Top Five B-Schools Outside U.S.: London, IESE, IMD, IE and INSEAD

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

If you have an opportunity to go to a top non-U.S. business school but have received a letter of invitation from Dartmouth or Wharton should you take your MBA in the U.S. or in Britain, Spain, France, Hong Kong, or China?

After carefully reviewing the data—both rankings and school information on applicant quality and starting salaries—I generally come down on the side of an elite school in the U.S. Despite vast strides made by many non-U.S. schools, the world leader in business and management education is unquestionably the U.S. With very few exceptions, you’ll get a richer, deeper and more meaningful MBA experience at a top 25 business school in the U.S. than you would at a top 25 school outside the U.S.

That said, there are some excellent business schools around the world—and the best of them are as good if not better than some of the U.S. schools. This is especially true of the top five schools on our list. To come with our ranking of the top non-U.S. MBA programs, we blended the four major MBA rankings that look at non-U.S. schools: BusinessWeek, the Financial Times, Forbes, and The Economist. By combining these rankings, assigning each ranking equal weight to the other, we’ve come up with what is arguably the best and most reliable ranking of non-U.S. MBA programs ever published.

The number crunching produced a few surprises: Spain has three of the top ten business schools. In this ranking of the top 30, the United Kingdom leads with nine schools, including the number one MBA-granting institution, the London Business School. Not too many years ago, INSEAD and IMD were universally considered the best non-U.S. business schools in the world. Clearly, these two still-excellent institutions have lost that distinction to new, more aggressive competitors in the business school market.

One thing to keep in mind when you peruse this list: most of these schools offer one-year MBA programs. Indeed, Forbes offers two rankings of non-U.S. MBA programs, one for one-year programs and one for more traditional two-year programs. The one-year programs in the Forbes column below are identified with an asterisk. Of the 31 leading European business schools that make the top 100 in the Financial Times and The Economist surveys, more than two-thirds—22 institutions in all—will give you he degree in just 12 months. Four programs are even shorter. The exceptions: IESE and London Business School, which run programs that cover two full years of study.

School Index BW Forbes FT Economist
1.  London Business School 100.0 5 1 1 8
2.  IESE (Spain) 95.2 9 3 11 1
3.  IMD (Switzerland) 93.1 7 2* 15 2
4.  IE Business School (Spain) 92.3 2 3* 6 16
5.  INSEAD (France) 89.9 3 1* 5 23
6.  Cambridge (U.K.) 80.4 ST 4* 21 11
7.  HEC-Paris (France) 77.8 ST 7 18 14
8.  Esade (Spain) 73.0 6 8 19 29
9.  Cranfield (U.K.) 70.4 ST 9* 26 18
10. Oxford Said (U.K.) 65.6 10 5* 16 47
11. York (Canada) 64.0 ST 6 54 12
12. Manchester (U.K.) 50.3 ST 2 40 57
13. McGill (Canada) 40.7 ST 11 95 75
14. Ceibs (China) 39.2 NR 4* 22 95
15. Lancaster (U.K.) 36.5 NR 7* 24 79
16. Hong Kong UST 32.3 NR NR 9 30
17. Australian School of Biz 29.1 NR 9* 36 NR
18. City Univ.–Cass (U.K.) 28.6 NR 6* 41 76
19. Bocconi (Italy) 28.4 NR 5* 93 NR
21. Western Ontario (Canada) 25.4 4 NR 49 NR
22. Toronto (Canada) 24.9 8 NR 45 NR
23. IPADE (Mexico) 24.3 NR 5* 93 NR
24. British Columbia (Canada) 21.7 NR 10 82 82
25. EM-Lyon (France) 21.2 NR 11* 97 60
26. Warwick (U.K.) 18.0 NR NR 42 22
27. Rotterdam (Netherlands) 16.4 NR NR 36 41
28. Nanyang (Singapore) 11.6 NR NR 27 71
29. Chinese Univ. (Hong Kong) 11.1 NR NR 28 78
30. Imperial College (U.K.) 9.0 NR NR 32 68


NR: Not ranked means that the publication does not rank the identified school

ST: BusinessWeek ranks 10 non-U.S. schools and then identified a “second tier” group of six additional schools. ST refers to “second tier.”

Methodology: Schools on each of the five major rankings were scored from a high of 50 to a low of 1, the numerical rank of the 50th school on any one list. Then, those sums were brought together. Only schools that were ranked by at least two of the four ranking organizations were able to make our list. As a result, BusinessWeek’s number one non-U.S. school, Queen’s School of Business in Canada, fails to make our list of the top 30 schools because Forbes, the Financial Times, and The Economist do not rank the school at all.

  • Vivek Chandra

    Why isnt SDA bocconi here ?

  • Rami

    By the rankings I’ve seen, I would say Stanford-esqe. Anyone else?

  • Sebastián Miralles Acuña

    Because it is exclusively case method oriented, IESE is usually considered the Harvard of Europe. Though perhaps due to the strong focus on entrepreneurship a Stanford comparison would be valid.

    Most would probably agree that LBS is the spiritual kin to Wharton. INSEAD is hard to place because it is a one year program…¿Stanford perhaps?

  • Kay

    It’s there. Look further down the list.

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