France | TopMBA

A quarter of respondents to the QS Applicant Survey 2014  have an MBA in France in their sights – second only to the UK in Europe, and fourth in the world overall. 

While this guide considers the country as a whole, you may also find our separate MBA in Paris guide of use, if you have your heart set on the French capital.

INSEAD held the crown of Europe’s top-ranked school for more than a decade in the QS’s regional MBA rankings, but the school now sits just behind London Business School in the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report 2014/15. However, both are generally considered a cut above their European peers and the equal of any prestigious US school.

Including INSEAD, there are a total of nine business schools in France featured in the latest Global 200, from a total European count of 65. For quantity of options, therefore, France is second only to the UK (in Europe) once more, and ahead of the representatives from both Spain and Germany.




Top business schools in France 2014/15

This year’s top five business schools in France, based on the opinions of international employers and academics in the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report 2014/15 are shown below:

INSEAD: The first MBA in France, launched at INSEAD in 1957, was also Europe’s first. It was also the first ever one-year program, arriving just three months after the Treaty of Rome, which was to establish the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner to the EC and today’s EU.

HEC Paris: Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris – more commonly known as HEC Paris – is one of France’s prestigious grand écoles and part of the ParisTech group of universities. French president, François Hollande, attended the school.

ESSEC Business School: Another grand école with headquarters at Cergy (30 km west of Paris) as well as a presence within the capital at La Défense. ESSEC was the first French business school to receive AACSB accreditation, in 1997.

Grenoble Graduate School of Business: The international and postgraduate orientated arm of Grenoble École de Management, founded in 1984 and based in the southeastern French city of Grenoble, where it is conveniently located next to one of France’s 12 World Trade Centers.

EDHEC Business School: A grand école based in Lille, close to France’s northern border to Belgium that also has compatriot campuses in both Paris and Nice – the southeastern coastal city (France’s fifth most populous city) from which its full-time MBA program is delivered.


ESSEC Business School

Careers and MBA jobs in France

There are a wide range of career options open to graduates of an MBA in France who wish to remain and take up MBA jobs within the country. France, along with Spain and Germany, is one of a number of European nations that sits just behind the UK for the number of established MBA employers in the market.

Although France does not currently make the top-10 nations for its total number of MBA jobs (a table led by the far more populous nations of the US, India and China), employers reported a 6% growth in France’s market for MBA jobs in 2014, in spite of the losses seen during another difficult year for its neighbors in Southern European, Spain and Italy.

The MBA in France and ROI

All members of the current top-five business schools in France (see previous tab) were included in the sample for a new research report into the return on investment (ROI) students receive from a full-time MBA in Europe.

  • Access the report in full here.

In the report, business schools in France compared favorably to their European counterparts with the average time taken by graduates to pay back both tuition fees and salary foregone during their full-time study coming in at 28 months, and 2 months ahead of the regional average. France also came out higher than Europe’s average across a 20-year estimation of the difference in earnings accrued by MBA graduates, in comparison to those of comparable stature without the degree.  

Of course, those studying an MBA in France are seldom constrained to taking MBA jobs within the country but, for those who do, the average MBA salary levels on offer are currently the sixth highest in the world (at US$89,900). Two of its schools in particular (HEC Paris and INSEAD) have two of the biggest MBA salary averages (outside of Switzerland), and well in excess of US$100,000. 

Eligibility for international students to study in France 

International students with nationalities outside of the EU will often require a visa, as well as a residence card, to study in France for longer than six months.

There are four types of visa available to students in France – however, the most pertinent for full-time MBA students is the ‘long-stay’ visa (for those who wish to study in France for longer than six months). You might need a ‘student-examination’ visa first, which allows applicants to attend any required exams or admissions interviews. This turns into a ‘long-stay’ visa should an applicant successfully win a place and enroll in a program or degree).

A one-year residence card – which can be renewed – is a requirement to remain in France for longer than six months, regardless of the visa a student has acquired. A residence card must have been obtained within two months of an individual’s arrival to study in France, but some institutions are known to submit applications on behalf of students – once they have been admitted onto their programs. 

For US applicants, there is step-by-step guide to the student visa application process available from Campus France. For those travelling from elsewhere to study in France, please consider the following resources on visas and residence cards.


EDHEC Business School students


Scholarships and financial aid

Individual business schools in France will each have their own resources in terms of fellowships and scholarships available to assist prospective students with funding, and to attract talented students to its doors – no matter what their backgrounds and financial circumstances might be.

In this instance, it’s worth visiting the websites of your target schools to see what’s on offer as part of your pre-application MBA program research. 

In addition, QS itself has a range of MBA scholarships for applicants – some of which are offered in partnership with particular schools. More information on this can be found here.

You could also head along to an admissions event, such as the QS World MBA Tour, when it comes to a city convenient to you and discuss any practicalities that are particular to your circumstances directly with school representatives in attendance – although if it’s something you can find online, use your time more wisely!

Fast Facts

  • Region: Europe
  • Capital: Paris
  • Currency: Euro (EUR), €
  • Borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Andorra and Monaco
  • International dialing code: +33
  • Uses Central European Time (UCT+1), shifting to Daylight Savings Time (UTC+2)