History of the MBA

Did you know how the MBA started or how the degree spread around the world? This timeline shows key milestones of what is today the most sought-after degree in the world.

ESCP Europe Paris Campus

1819 – The École spéciale de commerce et d'industrie (now ESCP Europe) in Paris was established as the world's first business school(1).


1881 – The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School was established as the first collegiate school of business in U.S.(2) but didn't offer any graduate education at that time.


Joseph Wharton, an industrialist, donated $100,000 to the University of Pennsylvania
Edward Tuck
Edward Tuck donated $500,000 to Dartmouth

1900 – Dartmouth College established Tuck School of Business as the first graduate business school in U.S.(3). Four students enrolled in the Master of Science in Commerce program, the first advanced degree in business and a forerunner of the MBA.


1908 - Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration launched the world's first MBA program(4) with a 15 faculty members including the dean, 33 regular students, and 47 special students. Two years later, eight students received the degree. Of these, six had received their undergraduate education from Harvard University.


1915 - Wendell Thomas Cunningham, son of a former slave, became the first African American to graduate from Harvard Business School(5).


1916 - The AACSB International was founded as the Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (ACSB).


1921 - Shanghai College of Commerce (now Shanghai University of Finance and Economics or SUFE) became the first business school in China(5).


1924 - Harvard Business School introduces the Case Method.


1943 - First Executive MBA(6) offered by the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.


1948 - The Ivey Business School at Western University in Canada was the first institution outside U.S. to offer an MBA program(7). One year later, 25 students enrolled in the MBA program offered by the University of Pretoria's Graduate School of Management in South Africa.


1984 - The State University of New York at Buffalo introduces the first U.S. MBA program in China through a joint-venture program with the Dalian Institute of Science and Technology. In the same year, the China-Europe Management Institute (now CEIBS) was established, after talks between the European Commission and China's National Economics and Trade Committee.


1987 - Aspen University in Denver launches the first online MBA.


1988 - Bloomberg BusinessWeek publishes first MBA ranking. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP) is established. The International University of Japan launches the first MBA program in Japan taught in English.


1991 - A committee on Academic Degree under the China's State Council and the Ministry of Education authorized a group of nine universities including Fudan University and Tsinghua University to offer trial MBA programs in China with 86 intakes in total.


1996 - EQUIS accreditation scheme is launched by EFMD.


2013 - Wharton School puts first-year MBA courses on Coursera, a MOOC platform. Two years later, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign launches a full online MBA program on Coursera and offers a study option to take all courses for free.