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The Best MBA Programs in Spain

The Ultimate Guide to Spain's Top MBA Programs

Written by Molly Ellison. Photo courtesy of Ángela Ojeda Heyper via Flickr.

Looking to study at one of the best full-time MBA programs in Spain? Here’s your ultimate guide! Read on to compare the country’s best MBA programs, and to get insider-tips from alumni and admissions staff.

 

5 Reasons to Get Your MBA in Spain

1. Spain’s top MBA programs have some of the most international student bodies in the world, with some being made up nearly entirely by non-Spaniards. According to a 2015 study from ESADE Business School, the country ranks #4 worldwide for attracting international MBA program students. All 3 programs featured in this guide have regional offices worldwide that build relationships with employers for recruiting. A large portion of grads stay in Europe post-MBA, too, making it a strong choice if you want to stay on the continent to pursue a career.

2. Though the Spanish economy has weakened in recent history and the country has relatively high unemployment rates, recent economic outlooks show that the economy is regaining its strength. The country’s GDP is nearly back to its pre-2008 financial crisis numbers.

3. Spain is known for its food, art, and culture, as well as its laid-back approach to life and overall livability. The country’s climate is fairly mild, rarely dipping below freezing in most places. Compared to many neighboring European countries, Spain also has a relatively low cost of living, though the major cities tend to be more expensive than other regions.

4. Many of Spain’s top business schools are concentrated in its two largest cities – Barcelona and Madrid – making the rest of the continent easily accessible via major airports. Spain is also well-connected on Europe’s rail system and is in the Schengen Zone, which simplifies travel to many neighboring countries.

5. Living and studying in Spain gives students the opportunity to learn Spanish, which can open up ample professional opportunities both in Spain and other Latin American countries. Many MBA programs offer optional language courses for students as part of elective coursework.

 

The Elevator Pitches

  • IE Business School (IE): The IE MBA has established itself as more than just a leading international program (it currently sits at #8 in the Financial Times global ranking). The program emphasizes an entrepreneurial mindset and its students are given diverse opportunities to delve into the start-up world.
    • ROI (Financial Times): #24 worldwide in 2017 for value for money.
  • IESE Business School – University of Navarra (IESE): Though the MBA is based at the school’s Barcelona campus, the school boasts four locations in three countries around the world. Its curriculum is unique among top Spanish MBA programs, as it employs the case study method. Students work with more than 600 cases by graduation. IESE was ranked #1 in Europe for salary increase in 2017 by Financial Times.
    • ROI (Financial Times): #85 worldwide in 2017 for value for money.
  • ESADE Business School – Ramon Llull University (ESADE): ESADE’s program is the most affordable of top Spanish MBAs while still boasting a high salary increase. In 2017, Financial Times also ranked it #2 in Europe for salary increase. Its customizable program length gives students the option to extend their studies post-coursework with either an internship, study abroad or both.
    • ROI (Financial Times): #62 worldwide in 2017 for value for money
  • Honorable mentions: The EADA Business School International MBA in Barcelona is only 10 months long, charges €36,000 for tuition and was included in The Economist’s top 100 programs worldwide in 2011.

 

The Logistics of Studying and Working in Spain

  • Visa – Once admitted to an MBA program in Spain, international students who are from outside of the EU must obtain a student visa. While studying in the country, you are permitted to work part-time during the school year. International students can work full-time for no more than three months during holiday periods, such as summer breaks.
  • Taxes – For Spanish residents, income taxes range from 19 percent for those making less than €12,450 annually to 45 percent for those in the top income bracket. Non-residents – generally those who live in the country for less than six months – pay a flat rate of 24 percent on all income gained in Spain. The country’s corporate tax rate is 35 percent. Smaller business are sometimes afforded tax breaks, such as a lower rate for the first €120,000 of income.
  • Geography – Madrid and Barcelona are two of Europe’s most populous cities and Spain is the continent’s second largest country in terms of geography. It’s also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world – in 2015, nearly 70 million people visited the country. Top sights to visit in the country include Bilbao in Basque Country for its culinary scene, the Mediterranean island of Ibiza for its beaches and world-famous nightlife, and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to experience its legendary architecture.

