INSEAD vs HEC Paris: An MBA Comparison |

INSEAD vs HEC Paris: An MBA Comparison

By Julia G

Updated April 13, 2021 Updated April 13, 2021

For those looking to undertake an MBA in Europe, France is one of the most obvious choices. The standard of education is among the highest in the world with many top-ranked institutions to choose from. INSEAD and HEC Paris are regularly recognized as the two most prestigious in the country. In fact, INSEAD was the first business school in Europe to offer the MBA course.

If you’re choosing between the two, find out how their MBA courses differ:

Length and format of program


HEC Paris

  • Accelerated full-time programme with an average length of 10 months
  • Five study periods of two months each (plus a number of pre-MBA elements)
  • Two intakes per year: start in January and graduate December that year or start in September and graduate the following July
  • Periods one and two are made up solely of core courses, from period three onwards you have a mix of core courses and electives
  • 16-month full-time programme, with an eight-month fundamental phase and an eight-month customised phase
  • Terms one and two cover core modules and terms three and four allow you to choose your own path through electives, specializations and international trips
  • Two intakes per year: January and September

Fees and funding


HEC Paris

  • Tuition fees for the September 2021 and January 2022 intake are €89,000 (approx. US$106,132)
  • The optional business foundations programme incurs an additional expense of €1,500 (approx. US$1,789)
  • Fees are paid in four installments
  • INSEAD offers over 100 internal scholarships, with scholarships averaging €18,700 (approx. US$22,300). Around 30 percent of participants have scholarships
  • External funding is also available, with all admitted students eligible to apply for an International Loan Programme from Prodigy Finance as well as a number of other external funding sources associated with INSEAD
  • Both intakes have a €9,000 (approx. US$10,732) deposit, then fees are paid in two installments
  • January 2022 tuition fees are €76,000 (approx. US$90,629) and September 2022 fees are €78,000 (approx. US$93,014)
  • HEC offers a number of internal scholarships (click here to see the full list), offering students over €1,000,000 (approx. US$1.9m) annually in financial aid
  • The school encourages students to look for funding resources in their home country – see their breakdown of regional funding options here, plus advice on student loans



HEC Paris

  • Aspiring participants are judged on their ability to contribute, academic capacity, international motivation and leadership potential
  • The admissions process takes 10 weeks and is comprised of an online application video, first selection, interview decision, interviews with alumni, admissions committee interview and a final decision
  • You will need to provide:
  • Non-refundable application fee of €250 (approx. US$298)
  • Three compulsory and one optional application essay
  • GMAT/GRE scores (no minimum requirement)
  • English language certification (if English isn’t your native language) – TOEFL, TOEIC, IELTS, PTE and the Certificate of Proficiency in English test are all accepted
  • Entry language certification (if English is your native language), more info here
  • Two professional letters of recommendation
  • Up-to-date resume
  • Academic transcripts from each college/university you have attended – transcripts are accepted in English and French, all others must be accompanied by a certified English translation


  • The rolling admissions process means you get a quick response to your application
  • The admissions process takes five weeks, comprised of an online form, a completed application, a pre-selection jury, interviews with HEC Paris MBA alumni, and, finally, an admissions jury
  • You must have completed an undergraduate program at an accredited university. The ideal candidate has between two- and 10-years work experience
  • You will need to provide:
  • Non-refundable application fee of €200 (approx. US$239)
  • Completed application form
  • Completed application essays
  • GMAT/GRE score – no minimum requirement but encouraged to submit a GMAT with scores above 60 percent for both the verbal and quant sections
  • Copy of TOEFL, TOEIC, IELTS, PTE or Cambridge English Exam results for non-native English speakers. Minimum score requirements can be found here
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Current professional resume in English
  • Transcripts from all university programmes completed

Class profile


HEC Paris

  • Average age: 29
  • Average work experience: 6 years
  • GMAT range 670-750
  • 351 female students
  • 88 nationalities represented
  • Average age: 30
  • Average work experience: 6 years
  • GMAT average score: 690
  • 34 percent female students
  • 95 percent international students
  • Over 50 countries represented
  • 295 students in class

Inside the MBA classroom


Students can engage in pre-MBA elements in ‘Period 0’, including a business foundations week, language classes and webinars. Core courses take up the first two periods, including financial accounting, organizational behavior, corporate financial policy & processes and operations management.

