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European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD

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Which school is the best option?

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European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Mar 2016, 15:46
Hey guys, I always loved reading arguments on School choice, and I thought by the time I reached the stage I'm in now, I wouldn't have much trouble deciding. Well, I thought wrong!

The thing is: I've been accepted at Oxford/Said, Cambridge/Judge, and HEC Paris. I'm still waiting on a decision on INSEAD, which comes out March, 18th.
And I'd love your help in deciding among them!

I had the amazing opportunity to visit all their campi, and speak to alumni, admissions staff and attend interviews, which I guess put me on a position of an "informed" applicant.

My background is in IB-M&A, having worked in a large bank and smaller boutiques (5 years WE). I'm planning on making a move to general management (Industry), but I would also like to be well placed if I change my mind and decide to do Consulting instead. I intend to stay in Europe after the program (hence my choice of schools).

So, whack away at my 3 options (Said/Judge/HEC), and if you can, please provide your opinion: if also accepted at INSEAD, should I attend it above your main pick among the other 3?

Current thoughts:

Oxford/Said
Pros
- Nicest feeling overall. The culture is great, and there is an enormous range of cultural activities (it seems that a little more than Cambridge). Also, the city is the largest among the options.
- Brand recognition is arguably the best (together with Cambridge). After 5 years, the Oxbridge name in your CV will stand out much more than INSEAD, specially when you experience starts dwarfing the school in which you studied your MBA.
- Nice building and structure
- Good in-campus recruiting (MBB, Large multinationals)
Cons
- It is the lowest on ranking positions.
- It has the overall lowest salaries post grad and 5-year out (Forbes)
- More expensive (Tuition and GBP)

Cambridge/Judge
Pros
- Good placement (MBB/IBs/Large Multinationals)
- 2 different-scoped projects during the Program (VCP and GCP), besides the internship.
- A lot of tech related activities going on in the Silicon Fen
Cons
- Small MBA building. Not so much structure.
- Location (see below).
- It seems much more science-heavy culture. It is a Con for me, because I'm an engineer, so I already have that foundation, and would prefer to develop the humanities side.
- More expensive (Tuition and GBP)

HEC Paris
Pros
- Greater internship period, and a slightly larger duration overall thus not affecting the quality of other activities.
- Great Specializations (Bundled electives)
- Brand recognition. In France, for Industry, it is the most respected school, period.
Cons
- The careers office seems a little weak. There isn't much in-campus recruiting specific for MBAs. That shows on the non existing placement on Bain and BCG last year, as well as on the larger IBs.
- It is the least transparent in their Employment Report.

INSEAD
Pros
- Overall great placements. They seem to have the best careers department and the highest salaries across the board. "MBA Juggernaut"
- Ranking and prestige. It occupies (together with LBS) the 1st tier of programs
Cons
- There is no opportunity to do an internship
- The overall culture of partying (I'm not a huge party goer myself) - It seems much less serious than other programs, maybe because of younger admits.
- The fact that 70% of the cohort changes campus during the Program. To strengthen you relationships with colleagues, you have to keep up with them, and this results in a 10 month program in which you have to move abroad TWICE (Fonty to Singapore, and back).


Now, some takeaways from my visits that might not be common knowledge:

- Oxford: Medium city vibe - although small, it is very active and well provided in terms of services and shops. Feels much larger than Cambridge.
- Cambridge: Small city vibe - It is much smaller in terms of services and shops available than Oxford. It also deals (I don't know why) with a LOT more tourists than Oxford (maybe because they all concentrate around King's College). Apparently, inhabitants don't feel very happy about it. Also, the traffic is terrible.
- HEC Paris: What city? - The HEC Campus is huge and gorgeous, and there is a supermarket right next to it, but there isn't much more than that. Jouy en Josas is a very picturesque city, very calm. If you're after exciting activities, good shops or services, you'll have to take the 45 min train ride to Paris.
- INSEAD: Fontainebleau - It is a mixture of HEC Paris and Cambridge. It has an huge amazing campus, and a small city next to it, with some shops and services. Also, the town itself is very touristic, due to the Chateau de Fontainebleau.

