Best online MBA programmes: Europe’s most prestigious vs the US’s most affordable

best online MBA programmes
The best online MBA programmes combine flexibility, quality, financial aid, scholarships and more.

Famous billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The more you learn, the more you earn.” These words could not be more true, especially for those with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in hand. 

In 2022, MBA graduates earned an average starting salary of US$115,000, which was 53% higher than those with a bachelor’s degree. 

The best online MBA programmes let us achieve this high earning potential without leaving home and our families.

Previously, e-degrees were criticised for lacking interactivity. That’s no longer the case —  business schools have made significant investments in enhancing their online learning platforms since.

While it may not fully replicate the experience of studying on campus, advancements like virtual reality and holograms are bringing us closer to recreating the vibrant atmosphere of a physical classroom.

Interest in online MBAs remains strong, with many schools reporting increased application numbers since the lockdown period.

8 best online MBA programmes offered by top business schools in Europe

1. ESMT Berlin

ESMT Berlin is recognised as Germany’s top business school, offering a personalised approach to management education. The school specialises in innovation, technology management, leadership, and analytics within the global market. 

It offers a range of MBA programmes, including Full-Time, Part-Time, Executive, and Global Online, which enable career changes and promotions and cater to many ambitions — even those who can’t leave home.

ESMT Berlin’s Global Online MBA is as flexible as it’s immersive. It’s 100% online and can be completed in 24 months — fitting it around their life and work schedules.

Modules cover finance, marketing, strategy, operations, and leadership.

What makes it one of the best online MBA programmes is it’s experiential, despite its remote nature. Students engage in real connections and meaningful networking.

“What surprised me the most is the community that you get to build with an online programme, especially at ESMT. They have done a really good job giving us tasks and assignments that are very group-oriented,” said student Patrick Gall.

It can also take your career to another country. “The Global Online MBA helped me to be more confident to move to Germany and start a new position. I have a lot of good role models in my classmates who do business in different countries,” said graduate Ayaka Nogaku.

In 2022, in partnership with BMW Group, the school launched a programme offering up to 10 women displaced from Ukraine the opportunity to join the Global Online MBA. The goal of this fellowship was to enable recipients to develop the skills and competencies required to contribute to Ukraine’s economic redevelopment.

Collaborating with BMW Group again, ESMT is providing 10 full-tuition scholarships for the ESMT Global Online MBA programme

“After the successful start with the BMW Group Fellowship for Ukraine last year, I am beyond delighted that we are again partnering with the ESMT Berlin to support the professional future of the next generation,” says Ilka Horstmeier, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, People and Real Estate, and Labour Relations Director.

online MBA programmes

The best online MBA programmes make you feel like you’re on campus without sacrificing your life and work commitments. Source: AFP

2. IE Business School

IE Business School, based in Madrid, has established itself as one of Europe’s top institutions, known for its comprehensive business courses and expertise in entrepreneurship. The IE Business School achieved the highest rankings in two categories, employability and faculty and teaching, outperforming all other programmes. 

According to QS, 45% of the graduates from IE Business School’s Online MBA programme received promotions within a year after graduating, and 11% started their own companies. 

However, what consistently attracts students to IE’s Global Online MBA is its strong emphasis on diversity and sustainability. The school recognises that today’s applicants consider not only educational and career goals but also personal values when choosing a business school programme.

The programme attracts many students every year as it offers flexibility, which is perfect for those working and with other commitments and responsibilities. 

best online MBA programmes

With the best online MBA programmes, you can study from anywhere in the world without sacrificing quality. Source: AFP

3. Warwick Business School

The Financial Times has recognised the Warwick Distance Learning MBA as one of the top-ranked programmes worldwide. This distance learning MBA was one of the pioneers in its field, having been around for around 30 years. Despite its experience, the UK-based institution continuously strives for improvement. 

This has resulted in many achievements, including graduates of the programme typically experiencing a salary increase of 35% within three years after completing their MBA.

Given the impressive outcomes, it is evident that Warwick University dedicates significant time, effort, and resources to its online offerings. 

The institution’s investment in technology is evident in the exceptional facilities provided to students. These include an e-learning department equipped with two film studios for recording lectures, interviews, webinars, and discussions.

While achieving high rankings is essential, those who reap the rewards of Warwick’s online learning are the students themselves. Students are able to engage in lectures in real-time and speak directly to guest speakers and professors. Lessons are also archived for those who were not able to attend lessons. 

best online MBA programmes

Some of the best online MBA programmes take you to the world’s most exciting cities for a week or two. Source: AFP

4. Imperial College Business School

Imperial College Business School, located in London, has the esteemed “triple crown” accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).

Being a part of one of the world’s most innovative and dynamic universities, recognised globally for its contributions to STEM fields, Imperial College has consistently integrated technology and business education, shaping its teaching methods throughout its history.

The university’s Global Online MBA is ranked #2 in the UK and #3 in the world (Financial Times Online MBA 2022). 

During induction week and your Capstone module, you’ll meet your class and faculty on campus in London. You can join electives offered in international locations too.

Spanning 21, 24 or 32 months, it’s delivered through “The Hub,” an online learning platform created by the school’s EdTech Lab.

