The sheer amount of MBA degrees offered all over the world is overwhelming. Getting admitted to a business school abroad depends on many criteria such as university tuition fee, reputation, Business degree job opportunities and return on investment. MBA rankings promise to offer an easy solution and to give an overview of the best universities and colleges for an MBA programme.
Check below the criteria used by leading business publications in MBA rankings: Financial Times, the Economist, and Forbes.
1. Financial Times Global MBA ranking
The Financial Times ranking is mainly focusing on the salary increase that can be achieved with the MBA degree and accounts for 40% of the overall ranking score.
Overall, business schools rankings made by the Financial Times is based on specific criteria such as:
- alumni responses (their opinion regarding the study experience)
- graduates’ average income three years after graduation
All business schools present in FT rankings have to be accredited by Equis or AACSB.
Students’ opinions include several aspects regarding their overall study experience, in terms of valuable teaching, achieved knowledge, the number of international students and staff, and opportunities for international mobility.
Here are some of the top business schools present in the 2021 Financial Times rankings:
- Harvard Business School, in the United States
- London Business School, in the United Kingdom
- WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, in Germany
- Erasmus University Rotterdam, in the Netherlands
- Bocconi University, in Italy
- IESE Business School, in Spain
- HEC Paris, in France
- CEIBS, in China
2. The Economist full-time MBA ranking
With 20% of the overall ranking, the salary increase has less weight in the Economist MBA ranking. New career opportunities (35%) and personal development (35%) are also taken into account.
The ranking is mainly dominated by American business schools, but also some European universities can be found among the Top 20 such as the London Business School or the ESADE Business School for example.
Similar to the Financial Times, the Economist rates business schools based on salaries, career opportunities and student satisfaction as follows:
- Graduates’ salary and GMAT scores at admission – accounts for 80% of the ranking
- Survey filled by current and graduate MBA students – accounts for 20% of the ranking
Students will rate details regarding the quality of teaching and faculty, facilities and career services department. Additionally, the Economist double checks the salary data provided by business schools and asks students to provide details about their income.
Top business schools present in The Economist rankings 2021:
- Booth School of Business, in the US
- Warwick Business School, in the UK
- Melbourne Business School, in Australia
- INSEAD, in France
- International Institute for Management Development (IMD), in Switzerland
- ESADE Business School, Spain
- Mannheim Business School, in Germany
3. Forbes best business schools ranking
Forbes offers a ranking that is mainly focused on U.S. business schools. The ranking is entirely determined by the return on investment (ROI) within the first 5 years.
Forbes uses a formula that assesses post-graduate success in terms of alumni salaries after deducting possible student debt.
The success of business graduates is based on the result that combines salaries data provided by PayScale with College Scorecard. The latter includes information about former students who took out on a loan.
Additional criteria are student satisfaction, graduation rate and academic success – this is related to business schools whose students have won prestigious awards, scholarships or fellowships.
Top business schools present in Forbes 2019 rankings:
- Stanford University, in the US
- University of Cambridge, in the UK
- IE Business School, in Spain
- Indian School of Business, in India
- ESMT Berlin, in Germany
- HKU Faculty of Business and Economics, in Hong Kong (SAR)
- HEC Montreal, in Canada
Other Business degree rankings
There are various MBA rankings that focus on certain regions. Especially for U.S. business schools, numerous rankings are available. As it can be seen from the top 3 rankings mentioned above, the ranking criteria can yield very different results of the very same business school.
MBA50.com, for example, collects the various rankings for easy comparison and creates rankings of rankings.
Other rankings such as the Eduniversal ranking, centres entirely on personal opinions of students, professors and HR managers which can lead to a rather biased picture.
Many rankings just include business schools with a certain number of graduates.
There are also many excellent but less-known business schools that might not show up in the rankings. This leads to rapid changes in the rankings. Within one year, some universities move more than 30 positions up and down in the ranking or even completely disappear.
If you want to see both rankings and student reviews for the top MBA universities and colleges, here's where you can check them out:
University rankings are never absolute truths
By looking at the evaluation criteria of the different MBA rankings, it becomes already apparent that these rankings can just provide a limited indication of the quality of a business school.
How do you choose the right business school and the right MBA programme? If a business school turns up on top in various different rankings, it is certainly a good indicator for the quality of the MBA education.
A difference between the 3rd and the 27th place in the ranking is however determined by the ranking criteria and taking personal considerations into account. If a university or college is not ranked at all, that is not necessarily a bad sign.
Excellent business schools might not be ranked if they do not meet certain criteria such as number of graduates, number of filled out surveys, etc.
Make sure you always include your own criteria when you rank the top business schools you plan to apply to.