 

A Closer Look at Top Spanish MBA Programs

IE Business School (IE)

Madrid, Spain | #8 MBA worldwide, #1 in Spain (Financial Times, 2017) | Tuition: €69,200

Fast facts about IE

  • IE places a heavy focus on entrepreneurship and even builds in a module on the subject into its core curriculum. It boasts an on-campus Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, as well as an incubator space dubbed Area 31, which can host up to 100 start-ups annually.
  • The 1-year program has two intakes in January and September, and begins with a Core Period of fundamental courses, followed by the Lab Period, which allows students to customize their MBAs. Students are given the option to participate in a Business Impact Lab, Start-Up Lab, Social Impact Lab, or take part in an internship.
  • As an alternative to submitting one’s GMAT or GRE score, the program allows students to take the specialized IE Global Admissions Test. The assessment requires no preparation and focuses more on the applicant’s capacity than knowledge. It’s broken into three sections – verbal, numerical, and logic – and focuses on business instead of other subject areas as the GRE does.
  • IE’s tagline is “reinventing higher education.” The business school offers six other programs, including part-time, Executive MBA, and online MBA coursework. For the past four years, IE has been ranked as the world’s #1 online MBA program by Financial Times.

“There seem to be two types of MBAs. There is the type that aims to develop a management consultant, or a finance person. The second type of MBA is more like IE. In this MBA, you have the space and freedom to experiment, try different things, meet a wide variety of people and learn about a whole lot more than consulting or finance. You come out a different person, and hopefully along the way you figure out what you want to do. That’s IE.” –David Harley, Class of 2016

IE Student Elizabeth Freele“I was drawn to the idea of an MBA experience ‘out of the ordinary’, a program as ‘unconventional’ as me, wherein I would be immersed in as diverse and international a group of people as possible, to maximize unexpected mutual learning with program peers and to grow a new, exciting network of people from different industries and geographies. I also wanted a 1-year condensed program which was still triple accredited, and wherein I would have the flexibility to customize a large proportion of my academics. My research proved IE to be unparalleled on these points.” –Elizabeth Freele, Class of 2017

“The essays in some ways are quite unique because you’re not only asked to write written essays, but you as well can express your essay in a different way. You can upload a video on YouTube, you can make a PowerPoint presentation… it actually caters to the diverse student body… for some people, it might be much easier to express themselves in different ways than in written means.” –Dirk Hopfl, Director of IE Center Singapore

Where do IE MBA grads end up?
More than 40 percent of IE MBA grads stay in the EU, and 25 percent go to Central and South America. One-quarter of some of the program’s most recent graduates pursued careers in the tech industry. International tech powerhouses including Microsoft and Amazon are top recruiters at the school. Unlike many other top MBA programs, 38 percent pursued roles in a marketing or sales function.

 

IESE MBA LogoIESE Business School – University of Navarra (IESE)

Barcelona, Spain | #10 MBA worldwide, #2 in Spain (Financial Times, 2017) | Tuition: €83,370

Fast facts about IESE

  • Though the MBA program is housed at the school’s Barcelona campus, IESE has locations around the world in cities including Madrid, Munich, New York, and Sao Paulo. The school also offers week-long study tours to cities on four continents and international exchanges with 30 partner schools.
  • IESE’s MBA curriculum emphasizes leadership, teamwork, and career development as key components throughout the 19-month program. It also employs the case study method. Students work with more than 600 cases by the end of the MBA program.
  • During the first term of core courses, students can begin taking either intensive or business Spanish classes. Both are optional and make improving one’s language skills accessible.
  • Though IESE is the most expensive of top Spanish MBA programs, recent grads experience the highest salary increase at 133 percent, according to the Financial Times in 2017.

IESE Student 1“I decided to stay in Barcelona to participate in IESE’s Summer Entrepreneurship Experience (SEE) Program… Under the guidance of the SEE ‘Board of Directors,’ Professor Hakan Ener and Professor & Business Angel Investor Luis Martín Cabiedes, 7 teams in total spent the summer testing various business opportunities hands-on. Each week, we would meet on campus to give what many might relate to a ‘Shark Tank-like’ presentation to the Board… One of the biggest benefits of participating in the SEE Program however, was not just the direct feedback that your team received. Much of the feedback provided to other teams applied across the board, and it made for a great real-world learning experience.” –Amanda McCarthy, Class of 2017

