LONDON, England (CNN) -- While the U.S. remains the globe's pre-eminent business school destination, Europe is increasingly hot on its heels, with the continent's schools attracting ever more students from around the world.
Best of the best: HEC in Paris topped the FT's European rankings.
But which European business school is the best? The most authoritative answer comes in the shape of the newly-released Financial Times (FT) rankings for the continent, drawn from a dizzying array of data.
The league table is officially known as a 'meta ranking', bringing in statistics gathered from the London-based newspaper's five more specialized rankings compiled earlier in the year, for global MBAs, executive education courses, masters degrees in management and Executive MBA (EMBA) programs.
These were themselves put together with a mixture of statistics provided by the schools themselves, as well as information from by students and alumni.
And once this mass of information is crunched together, what does it prove?
One headline finding is that Europe's very best in business education remains the same -- as with 2006, the top two places are taken by the Paris-based HEC school and the London Business School, respectively,
Elsewhere, however, there is considerable movement. French-Singaporean school Insead shoots up seven places to third, a rise assisted by the fact it has, for the first time, an eligible EMBA program, rated ninth in the world and fifth in Europe by the FT.
The table also shows that a top school doesn't necessarily have to provide every aspect of business education.
In fact, none of the top five schools -- a list completed by Switzerland's IMD in fourth and Spain's Instituto de Empresa in fifth -- gained points for full, individual programmes in all the five categories.
For example, while HEC get marks in all areas, its score for the EMBA section was a proportion of the overall total given to the Trium EMBA, which HEC offers alongside New York University's Stern school and the London School of Economics (LSE).
LSE, in fact, moved up eight places to 15th based on simply providing two of the five assessed courses. It does, however, do these very well -- the Trium program is rated the world's best EMBA by the FT, while LSE's own masters in management is Europe's second best.
Data was collected for 67 schools, with 60 making it into the final table, based in 16 countries.
The biggest contingent came from the UK, with 20 schools, while 14 are based in France and four each in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Overall, enrollments are healthy, Jeanette Purcell, chief executive of the Association of MBAs, a global business school accreditation body based in the UK, told the FT.
"Most schools are reporting an increase in uptake of all courses," she said, while pointing to a more general trend in favor of more flexible courses, such as part-time MBAs.
"Employer sponsorship is declining and I think that probably has an impact that is influencing the move to flexible programs because more students are now funding themselves," she said, noting that technology has also made distance learning easier.
Nonetheless, Jonathan Slack, chief executive of the Association of Business Schools, which represents UK schools, said the market remained an extremely tough one for universities considering branching out into business education.
"A lot of new entries will struggle if they think that just by putting on an MBA program, students will flock to them," he said. E-mail to a friend
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