UK’s top three online MBA programmes compared |

UK’s top three online MBA programmes compared

By Holly Hemmings

Updated Updated

In a ranking table often dominated by US schools, the second most-represented country in the rankings is the UK, with eleven online MBA programmes featured this year, including three in the top 10. The UK has long been one of the most popular countries for undertaking a full-time or executive MBA but is now proving to be a leading provider of distance and online options as well.

You can expect world-class teaching at all the institutions in the UK listed in the rankings, with the added advantage of their home campuses being in a country renowned for its role as a global business centre, particularly in the fields of finance and technology.

So, what institutions made it into the top three in the UK? Read on to find out.

1) Imperial College Business School

Imperial College Business School

The Global Online MBA programme at Imperial College Business School is ranked first not only in the UK but in the world. It’s a 24-month course as standard, although it can be completed in 21 months or extended to 32 months if necessary. The tuition fees for the upcoming intakes, September 2024 and January 2025, are £50,500 (around $63,250 USD).

Imperial received a perfect score for class experience and employability. Most of the teaching during the programme is conducted through The Hub, a virtual learning platform developed by Imperial’s award-winning Edtech lab. Students complete pre-study modules in topics such as accounting, careers, sustainability, data analysis, finance, maths, plagiarism and social innovation, then attend a five-day compulsory in-person induction week, as well as four core module periods followed by an optional global experience week. The course ends with a capstone business game.

Professor Markus Perkmann, Academic Director of the programme, said: "We find that our candidates are highly employable but also highly promotable for several reasons. First, our programme is selective, hence our MBA candidates are all high-calibre professionals, working in top companies around the globe. Secondly, the brand recognition of Imperial as a global top-ten university means many employers will trust in the expertise of our graduates.

"Our teaching is highly interactive and focused on practice-oriented assignments, often as group work which enables our students to not only learn basic knowledge, but also critical thinking and communication skills."

The Global Online MBA cohort is the second-most international on the list, with 85 percent international students and 62 nationalities represented. 36 percent of candidates are women.

As you would expect from such a highly-ranked programme, Imperial’s online MBA has quite strict entrance requirements. You would usually need a minimum of three years’ relevant consecutive professional work experience with evidence of career progression and experiences that can be shared with peers.

In terms of academic achievement, you will need at least a second-class honours (or international equivalent) in an undergraduate degree. Students may also be admitted if they have full membership at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in the UK and Ireland, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting, and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Alternatively, or associateship or fellowship at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

International students must also prove their proficiency in English Language. They need a minimum overall score or 7.0 in the IELTS test with a minimum of 6.5 in each element of the test, a minimum overall score of 100 in the TOEFL test with a minimum of 22 in all elements and an overall score of 125 in the Duolingo English Test with no less than 115 in any band.

2) Warwick Business School

Warwick Business School

The Distance Learning MBA at Warwick Business School has been running for over 30 years and is extremely well-established in the online learning marketplace – ranked third in the world, and second in the UK.

The Global Online MBA programme is made up of 12 modules; eight required modules and four elective modules which are taught either online or in-person. Students must attend two campus-based residential weeks, combining lectures, case studies, seminars, and group work with plenty of networking activities at the Warwick campus. The residential week is usually held in September or March/ April in the first year of study.

The entry requirements are fairly similar to Imperial’s. Students need a minimum of three years’ managerial work experience with evidence of career progression, a 2:1 from a UK university (or the international equivalent) in an undergraduate degree, and one of the following indications of English language proficiency:

  • IELTS - an overall score of 7.0 with a minimum score of 6.0 in all components.
  • Cambridge English Proficiency test - 190 overall.
  • Pearson Test of English - 70 overall with a minimum score of 51 in every section.
  • TOEFL - an overall score of 100 with a minimum score of 21 in listening and writing, 22 in reading and 23 in speaking.

The programme received its highest scores in the employability and faculty and teaching indicators.

Pietro Micheli, Professor of Business Performance & Innovation and Course Director for the Distance Learning MBA, said: "The main reasons WBS is ranked so highly for our online MBA is because of our platform, our experience and expertise in providing blended learning, our top faculty, and our network of alumni. 

"We invest heavily in edtech every year and have a fantastic e-learning department that now has two film studios to record lectures, webinars and discussions. We are also going to companies to film on site, developing mini-documentaries to help open up the subject even more for students. We are also developing in-house content such as online business games, where students can simulate what happens when they make strategic decisions as a manager of a business. Our platform has really helped the school during the coronavirus pandemic, making the move to online teaching for the rest of our courses a lot smoother."

The Distance Learning MBA cohort is diverse, with an average of 31 percent female students and 105 nationalities per intake based on the last three years. Fees for the programme are £39,450 (around $49,500 USD).

3) Alliance Manchester Business School

Alliance Manchester Business School

The Global Part-time MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School is ranked sixth in the world and third in the UK. The two-year part-time MBA (with 18-month accelerated Finance pathway) has intakes in January and July, with tuition fees of £32,000 (around $40,150 USD) for the standard 2-year course or £29,500 (around $37,000 USD) for the accelerated Finance pathway.

Much like Imperial, there is a group business project, which is based on global business and management challenges. The live business project allows you to explore trends and opportunities for innovation in your own organization, or in a sector of your choice.

In terms of face-to-face interaction, you can expect a total of 15 days of interaction at the Manchester centre in your first year of study, and up to 16 days in your second year, depending on your chosen electives, in your home centre or overseas in Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore.

The blended delivery of the course also includes residential workshops, a live business project and online learning. There are 30 days of teaching spread across six residential workshop, the online lectures are delivered in a dedicated virtual environment, plus discussions and self-study.

The entry requirements for the Global MBA include:

  • A bachelor's degree with a score of 2:1 or above (or an international equivalent). Any subject may be accepted but business, economics, international relations or any related discipline is preferable.
  • Proof of completing the GMAT, GRE or the university's Manchester Admissions Test
  • A minimum of three years of professional experience with evidence of career progression
  • Evidence of English language proficiency for any non-native speaker with the completion of any standardised English test
  • Soft skills such as communication, emotional intelligence, strength of character and the ability to work as part of a team.

Top 10 Online MBAs in the UK

Here's the complete top 10 ranking of the best online MBA programmes from UK business schools. 

Top 10 Online MBA Programs UK

UK Rank

Global Rank




Imperial College Business School



Warwick Business School



Alliance Manchester Business School



Hult International Business School



Durham University Business School



Bayes Business School



Oxford Brookes Business School



Birmingham Business School



Robert Gordon Business School (Aberdeen)



Liverpool Management School

This article was originally published in June 2018 and update

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

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