IESE Student 2“I’ve been surprised by the approachability of professors and other school decision makers (deans, program directors, etc.) Everybody is very generous with their time, doesn’t stand on pretense or position, and wants to make sure you have your questions and concerns resolved. Professors will stay for 40 minutes after class with a throng of students around them, you’ll have a faculty mentor, a Career Services mentor, etc. People really care about you here!” –Eddy Zakes, Class of 2017

“So in our admissions process, we have an additional step, which is an assessment day… Assessment day is a day where we invite shortlisted candidates, often the candidates who have already been interviewed who we like, but we want them to come and spend some more time with us… We spend a day with them doing different things – there’s no preparation required. You just have to be yourself. But, we like to look at how they’re now behaving in a group setting. How they are able to communicate with one another… Often we are also trying to compare some strong candidates because if we’re going to offer scholarships to a few of them, then it’s much better to see them all in the same room and it becomes quite clear who is the better person.” –Anjaney Borwankar, Advisor for Southeast Asia and India

Where do IESE MBA grads end up?
IESE is a consulting powerhouse, with nearly one-third of some recent graduates pursuing careers in the industry. Of all the top MBA programs in Spain, it also sends the largest portion of its recent cohort to work in the United Kingdom – 23 percent landed jobs in the country. The majority of students – 62 percent – accepted post-grad offers that were facilitated by the school’s career services center.

 

ESADE Business School – Ramon Llull University (ESADE)

Barcelona | #17 MBA worldwide, #3 in Spain (Financial Times, 2017) | Tuition: €62,700

Fast facts about ESADE

  • ESADE is the most affordable of Spain’s top MBA programs and also boasts a strong ROI, with recent grads boasting a 116 percent salary increase. The school was also ranked the #3 MBA in Europe for salary increase by Financial Times in 2017.
  • After completing core coursework, students complete a Master Project that can take a variety of formats. They can either develop a business plan, conduct a thesis, or do an in-company project. This experience, in addition to abundant elective offerings, give students the opportunity to customize their MBAs to their interests.
  • Students can either complete the program in 12, 15 or 18 months. After 12 months, they are given the option to extend their time by adding on either an internship or international exchange – or, both.
  • Candidates interested in Asian markets can complete a dual MBA through ESADE’s partnership with Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management in Beijing.

ESADE Student Anna Bernado“I joined the marketing and innovation labs here at ESADE. I think that both labs give me an inside perspective of the market. For example, in the case of the marketing lab, it’s a perfect bridge to the industry. We have experts coming here and talking about a B2B workshop on sales, or we even had a digital marketing talk. We are going to have a trek to Shanghai to visit the latest trends and marketing companies. So, this is extremely interesting. On the other hand, I also joined the innovation lab. I think that is something that ESADE is taking the lead on in Europe. We’re visiting small, strategic consulting firms that can give you an inside value. I would say innovation is something that is evolving really quickly and ESADE is on top of that.” –Anna Bernadó, Class of 2016

“We’re looking for people who have made a strong progress in their professional career. Not necessarily people who have gotten promoted every single year of their career, but we see them taking on increasing responsibilities and increasing challenges… I would encourage people who have a lesser amount of work experience to simply ask themselves the question if this is an ideal time for them to get an MBA.” –Keegan Pierce, former Associate Director of Global Admissions and current adjunct professor of sports management

Where do ESADE MBA grads end up?
Close to half of ESADE’s Class of 2015 stayed in Europe post-graduation, though nearly one-third moved to Asia. Twenty-nine percent pursued career functions in marketing and sales, and 28 percent in consulting. Thirty percent of graduates worked in industry and manufacturing.

 

What’s Next?

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Want a comprehensive picture of Spain’s leading MBA programs? Read below for a head-to-head comparison of schools with detailed info on admissions, curricula, job placements and more.

