IE Business School vs. Imperial College Business School: World’s top online MBAs compared |

IE Business School vs. Imperial College Business School: World’s top online MBAs compared

By Holly Hemmings

Updated Updated

Their order may have changed, but the top two online MBA programmes in the world remain the same for the fourth year running, according to the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2024.

While IE Business School placed ahead of Imperial College Business School in 2022’s edition of the rankings, the honours are reversed this time around.

But how do these two top-ranking online MBA programmes compare? Might one course suit you more than the other? TopMBA delved into the program essentials to find out.

Comparing the programmes at Imperial College Business School and IE Business School

Length of programme and start dates

IE Business School’s online MBA runs part-time over 17, 24 or 30 months, whereas Imperial’s can be completed in 21, 24 or 32 months, both at the discretion of the participant.

Both programs enrol two classes a year – at IE, you can kick off in September and February, while the start dates are September and January at Imperial. 


Fees for the online MBA at Imperial College Business School stand at £50,500 (around €58,750 in EUR and $63,450 in USD) for both intakes in 2025. Ten percent of the tuition fees, £5,050 in 2025, must be paid as a deposit when enrolling. There is also a one-off £150 application processing fee that students must pay before submitting their application.

The price listed on IE Business School’s website for its online MBA is €60,000 (around £43,400 GBP and $54,550 USD) for the 2025 intake. The school states there are special conditions regarding this price for IE alumni and that alumni should contact their admissions advisor for more information. They also state that all IE Community members must make a one-off €1,200 contribution to the IE Foundation when applying.

Getting in

You’ll need at least three years’ full-time relevant work experience to get into Imperial College Business School’s online MBA. IE also requires a minimum of three years’ prior work experience. IE also asks that candidates sit its own admissions test alongside the GMAT, GRE, IEGAT or Executive Assessment. Both schools will seek proof of candidates’ English-language ability through proficiency tests such as IELTS, TOEFL and the Duolingo Proficiency Test.

Program structure and online study

Imperial’s online MBA consists of 12 modules: six core modules, which are required for all MBA students, at least two flexcore modules and four elective modules. Each module is taught over 10 weeks via The Hub, the school’s online learning platform, and could take the form of lectures, seminars or even a talk from a guest speaker. There are also additional pre-study modules that students must complete before beginning the course, the option to take part in the Capstone project on campus and optional summer programmes such as Global Experience Week, IB Global Electives and Global Exchanges which allows students to learn more about the global business market and study internationally.

IE Business School currently runs 8 modules over the three semesters (terms) of its online MBA, in addition to two pre-program courses, a career transformation programme which students will have the opportunity to engage with throughout their studies, and a Global Immersion Week where students will travel to an international destination to learn more about international business operations. Past international locations have included San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Miami, Shanghai and Mumbai. IE Business School's teaching utilizes real time video conferences and asynchronous online forums to engage in group discussion and learn at their own pace and at a time that suits them. Groupwork in the final semester culminates in students pitching a business plan to a faculty panel.

Program experience: In-person elements

IE Business School offers a blended learning programme which combines online and in-person learning. This blended format splits the course into six: three on-campus periods where students will attend IE's Madrid campus, and three online periods.

Although each of the modules at Imperial College Business School are taught online, there are some on-campus activities that students can engage with throughout their studies. An example is the induction week where they will be able to meet their fellow students as well as university faculty and take part in some introductory lectures and events. They may also choose to take part in the Capstone module which lasts seven days and is hosted at the London campus. This gives students the opportunity to apply their education to a real-world situation and develop their personal skills which will allow them to excel in the world of business. 

Class profiles

The class of 2023-25 at Imperial College Business School holds an average of 12 years’ prior work experience – that’s almost double the average of six to seven found among IE’s latest intake. As you might expect given their working backgrounds, the average online student at Imperial is a little older, at 35 years of age, compared to 31 at IE.

IE has a higher concentration of international students – Imperial says that around 78% of its distance learners are from outside mainland Europe, with 50 nationalities represented in it's 2023-24 cohort or 159 students whereas IE says that international students make up 90% of its latest intake with 34 different nationalities represented.

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

Want more content like this Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

Related Articles Last year

Most Shared Last year

Most Read Last year