IE vs Imperial: Comparing 2019's Top Online MBA Programs |

IE vs Imperial: Comparing 2019's Top Online MBA Programs

By Niamh O

Updated April 17, 2021 Updated April 17, 2021

The top-ranking schools in the QS Online MBA Rankings 2019 are Spain’s IE Business School in first position, and the UK’s Imperial College Business School in second. 

IE remains top of the table for a third year (having achieved first place in the 2017 and 2018 rankings respectively), but Imperial has moved up one spot in the ranking this year, taking Indiana’s (Kelley) place.

Both programs excelled in certain ranking indicators, with IE achieving the highest score for employability in the table, as well as a perfect score for class experience. Imperial also bagged the second-highest score in the table for employability.

How do these courses compare for a potential student? Read on to find out…


IE Business School

Imperial College Business School

Length and format of program

  • 17 months (most students take an average of 15 months to complete it)
  • Intakes in both October and April
  • Taught in English


  • Average length of 24 months
  • Intakes in both January and September
  • Taught in English

Fees and funding

  • €51,200 [approx. US$59,275] for the 2019-20 academic year
  • Scholarships range from five to35 percent of tuition, awarded according to three criteria: merit, diversity, and financial need
  • IE also has a special fund with an endowment of €6 million for scholarships aimed at supporting women’s education


  • £36,500 [approx. US$46,512] for the 2019-20 academic year
  • Scholarships available include women’s scholarships [approx. US$12,589], loyalty bursaries, future leader award, and Imperial Business Scholarships
  • Imperial Business Scholarships are typically £5,000 [approx. US$6,294] awards.


  • English language certificate of proficiency required for application (either TOEFL or IELTS)
  • Minimum of three years’ work experience required to apply
  • Academic and professional records
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview
  • GMAT/GRE required, IE also offer their internal entrance exam, the ieGAT


Imperial looks for a combination of academic ability, work experience and professional status. To be eligible to apply, students would normally have:

  • Five years’ relevant postgraduate work experience; however, candidates with a minimum of three years’ relevant experience can be exceptionally considered
  • At least a Lower Second-Class Honours degree OR international equivalent OR recognized professional qualification
  • English language test results (if applicable)


Class profile

IE’s cohort this year is made up of:

  • 76 students
  • Average of 8.5 years’ experience among participants
  • 94 percent international students
  • 33 percent female students

This year’s cohort is made up of:

  • 127 students
  • Average of 11 years’ work experience among participants
  • 84 percent international students
  • 38 percent female students



Study inside the (virtual) classroom

Both courses take a blended format, offering both online and face-to-face interaction. In IE’s case, the course is 80 percent online and 20 percent face-to-face. The on-campus lessons are at the university’s Madrid campus, with the course including two face-to-face periods here, as well as one optional global face-to-face trip, the Global Immersion Week.

Through the virtual campus and WOW Room, students can engage with other global professionals in synchronous and asynchronous sessions including interactive small groups where you work on real-world, industry-based case studies.

On Saturdays, students connect live to engage in a discussion about the topic for the day. The live WOW Room video conference sessions allow students to collaborate with classmates in morning, afternoon and evening sessions.

The (optional) Global Immersion Week gives students the opportunity to choose where they can get an entirely new perspective from inside companies and industry leaders (destinations have included San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Singapore, Miami, Shanghai, and Mumbai). Other face-to-face sessions are immersive 10-hour days in a series of seminars, workshops and conferences.

The online component is both synchronous and asynchronous, as students can watch pre-recorded lectures as well as take part in dynamic high-participation live video conferences and online discussion forums.

Imperial’s Global Online MBA is primarily delivered in an online format through The Hub, and consists of pre-study modules, core modules, and electives – with each core/elective lasting 10 weeks.

However, on-campus elements – both compulsory and non-compulsory – form an important component for the program.

The five-day induction kicks off the first week of the program and it’s spent at the South Kensington Campus in London, where students meet the rest of the cohort, faculty and staff, and take part in several taster lectures, discussions and exercises.

Global Online MBA students have the opportunity to attend up to two face-to-face electives in their second year if they aren’t offered online, allowing students to blend their learning.

The Capstone Business Game enables students to take part in a business game simulation where they’ll analyze the innovative needs of a large multinational and develop a business case for the company to grow. The Game takes place over seven days at the South Kensington Campus.

Study outside the classroom


IE’s Talent & Careers Department will help guide students along their career path. Graduates are also offered a “lifetime subscription” to resources, market expertise and career advice.

The alumni network boasts over 60,000 people with 160 nationalities represented.

Both courses offer career coaching, but it’s easy to see why IE’s course scored so highly for employability when taking into consideration the in-depth Global MBA Three-Step Career Transformation Program.

The first step is the ‘kick off and wake-up call’ simulation, which is a six-hour assessment-based simulation where you understand your strengths and weaknesses, identifying how you can develop your leadership potential. The second step consists of three coaching and career advisory sessions, spaced out throughout the year, while the third step features industry- or region-specific mock interviews.


Imperial’s alumni services focus on offering practical benefits through ongoing networking opportunities and supporting lifelong learning.

As an alumnus, you can request to join current students for Imperial MBA, Management and MSc Finance electives; attend a range of social, professional development and networking events; and access free professional development webinars.

The Imperial College London network consists of over 190,000 alumni who are represented in over 190 countries.

Imperial’s Employer Relations team target potential employers to maximize the opportunities for students to meet companies on-campus through student clubs and other networking activities.

The Careers team host a small number of MBA specific company presentations and MBAs are welcomed to employer presentations where they have the opportunity to network with different companies.

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

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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