Top 50 Non-U.S. MBA Programs of 2011:

by on December 30th, 2011

INSEAD claims first place in 2011 Poets&Quants’ ranking of best MBA programs outside the U.S.

INSEAD nudged aside London Business School to claim first place in Poets&Quants’ 2011 ranking of the world’s best MBA programs outside the U.S. INSEAD, the self-proclaimed “business school for the world,” switched places with London, moving up from a ranking of second last year.

INSEAD’s new standing is an early and welcome victory for Dipak Jain, the former dean of the Kellogg School of Management who took over the reins at INSEAD last March. Jain is no stranger to rankings success, having led Kellogg back to a number one ranking in the influential BusinessWeek survey during this eight-year stint as the school’s leader from 2001 to 2009.

For years, INSEAD–with its campuses in Fontainebleau, France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi–had long been considered the best business school in Europe. But rankings by The Financial Times and The Economist have helped to erode the school’s reputation for providing the best MBA experience outside of Harvard, Stanford and a handful of other U.S. programs.

Since 2004, when the Financial Times had INSEAD and London in a dead tie for fourth place in its influential global ranking, the Financial Times has ranked London ahead of INSEAD for seven consecutive years. Prior to the 2004 tie, INSEAD had been above London for three straight years. The Financial Times currently has London Business School’s MBA program in a dead tie for the best in the world with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. A year earlier, London was the British newspaper’s undisputed number one winner.

Three of the top six non-U.S. MBA programs are now in Spain

Spain, meantime, solidified itself as a country that has become something of a European hub for management education. Three of the top six schools on the list are in Spain, including IE Business School in Madrid which rose two spots to finish in third place. Not far behind are IESE Business School and ESADE, respectively ranked fifth and sixth for having the best full-time MBA programs outside the U.S.

Four of the top programs are in the United Kingdom, while France can rightly claim a pair of the best MBA programs while Switzerland has one. Other schools whose MBA programs ranked in the top ten of the list are IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, which placed fourth, No. 7 University of Cambridge’s Judge School, No. 8. École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris, more popularly known as HEC Paris, No. 9 Oxford University’s Said School, and No. 10. Cranfield University.

Though there were few dramatic year-over-year changes in the top 30, several new schools emerged on full list of the 50 best MBA programs outside the U.S. Among the schools making their debut on the list were the National University of Singapore with a rank of 16th, while the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad claimed a ranking of 27th.

This new P&Q list is a composite of four major MBA rankings published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Financial Times, and Forbes. 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.

By blending these rankings using a system that takes into account each of their strengths as well as their flaws, we’ve come up with what is arguably the most authoritative ranking of MBA programs ever published. The list, which includes the recently released 2011 rankings by Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Economist, tends to eliminate anomalies and other statistical distortions that often occur in one ranking or another. In any case, the ranking measures the overall quality and reputation of the flagship full-time MBA programs at the schools, rather than the schools themselves.

Why are the these four rankings often so wildly different from each other? Mainly because they measure 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. York University’s excellent Schulich School, for example, is ranked second by The Economist, ninth by BusinessWeek, and tenth by Forbes. But the school is comparatively snubbed by The Financial Times with a ranking of 27.

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. Both the highly regarded Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, ranked third by the FT outside the U.S., and the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, ranked sixth by the FT, fail to make the shorter lists put out by BusinessWeek or Forbes.

The biggest changes are typically further down the list

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.

Indeed, of the 11 schools whose MBA programs are new to the list, nine of them made their appearance among the institutions ranked 40th to 50th. They include No. 41 EADA Business School in Barcelona, Spain, the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and the SP Jain Institute of Management in Mumbai, India.

Some changes on the list occurred because of a result of an attempt to improve our methodology this year. Instead of using the global rank for a school as we did last year for both The Financial Times and The Economist surveys, we used the rank each should would have received had it not competed with U.S. schools. Why? Because it more effectively expresses the school’s position on a list of non-U.S. MBA programs. That change tended to shift greater weight than last year on The Financial Times and The Economist rankings.

Poets&Quants’ 2011 Best MBA Programs Outside the U.S.

Note: The ranking assigned to schools from both the Financial Times and The Economist lists are a school’s non-U.S. ranking. Forbes ranks one-year MBA programs separately from two-year programs so it assigns the same rank to two sets of non-U.S. schools.

Methodology: Schools on each of four major rankings–BusinessWeek, Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Economist– were scored from a high of 100 to a low of 1, the numerical rank of the 100th school on any one list. Then, those sums were brought together with a weight of 30% for each of the rankings with the exception of The Economist, whose list was given a weight of 10% due to the rankings idiosyncratic results, a function of a methodology that is less credible.

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