Poets&Quants’ Top 50 Non-U.S. MBA Programs of 2012

by on December 30th, 2012

London Business School recaptured its number one standing in Poets&Quants’ 2012 ranking of the top 50 non-U.S. MBA programs, slipping ahead of last year’s best school INSEAD which fell into second place.

The two leaders in MBA education outside the U.S. were followed by No. 3 IESE Business School and No. 4 IE Business School, both in Spain, No. 5 IMD in Switzerland and No. 6 HEC Paris. IESE and HEC both gained two places this year.

London, for years neck-and-neck with INSEAD as the best business school outside the U.S., had been named the best non-U.S. school in Poets&Quants’ inaugural ranking in 2010, only to be nudged out of first place by INSEAD last year. The school, which is in the midst of a major expansion, is increasingly attracting better students and faculty and is launching a massive fundraising campaign to bring its resources more in line with some of the elite U.S. business schools.

11 new business schools made the Poets & Quants list

This year’s list–based on a composite of the four most influential rankings of global business schools–has 11 new entrants which range from No. 23 Mannheim Business School in Germany to No. 27 School of Business at the University of Hong Kong.

European business schools continue to dominate the list of the best non-U.S. MBA programs, with 14 of the top schools in the United Kingdom alone. But Canada makes a strong showing on the list with seven programs, including No. 9 York University’s Schulich School of Business, No. 11 Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, and No. 21 Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. And Asia is slowly evolving into a powerhouse of business school education, with eight out of the 50 best MBA programs on the list led by No. 17 the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and No. 18 China Europe International Business School.

Warwick Business School had the biggest gains of any top 25 school 

Among the biggest winners on the 2012 list are the Warwick Business School in the U.K., which had the largest rise among the top 25, jumping 17 places to finish 16th from 33rd last year. The Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University rose ten places to place 19th, up from 29th in 2011. And HKUST moved up nine spots to rank 17th from 26th last year.

Who lost ground during this rankings year? The National University of Singapore’s business school fell six places, most among the top 25 schools, to 22nd place from 16th; Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, the Cranfield School of Management, and the Australian School of Business all fell five spots to 12th, 15th, and 25th, respectively.

This new P&Q list is a composite of four major MBA rankings published by The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and Forbes. All told, some 68 schools that appeared on one or more of those four lists were considered for the P&Q top 50. The Financial Times and The Economist publish global MBA rankings, with more complete listings of schools outside the U.S. BusinessWeek and Forbes, on the other hand, publish separates lists of the best international schools that are far more limited.

BusinessWeek only ranked 19 non-U.S. schools this year, while Forbes ranks a dozen two-year MBA programs outside the U.S. and a dozen one-year MBA programs. In contrast, the FT has 47 non-U.S. business schools on its 2012 list of the top 100 global schools, while The Economist has 52 of its top 100 global schools outside the U.S.

A wealth of data is reflected in the overall rankings

The ranking takes into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in these major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the latest salary and employment statistics of alumni.

Combining the four most influential rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress it. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent.

A composite index that is not unlike Nate Silver’s approach to analysis

This is not unlike the prescient analysis that Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger, brought to the recent Presidential election. By smartly analyzing each political poll and averaging the results across all of them, Silver came to a greater truth than could be revealed by any single poll. When the election was done, he was pretty much the only outside observer who had accurately predicted the popular vote and the electoral vote outcome.

The index numbers accompanying the rank of each school allows you to assess how far above or behind one school is versus another. This is especially helpful because in some cases there is no meaningful difference between the schools. Yet, some of these rankings, including The Financial Times, still fail to provide the underlying index numbers that lead to a numerical rank.

Even a glimpse of the rankings from each of the four sources will often show wildly different results. Consider the Said Business School at the University of Oxford. It’s highest ranking comes from BusinessWeek which says the school’s full-time MBA program is the fifth best outside the U.S. Forbes magazine believes Said offers the sixth best non-U.S. one-year MBA program. Meantime, The Economist and The Financial Times aren’t nearly as impressed. The Economist gives Oxford its lowest ranking, placing it 19th among non-U.S. schools and 48th in the world. The FT ranks Said tenth best outside the U.S.

Each of the underlying rankings measures completely different things

Why the fairly significant differences? Mainly because each ranking measures very different things. The BusinessWeek ranking is largely based on student and corporate recruiter satisfaction. Forbes’ ranking is a simple measurement of an MBA’s return-on-investment. The Financial Times also puts much emphasis on compensation–specifically what alums make three years after graduation and the percentage increase from pre-MBA salary–but the pay data is among some 20 different measured variables.

The excellent MBA programs at some of Canada’s finest universities would fare better on this list if not for the bias built into the Financial Times methodology against North American schools. Among non-U.S. schools, York University’s excellent Schulich School, for example, is ranked fifth by The Economist, 14th by BusinessWeek, and tenth by Forbes. But the school is comparatively snubbed by The Financial Times with a ranking of 31 outside the U.S. and 59th globally.

In the same way, some of the newer MBA programs in China and India tend to get little notice in the BusinessWeek and Forbes rankings, but gain recognition by the Financial Times and The Economist. The highly regarded Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, ranked fifth by the FT outside the U.S., failed to even make the Forbes list. The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, ranked sixth by the FT, didn’t make either of the shorter lists put out by BusinessWeek or Forbes.

Fairly large disparities exist among each of the four most influential rankings of international schools

Indeed, 20 of the non-U.S. schools on this year’s Economist ranking weren’t on The Financial Times’ list, including schools as high as No. 9, the University of Bath’s School of Management. Similarly, though The Financial Times ranks the Indian School of Business ninth among non-U.S. schools, the institution is not even on The Economist’s global MBA ranking.

When schools move up or down the list, it’s because their full-time MBA programs were judged differently by one or more of the four major rankings. Warwick’s 17-place jump this year can be attributed to a much better showing in The Financial Times’ 2012 ranking as well as the school’s inclusion on the Forbes’ list. The FT ranked the school 14th among non-U.S. programs, up substantially from 32nd in 2011. Forbes ranked the school eighth on its list of one-year MBA programs outside the U.S.

Bigger changes were most likely to occur further down the list, where the qualitative differences among the business schools aren’t nearly as great as they are at the top of the ranking. So small changes often can cause outsized results because the schools are so close together in overall quality—especially “quality” as it can be discerned by an external ranking. In these cases, the most significant changes tended to occur at schools which were either added or dropped from one of the major rankings in the past year.

India has two schools on our list of top 50

Indeed, of the 11 schools whose MBA programs are new to the list, eight of them made their appearance among the institutions ranked 40th to 50th. They include No. 40 University of St. Gallen’s Business School in Switzerland and No. 41 Aston Business School in Birmingham, U.K.

India’s highest ranked school, the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad, rose three places to finish with a rank of 24th this year, up from 27th in 2011. The country’s only other entrant on the list, the Indian School of Business, lost a little ground, slipping eight places to 43rd from 35th a year earlier. The slip was due to a slightly lower ranking by The Financial Times which places ISB ninth, down from seventh among non-U.S. schools in 2011.

(See original article for the next 25 schools on the list of the top 50 non-U.S. MBA programs of 2012)


Ask a Question or Leave a Reply

The author John Byrne gets email notifications for all questions or replies to this post.

Some HTML allowed. Keep your comments above the belt or risk having them deleted. Signup for a Gravatar to have your pictures show up by your comment.