Also, note that you are not allowed to have a car if you are a Cambridge or Oxford student. It is an unenforceable rule, but it exists.
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European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Mar 2016, 15:37
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InDoubtApproved wrote:
Hey guys, I always loved reading arguments on School choice, and I thought by the time I reached the stage I'm in now, I wouldn't have much trouble deciding. Well, I thought wrong!

The thing is: I've been accepted at Oxford/Said, Cambridge/Judge, and HEC Paris. I'm still waiting on a decision on INSEAD, which comes out March, 18th.
And I'd love your help in deciding among them!

I had the amazing opportunity to visit all their campi, and speak to alumni, admissions staff and attend interviews, which I guess put me on a position of an "informed" applicant.

My background is in IB-M&A, having worked in a large bank and smaller boutiques (5 years WE). I'm planning on making a move to general management (Industry), but I would also like to be well placed if I change my mind and decide to do Consulting instead. I intend to stay in Europe after the program (hence my choice of schools).

So, whack away at my 3 options (Said/Judge/HEC), and if you can, please provide your opinion: if also accepted at INSEAD, should I attend it above your main pick among the other 3?

Current thoughts:


INSEAD
Pros
- Overall great placements. They seem to have the best careers department and the highest salaries across the board. "MBA Juggernaut"
- Ranking and prestige. It occupies (together with LBS) the 1st tier of programs
Cons
- There is no opportunity to do an internship
- The overall culture of partying (I'm not a huge party goer myself) - It seems much less serious than other programs, maybe because of younger admits.
- The fact that 70% of the cohort changes campus during the Program. To strengthen you relationships with colleagues, you have to keep up with them, and this results in a 10 month program in which you have to move abroad TWICE (Fonty to Singapore, and back).


Now, some takeaways from my visits that might not be common knowledge:

- Oxford: Medium city vibe - although small, it is very active and well provided in terms of services and shops. Feels much larger than Cambridge.
- Cambridge: Small city vibe - It is much smaller in terms of services and shops available than Oxford. It also deals (I don't know why) with a LOT more tourists than Oxford (maybe because they all concentrate around King's College). Apparently, inhabitants don't feel very happy about it. Also, the traffic is terrible.
- HEC Paris: What city? - The HEC Campus is huge and gorgeous, and there is a supermarket right next to it, but there isn't much more than that. Jouy en Josas is a very picturesque city, very calm. If you're after exciting activities, good shops or services, you'll have to take the 45 min train ride to Paris.
- INSEAD: Fontainebleau - It is a mixture of HEC Paris and Cambridge. It has an huge amazing campus, and a small city next to it, with some shops and services. Also, the town itself is very touristic, due to the Chateau de Fontainebleau.

Also, note that you are not allowed to have a car if you are a Cambridge or Oxford student. It is an unenforceable rule, but it exists.


Hi! congrats on the admits.

There are two points I believe that might not be correct about INSEAD:

INSEAD's class of 2015 has an average age of 29. So I don't really understand what you meant by "younger admits". Older professionals, like myself, prefer INSEAD's program because of the length of 1 year.

"much less serious than other programs": how? why? I really need to hear your point. Just because there are 20 people partying in a video on youtube does not mean the other 480 applicants are playing around. And just because those 20 people are partying, does not mean that they are not serious. I think you'll need to get in touch with current students or alumni and fill the gaps you're missing. Also, how do you explain the fact that the top 3 consulting companies recruit heavily from INSEAD.

I believe you should exclude INSEAD for now as the cons stated do no make much sense, except for the last point about the campus change - which I see as a relevant point. This is not to discourage you, but to keep you from accepting a school that you might have not done much research on.

Aside from that I cannot help you choose among the other schools. But I do know a friend who attended Oxford and he enjoyed it. It's not heavy focused on consulting so that's when I didn't pay much interest in the program.

