IE vs. WBS: The World’s Top Online MBA Programs Compared |

IE vs. WBS: The World’s Top Online MBA Programs Compared

By Tim Dhoul

Updated May 26, 2022 Updated May 26, 2022

This article refers to an older version of the QS Online MBA Rankings. Read about the QS Online MBA Rankings 2020 here.

Their order may have changed, but the top two online MBA programs in the world remain the same for the fifth year running, according to the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2017.

While Warwick Business School (WBS) placed ahead of IE Business School in 2016’s edition of the rankings, the honors are reversed this time around.

“The results of this ranking reflect the level of excellence at IE in terms of technology and teaching, as well as the caliber of its international student body,” said Ignacio Gafo, vice dean of global and executive MBA programs at IE Business School. The school’s climb to first place in QS’s latest online MBA rankings sees it reclaim the title it held in the rankings’ first three editions.

Warwick Business School placed second on each of those occasions and, in the wake of another top-two position, the school’s dean, Andy Lockett, paid tribute to the consistency shown by the school’s online MBA. “Such a standing is testament to the hard work of our staff and students plus the ongoing investment [made] in the latest cutting edge technology, so our students have the best possible learning experience,” he said.

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

Comparing the programs at Warwick Business School and IE Business School


IE Business School’s online MBA runs over 15 months

Length of program and start dates

IE Business School’s online MBA runs over 15 months, whereas Warwick’s can be completed in anywhere between two and four years, at the discretion of the participant.

Both programs enroll two classes a year – at IE, you can kick off in September and April, while the start dates are June and January at WBS. 


Fees for the online MBA (known as the Distance learning MBA) at Warwick Business School stand at £30,000 (c. US39k) for those enrolling in June 2017 and completing in two or three years. If you extend your studies into a fourth year, you would have to pay an extension fee of a little under £1,000 (c. US$1.3k) at the time of writing.

The price listed on IE Business School’s website for its online MBA (known as the Global MBA) is €47,200 (c. US$51k) at the time of writing. (Please note that these figures will differ slightly from those seen on the QS Distance Online Rankings 2017 page due to programs reviewing and renewing their prices with each intake and fluctuations in exchange rates seen since the time at which the data for the rankings' assessment was taken.)

Getting in

You’ll need at least four years’ managerial work experience to get into Warwick Business School’s online MBA. At IE, the minimum is three years’ prior work experience, although the school says that five years is preferable. IE also asks that candidates sit its own admissions test, although it will also accept GMAT or GRE scores. WBS requires two professional references and says that those who are unsure about whether they fit the program requirements can submit their CV and receive guidance within 48 hours. Both schools will seek proof of candidates’ English-language ability. 

Program structure and online study


WBS's online MBA consists of 12 modules, eight of which are required and four of which are electives

WBS’s online MBA consists of 12 modules, eight of which are required and four of which are electives. Each module involves 10 online teaching sessions offered through the school’s online platform and could take the form of lectures, seminars or even a talk from a guest speaker. There is also a consultancy project designed to give students the chance to test their new skills on a real business challenge – the challenge can be at their current place of work or elsewhere and is followed up by a thesis/dissertation.


IE Business School currently runs 19 courses across the three semesters (terms) of its online MBA, in addition to one preprogram course and one workshop that runs throughout the 15-month program. Its teaching utilizes videoconferences held at specific times each Saturday and interactive online forums open 24-hours-a-day between Mondays and Thursdays. Groupwork in the final semester culminates in students pitching a business plan to a faculty panel.

Program experience: In-person elements

IE Business School says that 80% of its program takes place online, with the remaining 20% resting on in-person elements. The in-person requirements equate to three modules undertaken at IE’s campus in Madrid, each of which runs from Monday to Friday between the hours of 9:00 and 19:00.

Warwick Business School also gets its online MBA students on campus for a whole week at a time - two teaching weeks, described as intensive, take place during your first year of study.

Both online MBA programs also offer their students an additional, and optional, in-person course. At IE, this is a one-week option giving students the opportunity to travel and learn about business in emerging markets, such as China, Brazil and Israel. The optional course could involve travel at WBS as well, if you select an elective that is delivered by partner institutions in places such as China, India and Mexico, but this is not necessary if you happen to be less able to travel due to personal and/or professional commitments.  

Class profiles

The class of 2016/17 at Warwick Business School holds an average of 12 years’ prior work experience – that’s four years more than the average of eight found among IE’s latest intake. As you might expect given their working backgrounds, the average online student at WBS is a little older, at 36 years of age, compared to 32 at IE.

WBS also has a slightly higher proportion of female students, at the time of writing – 32% compared to the 25% found at IE Business School. However, IE has a higher concentration of international students – WBS says that around 60% of its distance learners are from outside the UK, whereas IE says that international students make up 95% of its latest intake. 

This article was originally published in May 2017 . It was last updated in May 2022

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