Head to Head

IE MBA vs. IESE MBA vs. ESADE MBA

Last updated August 2017

 IEIESEESADE
Degrees OfferedInternational MBAMBA

Bilingual MBA
MBA

Multinational MBA
Class Size560350190
GMAT (avg.)670690660
Age (avg.)2928.528.7
Work exp. (avg.)55.25.5
Class makeup (No. Nationalities)70 (90% international students)60+ (84% international students)48 (94% international students)
Start DateSeptember, JanuarySeptemberSeptember
Length12 months19 months12, 15 or 18 months
RANKINGS
Financial Times 2017 (2016, 2015)8 (11, 12)10 (16, 7)17 (23, 19)
The Economist 2016 (2015)16 (17)8 (14)54 (21)
Bloomberg Businessweek 2016 (2015)6 (4)5 (7)12 (11)
Notable Rankings#1 MBA for entrepreneurship in Europe, #8 Worldwide by Financial Times 2017

#5 MBA in Europe and #1 in Spain for employability by QS World Report 2017
#1 program in Europe for salary increase by Financial Times 2017

#1 MBA in Spain, #4 employer score among global MBAs by Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2016
#3 program in Europe for salary increase by Financial Times 2017
ADMISSIONS
RequirementsBachelor's degree or equivalent

3+ years of work experience

GMAT, GRE or IE Global score

English language fluency
Bachelor's degree or equivalent

2+ years of work experience recommended

GMAT/GRE score

English language fluency
Bachelor's degree or equivalent

2+ years of work experience

GMAT/GRE score

English language fluency
DeadlinesRollingRound 1 - 17 October, 2017

Round 2 - 9 January, 2018

Round 3 - 6 March, 2018

Round 4 (final) - 24 April, 2018
Round 1 - 3 October, 2017

Round 2 - 28 November, 2017

Round 3 - 16 January, 2018

Round 4 - 13 February, 2018

Round 5 - 6 March, 2018

Round 6 - 10 April, 2018

Round 7 - 22 May, 2018

Round 8 - 3 July, 2018*

*Only for EU residents and depends on spaces left in the program
Application Fee€125$200€135
Tuition

*International student fees
€69,200€83,370€62,700
Est. Annual Living Costs

*For a single person
€15,240*

*Calculated using IE estimates
€25,200€27,600
Application MaterialsOnline application

Proof of English fluency (>100 TOEFL, >7.0 IELTS, >C1 Cambridge, >73 Pearson Academic)

GMAT, GRE or IE Global score

3 essays

2 letters of recommenation

Resume/CV

Copy of passport

Official transcripts and diploma from past degrees/studies

Photograph
Online application

Proof of English fluency

GMAT/GRE score

1 essay

2 letters of recommenation

Resume/CV

Official transcripts from past degrees/studies

Photograph
Online application

Proof of English fluency (>100 IBT TOEFL, >250 CBT TOEFL, >7.0 IELTS, Proficient - Cambridge, >68 Pearson Academic)

GMAT/GRE score

4 essays

2 letters of recommenation

Official transcripts from past degrees/studies

Photograph

Copy of passport or EU ID card
International OpportunitiesStudents can participate in both short- and long-term international study exchanges, as well as week-long global networking meetings.

Week-long, social innovation treks are hosted in South Africa, Peru, and Brazil.
Overseas, week-long modules in Sao Paulo, New York, Shanghai and Nairobi.

IESE has additional campuses in Madrid, Nairobi, Sao Paulo, New York, and Shanghai.

International exchange opportunities with 30 partner schools around the world.
Global study tours are offered in a range of countries every year.

Students can complete a dual MBA with Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management.

International exchanges are offered with more than 45 partner schools around the world.
Scholarships€4 million in scholarship and fellowship awards for students; 40% of applicants are given financial assistance.The school awards up to €16.5 million in financial aid and scholarships annually.

MBA applicants should submit a scholarship essay with their applications. Awards are announced by 30 June at the latest.
Offers both merit- and need-based scholarships that cover up to 50% of the program's tuition costs.
Location

Facts about location
Madrid

Madrid is Spain's most populous city, the country's capital, and was founded in the 9th century A.D.
Barcelona

The city is located on the Mediterranean coast and is in the autonomous region of Catalonia, where many residents speak Catalan instead of Spanish.
Barcelona

The city is a major cultural hub for Spain and is home to world-renowned architecture, such as La Sagrada Familia.
PROGRAM
Core Curriculum
Core Period consists of courses categorized as follows:

1. Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Entrepreneurial Mindset

Entrepreneurial Venturing

2. Mastering Business Fundamentals
Financial Accounting

Managerial Economics

Managerial Decision Making

Managerial Accounting

Corporate Finance

3. Integrating General Management Perspectives

Marketing Management

Leading People & Teams

Strategy

Operations Management

4. Thinking Beyond Business

Innovation in a Digital World

Critical Management Thinking

Business, Government & Society
The 24 core courses include:

