The Financial Times’ 2010 MBA Ranking

by John A. Byrne on

This 2010 ranking is the 12th year the Financial Times has ranked the best MBA schools. The ranking, published every January, is based on data collected from business schools and from alums three years after graduation. This survey includes responses from 8,001 alums of the Class of 2006, though most of the results are combined with two previous class surveys. The ranking also includes a research component, weighted at 10%, counting papers written by the faculty of each school in 40 academic journals during the past three years. The FT ranks 100 schools in its survey.

 

The Financial Times ranks London Business School the best B-school in the world.

Pro: Arguably the single best global ranking of business schools which gives you a very good read on what the best MBA-granting institutions are around the world. The data supplied by schools is also audited by a major accounting firm, a practice that can give readers a higher degree of confidence that the information provided by schools is accurate.

Con: The Financial Times is trying so hard to be global that it ranks many non-U.S. and European schools far too highly over institutions that have significantly better MBA programs. It’s just not even credible to think that London Business School can give you a better MBA education than Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, or Northwestern. Yet, over the years, this bias has become more and more obvious. In 1999, when the FT began ranking business schools for their MBA programs, 20 of the top 25 schools were from the U.S. and the remaining five were from Europe. In the latest survey for 2010, the FT lists 11 European schools in the top 25 and three in Asia. While there is little doubt that non-U.S. schools are becoming stronger and getting better applicants, the raw data on true quality would not support this wide a swing in such a short time.

The FT ranking also puts far too much weight (40%) on how much alums of these schools make three years after graduation. MBA compensation, after all, has more to do with what fields grads go into (investment banking and consulting usually pay the most) or the work experience students bring into a program than the quality of the education. The FT also includes in its ranking other factors that have no impact on quality, such as the percentage of women faculty at a school (UC-Davis was first on this measure with 42% of its faculty female). It may be politically correct to toss a factor like that into the mix, but you can’t presume it means the MBA program is less valuable because there are more or fewer female instructors on the faculty.

The FT’s own methodology fails to clearly explain all the data it uses to rank schools so there’s a bit of a black box game going on here. It notes, for example, that “eleven of the ranking criteria are based on data” from business schools. But it only mentions four of these 11 criteria, such as percentage of grads employed three months after graduation and an  “FT doctoral rank,” which the newspaper later vaguely explains “is calculated according to the number of doctoral graduates from each business school during the past three years. Additional points are given if these doctoral graduates took up faculty positions at one of the top 50 full-time MBA schools of 2009.” PhD programs, however, often detract from the quality of an MBA program because they make more likely the prospect of putting mediocre, inexperienced teachers in front of MBAs.

In any case, over the years, the FT survey has had some head-scratching results. Instituto de Empresa in Spain, for example, is ranked the sixth best school in the world by the newspaper. Eight years earlier, it was ranked 35th. How this school climbed 29 spots in eight years, leaping over such prestige schools as MIT, Chicago, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge is not explained, probably because it is unexplainable. Meantime, Hong Kong’s UST, ranked 9th by the Financial Times in 2010, had a rank of 69 in 2004. These wild swings in the rankings undermine their credibility and authority.

Another oddity: some schools ranked very highly by the Financial Times are not on the radar screen anywhere else. Consider the Indian School of Business ranked 12th in the world by the FT. The Economist doesn’t include the school in its list of the top 100. It also doesn’t make an appearance on the non-U.S. best school lists of either BusinessWeek or Forbes.

Even worse, readers of the ranking are not given index numbers so they have no idea whether one rank is statistically significant from another. In many cases, the differences between a school that is ranked 8th and a school that might be ranked 12th are so small as to be insignificant. The Financial Times accounts for some of these situations by granting the same rank to several schools. Both New York University’s Stern School and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School are accorded the rank of 13th in the latest survey, for example, and there are three schools ranked number 28, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Michigan’s Ross School, and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Even so, you still have no idea how significant these differences are because no index numbers are published by the FT.

How does the Financial Times survey compare against the other major rankings? We show you below starting with a comparison to our own survey, then BusinessWeek, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and finally The Economist. Because Poets&Quants, BusinessWeek, and Forbes separately report the best non-U.S. schools, we show their rankings of these schools with an asterisk.

FT Rank & School P&Q BW Forbes U.S. News Economist
1.  London Business School 1* 5* 1** NA 8
2.  Pennsylvania (Wharton) 4 4 5 5 9
3.  Harvard Business School 1 2 3 1 5
4.  Stanford School of Business 2 6 1 1 7
5.  INSEAD 5* 3* 1* NA 23
6.  Columbia Business School 6 7 6 9 20
6.  IE Business School 4* 2* 3* 4 16
8.  MIT (Sloan) 8 9 14 3 19
9.  Chicago (Booth) 3 1 4 5 4
9.  Hong Kong UST 16* NR NR NA 30
11. Iese Business School 2* 9* 3** NA 1
12. Indian School of Business NR NR NR NA NR
13. New York University (Stern) 10 13 17 9 13
13. Dartmouth College (Tuck) 5 12 2 7 6
15. IMD 3* 7* 2* NA 2
16. Yale School of Management 15 24 10 11 27
16. University of Oxford (Said) 10* 10* 5* NA 47
18. HEC Paris 7* ST* 7** NA 14
19. Esade Business School 8* 6* 8** NA 29
20. Duke University (Fuqua) 11 8 13 14 28
21. Cambridge (Judge) 6* ST* 4* NA 11
22. Ceibs 14* NR 4* NA 95
22. Northwestern (Kellogg) 7 3 8 4 15
24. Lancaster University 15* NR 7* NA 79
25. Rotterdam (Erasmus) 27* NR NR NA 41
26. Cranfield School 9* ST* 9* NA 18
27. Nanyang Business School 28* NR NR NA 71
28. Chinese University of H.K. 29* NR NR NA 78
28. Michigan (Ross) 12 5 18 12 25
28. Berkeley (Haas) 9 10 12 7 3
31. Virginia (Darden) 13 16 9 13 24
32. Imperial College 30* NR NR NA 68
33. UCLA (Anderson) 16 14 19 15 50
34. Emory (Goizueta) 21 23 22 27 52
34. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 17 19 23 16 33
36. Cornell (Johnson) 14 11 7 18 32
36. Australian School 17* NR 9* NA NR
38. Georgetown (McDonough) 24 NR 31 24 48
38. SDA Bocconi 19* NR 5* NA NR
40. Manchester Business 12* ST* 2** NA 57
41. City University (Cass) 18* NR 6* NA 76
42. Warwick Business School 26* NR NR NA 22
43. Maryland (Smith) 27 ST 29 45 51
44. Rice University (Jones) 46 NR 47 39 77
45. Univ. of Toronto (Rotman) 22* 8* NR NA NR
46. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 18 17 15 21 39
47. Boston College (Carroll) 47 NR 46 39 NR
48. Rochester (Simon) 36 ST 37 27 NR
49. Western Ontario (Ivey) 21* 4* NR NA NR
49. Washington Univ. (Olin) 26 28 41 19 65

Footnotes:   * Indicates ranking on a separate non-U.S. list of best b-schools.

** Forbes creates separate rankings for non-U.S. schools that offer one-year MBA programs versus two-year MBA programs. A double asterisk in the Forbes’ column signifies its two-year program rating; a single asterisk indicates its one-year ranking.

Source: Financial Times, 2010 ranking

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