-time MBA programme at INSEAD Singapore is ranked ninth in the QS Global MBA Rankings and is in the 95th most affordable student city. INSEAD’s Asia campus is situated in the Knowledge Hub district of Singapore and is just 15 minutes from the financial district and 30 minutes from Changi Airport.  

The school offers a 10-month accelerated MBA programme and boast 90 different scholarships to make sure the best and brightest students can join the programme, regardless of background.  

Both a country and a city-state, Singapore’s cost of living is on a par with cities in the United Kingdom like Manchester or Birmingham. Monthly costs for an individual are estimated at £823.54, before rent. A cappuccino will set you back £3.50 and a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant would cost £45.95 (Numbeo).  

Rent, however, can be expensive in Singapore depending on the area. Out of the city, professionals can expect to pay an equivalent of £1,370 for a one-bed apartment. INSEAD does offer accommodation for MBA and Executive MBA students on campus.  


HEC Paris - =74th most affordable student city



Home to the fourth ranked top MBA programme in the world, HEC Paris is among the most elite business schools in the world, accepting around 300 students to the programme each year.  

Located in the French capital of Paris, it’s not the world’s cheapest location for an MBA, but the city still ranks 74th for affordability in the QS Best Student Cities Rankings.  

Life in Paris costs around the same as Tokyo, Japan or Montreal, Canada with monthly energy bills costing the equivalent of £155 and rent outside of the city centre priced at £815, on average. A local beer would set you back £6 in a restaurant, or £1.80 from the supermarché.  

HEC Paris is located on a 340-acre wooded campus, 10 miles from Paris, where prices are slightly more geared toward students.  


CEIBS Shanghai - =53rd most affordable city 



Shanghai in mainland China is ranked the 53rd most affordable student city in the QS Best Student Cities Rankings, and home to China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), one of 31 universities in Shanghai.  

The full-time MBA programme at CEIBS is ranked 37th in the QS Global MBA Rankings, and focuses on teaching advanced international business theory and applying these skills in China.  

A city of spectacular skyscrapers, Shanghai is the most densely populated urban area of mainland China with over 39,000,000 people living in the metropolitan area. Monthly costs for an individual living in Shanghai equate to £587.31 before rent. To rent a one-bed apartment in the city centre, the average cost is £990 per month. 

Food is the hub of social life in China and Shanghai cuisine has caught up in recent years to provide a varied and exciting restaurant scene. A domestic beer in a restaurant will cost you £1.24 and a meal in a casual restaurant can cost as little as £4.97.  


ESMT Berlin - 44th most affordable student city 



Stylish, liberal Berlin is Germany’s hub of cultural experimentation. Sustainably and ethically driven with a huge focus on community projects, the city is classy with an edge.  

It’s steeped in a complicated history that it doesn’t shy away from, but the city’s youth bring a fresh optimism and a love of underground and independent culture.   

ESMT Berlin, located in the centre of the city in the popular area of Alexanderplatz, offers a 15-month full-time MBA that ranks joint 85th in the QS Global MBA Rankings.  

Slightly more expensive than Shanghai, monthly costs for an individual in Berlin would cost around £765 before rent, with a one-bed apartment setting you back £1,050 per month. That said, prices will vary depending on the district you choose to live in.  

A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant could cost around £40, and a cappuccino would equate to £2.75.  


EMLYON Business School, Lyon – 36th most affordable student city 



EMLYON’s international MBA programme is ranked 55th in the QS Global MBA Rankings, in a city that’s within the top 40 most affordable student cities in the world, Lyon. 

EMLYON’s campus is actually located in a commune town, Écully, just west of Lyon with a population of just 18,000. Lyon itself, just a 30-minute journey via public transport, is a busy university city with over 150,000 students across 30+ institutions. Studying at EMLYON gives students the best of both worlds with a countryside campus a stones-throw away from a metropolitan city.  

Cost of living in Lyon is relative to other cities across the North and mid-France, but cheaper than the capital of Paris, where rental prices in particular are 46 percent higher.  

In Lyon, monthly energy costs are around £155 on average, basic groceries including milk, bread and rice costing the equivalent of £1 and local transport setting you back £1.60 for a one-way trip. 


EGADE Business School, Mexico City - 32nd most affordable student city 

Mexico City


Leaping across to South America, Mexico City ranks 32nd for affordability in the QS Best Student Cities Rankings and is home to one of EGADE Business School’s four campuses in the country. The school’s full-time MBA, ranked 54th in the QS Global MBA Rankings, offers students the opportunity to study across Monterrey, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Querétaro.  

Mexico’s capital is the largest and most densely populated city in the country. A vibrant metropolis of South American culture, think street food and cantinas, live music, pre-Hispanic and contemporary arts and is a cultural and financial centre of the world.  

A three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant costs around £30. Add a local beer for the equivalent of £2 or a bottle of Coke for 90p. Monthly bills cost significantly lower than the cities featured above, at £40 on average per month, and an apartment just outside the city centre could cost as little as £400 per month.  


Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore - 15th most affordable student city 



Lastly, the most affordable student city with a world-class MBA programme is Bangalore, home to the Indian Institute of Management (IIM). The school is ranked 50th in the QS Global MBA Rankings, for its full-time MBA programme.  

With 11 million people in metropolitan Bangalore (now Bengaluru), it’s the third most populous city in India and one of the country’s most progressive and developed cities.  

Monthly costs for a single person before rent are very low, estimated at £310 per month. A meal in one of the city’s independent cafes or street food stalls could cost as low as £2.70 and a three-course meal for two in a nice restaurant is estimated at £16. Groceries are as affordable as you’d expect based on the costs of eating out, with bread, milk and eggs costing less than 80p.  

Professionals can live in a city centre apartment for as little as £126 per month. With a top MBA programme from one of India’s most elite business schools, Bangalore is an excellent study option for an affordable experience. 

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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