From period three onwards, students can choose from around 90 electives (taking four in period three, four in period four and three in period five). Elective topics include economics & political science, finance and technology & operations management. You will also complete a capstone project in period five.

Many electives offer students the chance to learn outside the classroom, with field trips to locations such as China and Silicon Valley. Participants have the chance to spend at least one period at another INSEAD campus – including Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. You can also spend period four or five at one of INSEAD’s partner schools: The Wharton School, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), or The Kellogg School of Management.

Throughout the programme, students undertake the Personal Leadership Development Program (PLDP) which uses personalised coaching to develop interpersonal skills and effective communication.

HEC Paris

The 16-month programme is divided into two eight-month phases: fundamental and customised. The first two terms are fundamental, where you will learn core business skills. Term one modules include managerial economics, statistics & business analytics and marketing. Modules in term two cover ethics & sustainability, operations management and corporate finance, among others. Both terms in the fundamental phase include business simulations.

Terms three and four are the customised phase. In term three you can choose to complete eight electives (plus an optional internship); or four electives and an MBA project (and/or an optional internship); or an international exchange (plus optional internship). In term four, participants can either select an MBA specialisation or an international exchange.

There are seven specialisations available: entrepreneurship, finance, advanced management, strategic marketing, strategy, digital innovation and sustainable & disruptive innovation. HEC’s partner schools span five continents and include HKUST Business School, London Business School and The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, plus many, many more.

Outside the MBA classroom


Career development is integral to INSEAD’s MBA programme. As soon as, or even before you start your programme, the career development team recommends you consider your career plan. Throughout the course, the career development centre organises a series of activities including workshops, training, panel discussions and one-on-one counselling sessions.

Their employment stats - for the graduating class of 2019 - are impressive, with 92 percent of graduates landing jobs within three months of graduating. Students also noted a median salary of US$105,900.

INSEAD promotes a ‘work hard, play hard’ approach to MBA life on campus. They run a variety of clubs and activities for students to get involved in, including business and industry focused clubs to boost career prospects through networking events, annual forums and trips. There are sports clubs if you’d like to participate in INSEAD’s sporting traditions, plus social clubs for students to pursue personal interests and meet new people.

INSEAD has three campuses, the original near Paris, France – one of the financial hearts of Europe; one in Singapore, one of the most dynamic and business-focused locations in Asia; and one in Abu Dhabi, an entrepreneurial hub in the Middle East. INSEAD pioneers the multi-campus approach as a method to increase students’ international experience.

HEC Paris

The HEC Paris careers center offers a number of services to help participants achieve their professional goals. This includes one-on-one career coaching, recruiting events, career workshops and access to alumni.

HEC has some seriously impressive career stats, with 92 percent of students hired within 3 months after graduation.

The school prides itself on having a huge variety of extracurricular activities on and off campus for MBA participants to enjoy. Cultural Weeks celebrate the diverse student body, with student-led weeks offering a five-day immersion of different cultures (such as Japanese Cultural Week).

Students play an active role in the running of the school, with MBA participants having their own student government, the MBA Council. Representatives liaise between the MBA student body and faculty and organise a variety of fun on- and off-campus social activities.

There is also a wide range of professional clubs to expand your network and build knowledge, plus social clubs to pursue outside interests.

HEC is built around a 19th-century château, on a woodland campus close to Versailles and Paris in Jouy-en-Josas. Its proximity to the heart of France, and one of Europe’s major business cities, makes it perfect for MBAs moving into the business world.

This article was originally published in October 2019 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by

Julia is a writer for, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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