The platform ensures connectivity among students, tutors, and peers, allowing access from any location and device. 

online MBA programmes

The best online MBA programmes are perfect for working adults with commitments and responsibilities. Source: AFP

5. POLIMI Graduate School of Management

POLIMI Graduate School of Management is a prestigious institution that provides an advanced curriculum that prepares students to excel in today’s fast-paced business environment. The programme utilises a flexible and interactive online learning platform, allowing students to participate in collaborative discussions actively, analyse case studies, and engage in real-world simulations. 

There’s a strong emphasis on innovation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, ensuring that graduates possess the necessary tools to navigate complex business challenges and drive impactful change within their organisations.

It has established itself as the leading institution in Italy for online learning. The school has prioritised digital learning methods, granting students the freedom to choose when and how they access course materials from any location worldwide, using any device.

6. Alliance Manchester Business School

The Alliance Manchester Business School is a globally renowned institution known for its innovative curriculum. The programme uses an engaging and interactive online platform where students actively participate in live discussions, collaborative projects, and immersive simulations, enabling them to apply their knowledge to real-world business scenarios.

Its remarkable diversity makes the Alliance Manchester Business School Global Part-time MBA unique. The business school boasts an extensive international alumni network consisting of 60,000 former students from 176 countries. This vast community offers endless opportunities for networking and collaboration.

The Global Part-time MBA by Alliance Manchester is specifically designed for experienced professionals from various industries.

It incorporates 50% face-to-face teaching. This blended-learning format provides students access to workshop residentials alongside online content, enhancing their learning experience.

7. Durham University Business School

Ranked #3 in the UK and #8 in the world (Financial Times Online MBA Ranking 2023), the Durham University Business School Online MBA is designed with flexibility in mind.

Sophie Atkinson, Senior Commissioned Officer of the UK Armed Forces, says: “Without hesitation, undertaking the Durham MBA (Online) is one of the best decisions I have made. As expected, it is an academically rigorous course which demands commitment. It’s also excellent at ensuring the practical application of business knowledge and skills.

The programme offers students the choice to study entirely online or participate in on-campus components, allowing for maximum freedom and adaptability.

With the guiding principle of flexibility, the programme also provides students with the option to select from various elective modules that align with their specific career objectives. The digital nature of the programme enables it to attract students from around the world.

As highlighted by Chris Williams, the Director of the Durham Online MBA: “The Online MBA at Durham allows students to pursue their studies from any location on the globe.”

best online MBA programmes

EAE Business School has campuses in Barcelona and Madrid, cities that are home to vibrant culture and outstanding institutions, like The Prado Museum. Source: AFP

8. EAE Business School

EAE Business School in Madrid provides an Online MBA programme designed to offer professionals a comprehensive and flexible learning experience while they continue their careers or manage other commitments.

It stands out for being third globally based on the number of entrepreneurs, according to Bloomberg Business Week.

Online digital resources and tools are combined and complemented with face-to-face sessions held on the EAE campuses in Barcelona and Madrid. These take the form:

  • four individualised counselling sessions or one-hour one-on-one tutorial sessions
  • explanatory masterclasses
  • experiential workshops
best online MBA programmes

Some MBA programmes can cost up to US$230,100, but you won’t have to break the bank to earn your degree at these universities. Source: Northeastern State University Facebook

8 affordable online MBA programmes from the US

Europe aside, you might be considering looking into programmes available in the US. However, if you’re put off by the rising US dollar, don’t worry because these universities have something more affordable for your picking.

1. Northeastern State University

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$251

Total credits: 36

Accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programmes (ACBSP), NSU’s online MBA is noted to be one of the Best Value Online MBA Programmes by’s 2024 Guide.

2. Georgia Southwestern State University

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$257

Total credits: 30

GSW’s online MBA is accredited by the AACSB and focuses on reinforcing strong values, ethics, and service to its students while acknowledging the multicultural influences driving today’s market.

3. Fitchburg State University

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$275

Total credits: 30

All MBA programmes at Fitchburg State University are accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). The university offers concentrations in accounting, business analytics management, finance, healthcare management, human resource management, management, marketing, and supply chain management.

4. Eastern New Mexico University

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$297.25

Total credits: 30

ENMU’s online MBA programmes are accredited by ACBSP. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks it among the fastest-growing master’s-level universities in the nation.

best online MBA programmes

In addition to the MBA, MSU’s students can pursue a graduate certificate to focus and enhance their MBA. Source: Missouri State University Facebook

5. Missouri State University

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$309

Total credits: 33

Aside from being accredited by AACSB, Missouri State’s online MBA programme is also a member of the Graduate Business Curriculum Roundtable (formerly the MBA Roundtable), a global association of business schools advancing graduate business education through curricular and co-curricular innovation.

6. University of the Cumberlands

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$315

Total credits: 37

Programmes at the Hutton School of Business at the University of the Cumberlands are accredited by the IACBE. The online MBA programme is noted by to be the most affordable master’s degree programme of 2023.

7. Sam Houston State University

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$320

Total credits: 36

Sam Houston State University’s online MBA programme is accredited by AACSB. Concentrations in economics, finance, human resource management, management, project management, real estate, and supply chain management are offered here.

8. University of Central Arkansas

Estimated cost per credit hour: US$325

Total credits: 30

Accredited by the AACSB, UCA’s online MBA programme is one of College Consensus‘s best one-year online MBA programmes for 2024. In addition to the general MBA, they offer concentrations in finance, healthcare administration, information management, international business, and a graduate certificate in data analytics that can be completed alongside the MBA programme.

Disclaimer: This article was last updated on June 7, 2024.