Good luck :)
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Re: European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Mar 2016, 20:24
InDoubtApproved - i would also recommend that you check out the current student as another reference point for your research and Pros/Cons: business school reviews
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European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Mar 2016, 08:31
Hi InDoubtApproved,


Do you already know where you want to work in Europe ? And which industry you want to go into ?

This is important since HEC Paris is especially strong in Luxury and Retail and as you mentioned has the reputation of the best business school for France. But in the UK HEC Paris is definitely not as famous ( especially in some industries) and you'd be better equipped to choose Cambridge or Oxford. With HEC Paris you could still do consulting (because HEC is so well-known and has many alumni in Consulting) but obviously INSEAD would be the better choice for Consulting.
I can't help you for Cambridge nor Oxford since I don't know in which industries they are strong. I did read in the Economist that Cambridge's tech and start-up scene was growing.

In any case I would advise you to look at the companies recruiting from each of these schools and to see if they fit your goals in terms of industry. And maybe ask the schools how many graduates find work in your country of choice.

And finally I agree with @farrous13's comments: INSEAD actually has older applicants than US business schools.
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Re: European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Mar 2016, 10:39
To start off, your pros/cons for some of the schools stand at the location (it's nice, good vibe/feel etc, dont like the city size or location etc), but although that is a differentiating factor since all of these schools are within the top 20-25, you should put very little weight on location. All except for hec are 1 yr programs, which means you'll barely have time to settle down and absorb the town/city let alone have decent time to explore with an intense 1 yr mba program. More than likely you'll travel with other mba students around career treks/outside of town, and will begin to see your own city less and less.

Now for reputation after the mba, I fully agree Cambridge and Oxford has a better name 10 yrs later compared to HEC or insead. But who cares. The mba program is meant to get you your first job or second job out of mba. No one is really going to care if you went to oxford, cambridge, insead, harvard whatever it may be after 10 years. Theyll begin to assess your job and achievements which youve point out. So this should not be a distinguishing factor despite the name, unless youll be bragging to the public. If youre bragging to business professions, all of these 4 programs carry some good rep anyway (if anything oxford slightly less so compared to judge, insead, hec).

As echoed by the people above, insead doesnt seem like its for you - you dont seem enthusiastic about it as Oxford/Cambridge/HEC. But based on your needs overall, id rank it as cambridge, hec and oxford. You mention a downside of HEC is weak career services (actually isnt that bad) - but from people ive spoken to what went to oxford said....now THAT career service is underdeveloped. HEC is strong mainly in industry and a tiny bit on consulting, but definitely for industry if youre set on that. Of the schools, id say your career service maturity/development would be ranked: insead, hec, cambridge, oxford.

Now, why cambridge i think would be good in your case:
Ive also heard complaints by cambridge judge having a career service that doesnt seem to care as much as is underdeveloped as well (compared to the top tier schools), better than oxford, but its improving every year. It does have a tech/sci/eng reputation, but that seems more to the undergrad - youll get to choose what you want when youre there, dont worry - if you want strategy, itll be strategy. The reputation and rankings are improving a lot quicker and seem to be gaining speed for cambridge despite the younger and smaller program. Roughly the same age as oxford said, but judge has overtaken the counterpart by a mile in all aspects. Cambridge will give you the UK college town 'vibe' that you want - despite all the negs that you put down, is a top 10-20 program globally so its ranked decently, has the name if you so wish to talk about it 10 yrs later, improving career services, decent in consulting and industry (not particular focus on either but it seems like you dont know what focus you want anyway).
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Re: European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Mar 2017, 11:46
InDoubtApproved : Will you be able to provide an update on what decision you made? Some elaborate comments would be helpful as well.
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Re: European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Mar 2017, 01:12
Curious to see what you decided as well
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Re: European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Jun 2017, 00:40
Thank you all for the perspective on the two schools, I am looking to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.
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Re: European MBA Decision Time: Oxford vs Cambridge vs HEC Paris vs INSEAD   [#permalink] 26 Jun 2017, 00:40
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