Now that you’ve decided on an MBA, the next question is where you should go. The world of business is interconnected, so international education can be the primary vehicle to launching a successful international career.
By doing your MBA abroad, you expose yourself to a diversity of cultures and business practices, widening your horizon, expanding your network and gaining advantage when applying for that dream job. Although the whole world is within your reach, there are many reasons why Belgium should be at the top of your list.
Situated at the continent’s crossroads, Belgium is the business and political hub of Europe. It houses the EU institutions, NATO and a plethora of multinational corporations, as well as countless government and non-government organisations. Its capital, Brussels, is home to 180 nationalities and 108 different languages and more than half of its residents were born non-Belgian, making the city the perfect destination for a truly international study experience.
Best of the best
Belgium is known for placing emphasis on high-quality education and its universities consistently rank as some of the most innovative in Europe and around the world. Due to proximity to the international institutions and easy access to neighbouring countries, MBA programmes focus on applying theory to practice, providing a platform to build a successful career with access to a vast professional network. The country is also one of the more affordable to live in, with a low unemployment rate and plenty of possibilities for finding a job after graduation.
When selecting a school, you should always ensure it is recognised internationally. There are a number of schools offering MBA programmes in Belgium, but not all are accredited worldwide. The accreditation means that the programme meets high quality standards set out by an external auditor. When choosing the right school, there are three certifications you should pay attention to: the European EQUIS, the British AMBA and the American AACSB. The best schools will hold all three.
Another important aspect is how the school ranks internationally. The most trusted ranking in the world is published annually by the Financial Times and the highest ranked MBA school in Belgium is Vlerick. The school, associated with the University in Leuven, though based in Brussels, is widely perceived as one of the best in Europe, thanks in no small part to its innovative programming. It is also the most popular in the country, boasting an alumni network of more than 21,000.
Finally, keep in mind how much time you actually want to spend in the classroom. Most MBA schools these days offer full-time trajectories, but an increasing number is also catering to people who want to remain in their job with an Executive MBA programme that is designed to meet the needs of working professionals.
Made for you
The traditional, full-time programme is geared towards people taking a break from professional life. In Belgium, it usually lasts a year, with classes during the day, evening and sometimes on the weekends. In addition to lectures, the programme at Vlerick, for example, features international seminars, corporate lectures and visits to various companies and institutions. It also offers in-depth, hands-on experience, putting you in charge of developing strategies for real companies, NGOs and start-ups. Needless to say, a full-time MBA is an intense – but highly rewarding – experience that requires full commitment throughout its duration.
Responding to the demands of the job market, increasingly more schools have begun offering the Executive MBA, or EMBA, programme. Unlike the full-time trajectory, this one is designed to work around your professional schedule and give you enough free time to maintain a healthy work-life balance. During the 18 months at Vlerick, for instance, you attend the programme for two days every three weeks at the Brussels or Ghent campuses. But you also get to travel abroad – spending one week in either China or South Africa, four days in Ireland and one week in the US.
When choosing between full-time and executive programmes, it’s important to figure out what’s best for you. If you can afford to take time off work and want to be done with your studies as soon as possible, then the full-time trajectory is your best bet. In fact, this type of MBA is seen as the strongest launching point to a new career. The EMBA, on the other hand, is best suited for people who either have already had leadership experience, want to advance in their company or would like to apply what they learn in school in their business right away. At Vlerick, for example, the EMBA includes the Knowledge-In-Action Project where you assess your existing employer using actual data and real cases. Because of its focus on practical experience and flexible schedule, today, more than half of all people pursuing an MBA degree do so through the EMBA programme.