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Pre-experience postgraduate business programs in Continental Europe

Studying in Europe  
The traditional insularity of most European education systems is disintegrating in the face of economic globalisation and the Bologna Accord, which encouraged nations across Europe to systematise their approach to university education along Anglo-American lines. As a result, most countries’ bachelor’s degrees take three to four years and masters degrees one to two years. This Bologna-inspired approach has meant that students are no longer locked into their initial university for both a bachelors and masters degree. To make up for the possible loss of bachelors students (headed for a different university for a masters degree) as well as to take advantage of the opportunity to attract students from elsewhere, many universities have added masters degree programs, especially in business fields. Some have taken the opportunity to develop a substantial portfolio of master’s programs. The development of new business masters programs means that candidates are spoiled for choice. On the other hand, it is unlikely that all of the new programs will succeed, so applicants are warned to choose programs with an eye toward their viability.

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Program lengths

Continental business masters programs range from one to two years in length. Unlike in the UK, where one year is the norm, there is no continental norm, with program lengths varying according to both subject and national predilection.

Costs of business program

Business programs in Europe

The range in tuition fees is very substantial, but it is by no means as substantial as that seen at the undergraduate level. At the undergraduate level, after all, some countries still do not charge their own citizens any tuition fees, and may charge international students relatively little, too. The emerging consensus about masters programs – and especially business masters programs – however, is that they are not to enjoy (much) governmental subsidy. Thus, tuition fees tend to range from €10,000 per year upward.

French exceptionalism

Not all national education systems are entirely compatible with the Bologna Accord’s strictures. For instance, in France, the Grandes Ecoles require more than just a bachelors degree for entry. Candidates must have one of the following:
• A Grande Ecole degree
• A masters degree (requiring five years of study, inclusive of the bachelors degree)
• A postgraduate degree (more than five years of study)
• A bachelors degree with at least three years of work experience

France is unusual in another regard: many French business masters programs require an internship during the program. For instance, ESCP-EAP’s Masters in Marketing and Communication requires an in-company internship of at least four months. These positions provide the opportunity to put into practice the concepts and techniques developed on the course. Just as important, they offer companies a chance to try out a potential employee. Most schools that require such an internship provide considerable assistance in obtaining one.


Living expenses also vary hugely, but only in some southern or eastern European locations is living likely to prove less expensive than it is in Britain, North America, or Australia. 


Many universities in Europe offer scholarships for local, European, and/or international students. These are limited, however, especially those that cover the full expense of the course, so expect fierce competition for them.

National educational organisations in most European countries, especially in Western Europe, offer scholarships to encourage study in their country. Some of these scholarships are limited to citizens of European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) countries, but many are available to students from elsewhere, too. Consult the website of the national education body concerned.

The European Union also provides scholarships ( for study within member states, including scholarships for international students.

Working in Continental Europe

EU and EEA students are permitted to work during their program in most parts of the EU and EEA. International students, however, face different restrictions on a country-by-country basis. Germany, the Netherlands, and the Nordic countries are among the more liberal, allowing part-time work during the academic year.

Studying in Europe

Even though many business masters programs are taught in English, some are taught in other languages, or in a combination of English and another language. In any event, the opportunity exists for Anglophones (and others) to improve their knowledge of another language and culture, even if coursework is largely in English.

In many European educational systems, a majority of students live at home (with their parents), so there is less campus-based activity than on a typical Australian, British, or American university campus. Although this tendency to live at home is much more pronounced with undergraduates than with postgraduates, it does mean that there are a comparatively limited number of student clubs and organisations. International students, therefore, tend to form their own organisations.

Business programs in Europe


Although various national publications rank undergraduate (and even postgraduate) universities and programmes, the de facto standard for postgraduate business programmes has become The Financial Times’ rankings . For more about rankings, read our rankings article .

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Search for the perfect pre-experience postgraduate business program for you using our course search . You can search a database of programs on offer at UK and European institutions by country, subject and study mode.


In some systems, formal rankings may matter less than the divide between different types of institutions. For instance, in France, the Grandes Ecoles are part of a system that exists in parallel to the university system. The Grandes Ecoles, however, are much more prestigious – especially those in or near Paris, of course. In Germany and the Netherlands, as well as elsewhere in Europe, the divide is between universities and Fachhochschule or Hogescholen: universities are research-driven and teach from a somewhat more theoretical perspective, whereas Fachhochschule or Hogescholen (like the former English Polytechnics) emphasise teaching over research, with a highly practical orientation. In these systems, universities generally have more prestige than their more practical counterparts.


As a rough-and-ready guide to the international reputation of a country’s degrees, consider how long the country has been wealthy. Thus, northern European, French, Swiss, and Austrian programs are likely to be well regarded, Italian and Spanish programmes less so. This off-the-cuff reaction has been mitigated, though, by the advent of international rankings. The Financial Times’ ranking, noted above, has played a part. So, too, have the MBA rankings, especially those provided by The Economist and The Financial Times . As a result, Spanish universities in particular have gained in reputation (with three schools’ MBA and other business programs routinely well ranked).

Balance sheet


Country Positives Negatives


Many high-quality programs available. Some programs available only in French.
  Moderate tuition fees. Post-program work visas difficult to obtain.    
  Many government scholarships for international students.  
Germany Low tuition fees. Relatively few programs taught in English.
  Able to work during program.  
  Degrees enjoy strong international reputation.  
The Netherlands Wide range of programs available (in English). Dutch degrees generally not well-known internationally.
  Able to work during program.  
  Problem-based learning approach highly regarded.  
  Moderate tuition fees.  
Nordic countries Uniformly high-quality education. Very high cost of living.    
  Able to work during program. Some countries' degrees not well-known internationally.
  Low tuition fees.  

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