How do the world’s top online MBA programmes compare? |

How do the world’s top online MBA programmes compare?

By Laura L

Updated May 16, 2022 Updated May 16, 2022

Choosing one of the world’s top business schools for your MBA can give you prestige and status as a business leader when you graduate. It’s a badge of honour that says I studied at the best of the best, but the reputation of an elite institution goes much further than its name.  

It can mean direct exposure to the world’s biggest firms, connections to CEOs in your industry, teachers with the most diverse global experience, and access to alumni who’ve made it onto the most esteemed success lists, like Forbes 30 under 30.   

When you know you’re aiming to study an online MBA at one of the best schools in the world, how do you distinguish between those at the top?  

We took a deep dive into the online MBA programmes at IE Business School (Spain), Imperial College Business School (UK) and Warwick Business School (UK), which ranked first, second and third respectively in the QS Online MBA Rankings 2022, to learn what makes each school unique. 

Values and specialisation 

Business schools will have a set of core values that drive the focus of their MBA programmes. For the top schools, values are built on what the market demands of new MBA graduates, global change and new business thinking.  

Some online MBAs will even have a specialisation like digitalisation and technology, or a focus on business analytics for those looking to advance their skills in a specific area. 

For IE Business School, it’s all about self-transformation. The school aims to provide students with the global insights and strategic expertise to unlock the next best you, going beyond your professional development into your personal life too.  

How does IE compare? 

What values drive the online MBA? 

IE Business School 

Imperial College Business School 

Warwick Business School 

  • Self-transformation
  • A programme that aims to unlock the next best you
  • Focus on personal and professional development
  • Designed to deep dive into your career, impact and purpose
  • Shape your own programme to match your ambition
  • Focus on flexibility and technology-driven teaching
  • Four pillars of leadership: inspiring, analytical, responsible and innovative
  • Business as a power for good
  • Looks for candidates who are restless to change the world
  • Four pillars: Curiosity, openness, restlessness, and excellence

Programme content 

While online MBAs provide a fully-rounded experience of business management like their in-person alternatives, each programme has its differences.  

The specific module choices, live projects and flexibility options play an important part in choosing a programme that best fits your career and life ambitions.  

Imperial College Business School’s Global Online MBA boasts a highly flexible programme with flexcore and elective modules, so you can tailor your MBA or explore new avenues for a broader experience.  

At Warwick Business School, candidates with an interest in sustainable business will be happy to know that environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are integrated across the core modules, allowing students to address a complex world issue from multiple angles.  

How does online MBA programme content differ? 

IE Business School 

Imperial College Business School 

Warwick Business School 

  • Study at your own pace in 17, 25 or 30 months
  • Four residential periods in four continents
  • Personal Advisory Programme designed to leverage your strengths and improve weaknesses
  • Specialised modules include strategy implementation, digital innovation and corporate governance, ethics and sustainability
  • Complete your programme in 21, 24 or 32 months 
  • Flexibility is the focus with flexcore and elective modules 
  • New elective modules in analytics, entrepreneurship and marketing 
  • Certify your chosen specialisation with your employer
  • Work with community businesses for Global Experience Week
  • Two-year programme with option to extend to four years
  • Eight required modules in business, management and leadership with four elective modules, one face-to-face module
  • Environmental, social and governance (ESG) integrated across programme
  • Strategic consulting project tail ends the programme


Shape, size and diversity are important factors to consider in your online MBA. A smaller cohort of students creates a tighter community of people you’ll get to know on a deeper level. A larger cohort enables more networking opportunities with course mates across a wider variety of industries.  

When it comes to diversity, Academic Director of Imperial College Business School’s Global Online MBA, Professor Mark Perkmann, is determined to encourage and support all role models leading the way in pushing the ceiling and breaking the bias. 

“As part of a very diverse community, it’s something that is embedded in the personal leadership journey that students embark on together throughout the programme,” he said. 

You can find infographic breakdowns of the current student cohort on all three business school’s websites. Information includes cohort number, average age, gender ratio and nationalities represented. 

Who studies on the programme?  

IE Business School 

Imperial College Business School 

Warwick Business School
  • Students from 50 nationalities
  • Minimum of three years’ experience in business
  • 32% of students are female
  • 33 is the average student age
  • 194 students in the class of Sep 2021 and Jan 2022
  • 62 nationalities represented
  • 34 is the average student age
  • An average of 11 years’ work experience
  • Students from 98 nationalities
  • 29:70 ratio of female/male
  • Average age of students is 36

Learning methods and technology 

The teaching format on an online MBA must be accessible for students across the globe, considering different time zones and working hours.  

An effective digital platform allows students to access on-demand content from wherever they are, with capacity for interactive and collaborative learning. 

Some programmes, like IE Business School’s Global Online MBA, blend the physical and digital elements of an MBA, so students get the benefit of a global online classroom and the potential exposure to leaders in the industry through face-to-face opportunities.  

What learning methods are used on the online MBA? 

IE Business School 

Imperial College Business School 

Warwick Business School 

  • Liquid learning fuses physical and digital learning spaces
  • Mandatory residential periods to thoroughly capitalise on your experience 
  • A virtual campus allows you to collaborate in small, interactive groups working on real industry case studies
  • Online discussions, multimedia and video conferences give you a highly interactive and personalised education
  • Programme designed by award-winning in-house education specialists, the Edtech Lab
  • Leading-edge learning platform The Hub enables you to stay connected across time zones
  • Weekly live sessions run several times a day 
  • Learning involves live classes, tutorials, video teaching, individual and group exercises, reading, podcasts and polls
  • 27 hours of structured teaching a week with further guided online study, independent self-study and assessment preparation
  • Online learning environment my.wbs houses teaching materials, interactive spaces and online classroom
  • Test yourself with multiple choice quizzes and receive immediate feedback to keep your learning on track

Networking opportunities 

Beyond the skills and knowledge you’ll gain on an MBA, one of the biggest highlights that business schools offer is exposure to the world’s biggest firms and innovative leaders in and beyond your industry.  

Strategic consultancy projects, in-person residentials and live business case studies enable students to consolidate everything they’ve learned and apply it to a real business. 

A school’s alumni network can also say a lot about the experience you’ll have beyond the classroom, providing you with industry contacts, crucial advice and support, global associates, innovative insight, and the opportunity to bring your experience into guest lectures for the next generation.  

What are the alumni networks like? 

IE Business School 

Imperial College Business School 

Warwick Business School 

  • 70,000+ graduates from 169 nationalities
  • 85 alumni clubs worldwide
  • Lifetime access to IE’s carer portal, over 7,000 positions posted annually
  • Two coaching sessions available up to two years after graduation
  • Access to free, certified online classes from IE and Coursera
  • 20,500 alumni spanning 140 countries
  • Professional Interest Networks provide alumni and professionals in a specific sector with a space to share ideas, challenges and experiences
  • Access up to five one-to-one sessions in the first two years after graduation and two sessions per year afterwards
  • In-person talks and online webinars on business insight and trends
  • 53,000 graduates from 167 countries
  • 11 professional and geographical networks to liaise with alumni in your industry or region
  • Network of changemakers
  • Award-winning Global Mentoring Programme
  • Access to lifelong learning, journals and research tools, including ABI Inform, Emerald, and MarketLine


This article was originally published in May 2022 .

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