Online MBA School Choice: Warwick Business School Vs. IE Business School

Both are leading academic institutions but which school should you choose?

The Online MBA programs at the UK’s Warwick Business School and IE Business School in Spain share many similarities, and they are both highly regarded. However, there are important differences between them that potential students should consider.

Warwick Vs. IE: Online MBA ranking and price

On rankings, Warwick has historically been the stronger performer. Warwick has consistently topped the Financial Times’ influential global ranking of the best Online MBAs, which is based partly on total remuneration and salary increases of students after graduation. Most recently, IE was ranked second by the FT. In other rankings, the script is flipped. QS ranks IE as the best, with Warwick in third place globally.

There is a difference in the price point, with Warwick the cheaper option. The tuition fees for Warwick’s course are £34,150 compared with €51,200 (£44,000) at IE. Both institutions offer scholarships to offset the cost of their Online MBAs.

Warwick Vs. IE: Online MBA program comparison

Warwick’s Online MBA is a two-year, part-time program with eight required modules, then a choice of four electives followed by a dissertation. Each of the 12 modules takes approximately 100 hours to complete, which typically includes 27 hours of live teaching and the remainder made up of guided online and completely independent study. There are also periodic residential modules at Warwick’s campus in the UK.

IE’s program is highly customizable. The program’s shortest version will last 17 months or can be extended to 24 months. It’s a blended course that combines online sessions with face-to-face residential periods. “We put a lot of emphasis on developing leadership skills in physical and digital environments,” says Ignacio Gafo, associate dean of global and executive MBA programs at IE Business School.

The online sessions consist of seven modules over three periods. Combining real-time virtual conferences and asynchronous forums, students engage in group discussions in a dynamic educational environment of diverse, international peers.  

“The pedagogy is not based on self-paced materials, but on discussions that are well structured and managed directly by our faculty,” says Gafo. “We also place a lot of emphasis on decision making and the practical application of the content.”

Warwick Vs. IE: Online MBA teaching

An important characteristic of the Warwick course is that it’s led entirely by faculty from the school, which helps students greatly by ensuring the highest teaching standards.

Also, the online curriculum is exactly the same as the syllabus in the full-time and executive MBA programs at Warwick. This means online students have the same volume of study and are marked in the same way as their counterparts on campus are.

“They all have a Warwick MBA on their graduation certificate, with no reference to the way they studied,” says Pietro Micheli, course director of the Distance Learning MBA at Warwick.

The school has also invested heavily in teaching technology, he says. “We now have two film studios and are 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.”

IE has also made substantial investments in education technology, including the WOW Room, which allows students to connect and collaborate wherever they are. It’s a virtual classroom for online students with 48 TV screens on a curved wall on the school’s Madrid campus.

Warwick Vs. IE: Admissions and culture

Current Warwick Online MBA student, Carla Priddon, says she chose the course because of Warwick’s triple-accreditation status and the fact that the MBA is ranked as the best in the world by some publications. “I did not apply to any other schools, WBS was my first and only choice. Had I not been accepted; I did not wish to go anywhere else.”

The diversity of the class was also a key selling point with technology expanding Warwick’s global reach. “My cohort of 200 was made up of nearly 100 nationalities,” says Priddon, who is CEO of The Way Youth Zone, a charity in the UK. “I believe this open-access allows for genuine learning and sharing, and means the program truly is a global MBA.”

IE’s cohort is also global, with 50 different nationalities represented with an average age of 33 and a minimum of three years of professional experience. The admissions process at IE is extensive and consists of an online application form, an online assessment, an entrance exam, a personal interview and then the final decision. The selection process at Warwick is also rigorous and features similar components.

Warwick Vs. IE: Online MBA career outcomes

On career outcomes, Warwick is the clear leader, with its students achieving a hefty $207,725 average salary three years after graduation, a 35 percent increase on their pre-MBA pay. Warwick was also ranked first for career progress and 79 percent of its students achieved their aims with the MBA.

Micheli says the school offers extensive coaching and support to help students with their personal and professional development. “Students go through different assessments and are paired with career coaches that orientate and support students in defining and executing their professional goals.”

At IE, the average salary achieved by alumni three years out was $164,578, a 32 percent increase on their pay before the MBA. The school also has a talent and careers department that provides extensive support including a 360 degree profile evaluation to prepare students for interviews, psychometric testing and networking exercises.

In making a choice between institutions, Gafo recommends that prospective students consider a wide range of factors: the training you are getting on interpersonal skills, the quality of the network, the pedagogy in place, the student services provided, the flexibility you can get, and the academic rigor. “Speaking to people that have already taken the program can be of great help,” he says.

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