Overseas business colleges are now keener than ever to recruit foreign students to their courses, while businesses are increasingly impressed by internationally trained graduates. And the benefits don't end there either

There has never been more interest in getting away from it all. Globalisation, international markets, and the old-fashioned urge to seek pastures new mean there's no shortage of British interest in business schools abroad. "Our research shows up to 40 per cent of people making enquiries at MBA fairs would like to study abroad," says Peter Calladine of the Association of MBAs. "Although we don't know how many of these eventually sign up for courses overseas."

So what are the factors to take into account if you want to study abroad? Adam Levy, who graduated from INSEAD last year, admits that he confined his inquiries to a narrow field.

"The truth is that reputation counts as much as the standard of education you get, so you try to look at schools which are ranked highly. I looked at Harvard as well as INSEAD, and location was a factor. France was convenient for visiting my family, and for keeping in touch with potential work opportunities in Europe."

INSEAD, which also has a campus in Singapore, sells itself as a global business school, with over 600 students enrolled in two intakes in January and September. But it's worth remembering that many of the other business schools in continental Europe offer international MBAs, with students from across the globe. Many courses, like the one at Rotterdam School of Management in Holland, have a much smaller intake. The majority of students are from outside the Netherlands, with about 5 per cent from Britain.

"British people are hard to get out of the UK," admits Kai Peters, the Dean at Rotterdam. "But we are using schemes like the Sainsbury's scholarships for engineering students to increase the numbers."

English speakers would have no problem living in Holland, and the course at Rotterdam is conducted in English. But language is a factor anyone should consider seriously when looking to continental Europe for their MBA qualification. You may be able to get by academically, but life outside the confines of the course could be difficult if you aren't prepared to immerse yourself in the language and culture of the area.

The Instituto de Empressa in Spain expects its students to be fluent in English and Spanish by the end of the course, and lectures are held in both languages. Julio Urgel, the dean, sees the course as an opportunity for people to immerse themselves in Latin culture, a clear advantage for anyone who thinks they might wish to work in Latin America. The institute also prides itself on its entrepreneurial specialisation. This year it is offering a part-time degree in e-commerce - so far conducted entirely in Spanish - but the dean says its international MBA is also designed to focus on this area.

"The two basic capabilities for leading corporations in the new economy are entrepreneurship and e-commerce," he says. This is a theme taken up by plenty of the Institute's rivals across Europe.

The Lausanne-based International Institute for Management Development is also offering electives in e-commerce, entrepreneurship and digital business.

At Rotterdam, students can opt to focus on e-commerce during the summer term. INSEAD, which prides itself on preparing graduates for all aspects of general management, says the number of its students entering the so called new economy has risen from 1 to 10 per cent in the past two years. Across the Atlantic at Harvard, the numbers of graduates heading for Silicon Valley is also on the increase; the school has its own business incubator and a business plan competition, but is sticking to the message that this is a course to train world leaders in any field. With over 8,000 applicants for 900 places, Harvard can take its pick of British applicants, and the two-year programme can leave students digging deep into their pockets.

The school estimates that, when accommodation is included, applicants can expect to pay around £32,000 a year. The long-term gains in salary may be worth the cost, but there are other considerations.

"If someone opts for a one-and-a-half-year course instead of a 12-month programme, they should look at the opportunity costs," says Peter Calladine of AMBA. "This is a time when you won't be earning, if you have opted to do a full-time course." The cost of course fees can vary greatly, from around £18,000 for INSEAD's 10-month programme to a more modest £12,500 for the 15-month MBA course at Madrid's Instituto de Empressa. The current strength of the pound is good news for British students abroad, but living expenses will add a hefty amount to your bill.

Some universities, like Nyenrode in the Netherlands, are expanding into the part-time MBA market. This year it is linking with the Kellogg Graduate School of Management in the USA to offer a modular programme. If you want international experience but can't take time off work to do a full-time course, Holland is not too far or too expensive to get to. There seems little doubt, among those who have gone abroad, about the benefits.

Adam Levy now works for Weston Medical, a company which is marketing its needle-free injection system globally. "My experience at INSEAD has made me much more sensitive to other cultures and able to work easily within them."

The range of placements on offer to those who choose a course outside the UK may be a useful springboard to an international career. Alistair Kirkwood went from his job as a commercial manager for a Scottish catering company, to a marketing post with the Netherlands Football League. The job came after he spent his placement working on the league's strategic overview.

Career moves like this may be the exception. Dot com mania may be claiming a significant proportion of MBA graduates, but investment banking and consultancy still come high up the list of firms circling round business schools across the world. It is worth taking a close look at the list of firms who regularly recruit from various schools, and at the project placements on offer.

INSEAD's Assistant Dean, Mary Boss, thinks students should also consider the quality of the faculty members. "Ask yourself these questions: How competitive is the admissions procedure and how good are the placements?" she says.

At Rotterdam, Kai Peters takes a more practical view. "We always start by selling the country to students. There are lots of multinationals here, and Holland is a very easy country to survive in if you speak English. Essentially we want people to be happy with our atmosphere." And if cost or personal commitments mean that studying abroad is not an option, take heart: almost 80 per cent of students who do their MBA in the UK come from other countries. You could wait for the international atmosphere to come to you.

Harvard: $25,000 a year without accommodation, $50,000 (£32,000) with accommodation.

INSEAD: E30,000 (£18,000) for course only.

Instituto de Empressa: E21,000 (£12,500).

Rotterdam: E22,500 (£13,500).

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