Financial Accounting

Capital Markets

Decision Analysis

Managerial Accounting

Operational Finance

Operations Management

Corporate Finance

Quantitative Methods for Management

Marketing Management

Analysis of Business Problems

Marketing, Planning and Implementation

Competitive Strategy

Operations Strategy

Global Economics

International Management

Transforming Organizations and Markets with ICTs

Fundamentals of Entrepreneurial Management

Leadership

Communication

Teambuilding 1

Business Ethics

Managing Oneself

Teambuilding 2

Teambuilding 3
1st Term - Understanding the Context

Introduction to General Management:
Communications Skills

Competitive Strategy

Leadership & Organizational Behaviour

International Business Analytics:
Business Analytics and Decision Making

Accounting

Global Context:
Business, Government and Society

Economics

2nd Term - Making Decisions
Competitive Strategy:
Corporate Strategy

How to Compete - Operational Decisions:
Finance

Marketing Planning Implementation

Marketing Strategy

Operations

Organizing Human Resources

Entrepreneurship and Innovation:
Innovation

3rd Term - Executive Strategyand Managing Growth
Leading Change:
Leading Change

Managing Ethics and Social Responsibility

Valuation & Corporate Finance Transactions

Executing the Strategy:
Business Simulation

Marketing Analytics

Information Systems

Entrepreneurship and Innovation:
Entrepreneurship

3rd Term - Executive Strategy and Managing Growth
Leading Change:
Leading Change
ElectivesLab Period allows students to participate in one of the following:

Business Impact Lab

Start-Up Lab

Social Impact Lab

IMBA in Practice (internship)

Elective Period
150 elective course options
More than 100 elective courses offered

Intensive conversational and business Spanish courses
Students take eight elective courses chosen from a wide set of offerings.

Students complete a Master Project, which can either be a business plan, master thesis, or in-company project.
ConcentrationsN/AN/AN/A
CAREERS2015-2016 GraduatesClass of 2015Class of 2015
Placement w/in 3 months89%90%83%
Average Salary (Sign-On Bonus)€75,846€115,943€61,008
Salary Increase (Financial Times, 2017)108%133%116%
Top Geographies42% Europe (EU)
25% Central and South America
11% North America
10% Middle East and Africa
9% Asia Pacific
3% Europe (non-EU)
1% Oceania
38% Europe (EU)
23% UK
18% Asia Pacific
14% South and Central America
4% North America
3% Africa
44% Europe
28% Asia
12% Latin America
10% North America
6% Middle East
Top Industries25% Technology
19% Consulting
19% Financial Services
10% Consumer Goods
7% Manufacturing
5% Healthcare
4% Petroleum/Energy
3% Media/Entertainment
3% Real Estate
2% Government/NGO
2% Transportation
2% Other
29% Consulting
22% Finance
19% Technology
14% Other
9% Consumer Goods and Retail
7% Healthcare
30% Industry and Manufacturing
23% Consulting Services
20% Technology
16% General Services
11% Financial Services
Top Functions38% Marketing/Sales
18% Consulting
16% Finance/Accounting
12% General Management
10% Operations/Logistics
3% Information Technology
2% Other
31% Consulting
21% Finance
12% General Management
12% MBA Rotational Program
8% Sales and Business Development
4% Marketing
4% Project Management
4% Corporate Strategy
2.3% Operations and Logistics
0.9% Information Technology
0.4% Planning and Accounting
0.4% Product Development
29% Marketing/Sales
28% Consulting
16% Management
14% Finance
7% Operations/Logistics/Production
6% Other
Company Score
(How many Top 10 Most Desired MBA Employers Recruit from School - McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Deloitte, Disney)

(How many Top 50 Most Desired Employers for Business Grads Recruit from School)
6*

17*

*Includes top employers and companies that visited campus talent forums
7

27
5*

14*

*Taken from list of companies that visited campus talent forums
Alumni55,000+ alumni in more than 100 countries.45,000+ alumni representing 108 nationalities, as well as 33 regional alumni association chapters.56,000+ alumni with 32 alumni chapters worldwide.

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