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

by John A. Byrne on

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.

  • John A. Byrne

    We’re using the FT’s 2010 global ranking which shows that London Business School is number one. It’s odd that London also wouldn’t be number one in the European rankings because they are based on the same data, but that’s just another problem with the methodology of the FT. It doesn’t make any sense to us, either.

  • DS

    I have been accepted to the Richard Ivey School of business in Canada.I aspire for a career in management consulting. How would you rate career prospects in consulting for an international student from Ivey vs. an international student from Yale SOM or INSEAD?

  • FM

    Hey DS, I hope this is not discouraging but an MBA from Ivey does not compare to Yale or INSEAD. A significant issue with the Western Ivey degree (completed undergrad there) is that at the end of the day it is a degree from Western. An unknown entity outside of Ontario/Canada. Do not believe Ivey’s claims ie. place people in top firms all over the world. Having spoken to many grad’s, this is not reality (worked with many in Toronto). If you are seriously considering Canada its better to go with UofT or McGill … the brand name of the University is going to carry more weight than Western/Ivey outside of Ontario or Canada. Apologies for being so direct … but alot of marketing from Cdn B-Schools is a bunch of bull. Western privatized their program a few years a ago … its a “pay and go” scheme.

  • Diego Cruz

    I really think this site is great… and this ranking really is great.
    Maybe you should just delete the 2nd paragraph of the article, which is very disputable.

  • Diego Cruz

    One question:

    You mentioned IE could be equivalent to Kellog.
    What would be the US equivalent of the IESE?


  • Reveler

    I’m planning for my MBA at Trinity college Dublin, I see that it is ranked among the top 100 universities. what would u suggest.

  • MBA hopeful

    I totally agree with Diego Cruz above. The article is great, and this site is also good. However, the second paragraph is very disputable–there are some great schools outside the US, and I would chose IE or Insead over Kellog or Tuck on anyday.

    Some food for thought, why is it that the USA, where one supposedly gets the MBA education and where the history of MBA is the longest, is the country which is the worst off right now out of all the countries where MBA programmes are renowned? Look at Germany, there is hardly any MBA culture what so ever and that country is the best off right now of the big guns in Europe.

  • Tiago

    Why is INSEAD so badly ranked by The Economist (compared to other rankings)?

  • bofors84

    I have a tough time understanding how schools such as Cambridge feature below IE? I would probably given an extra point to IESE for running a 2 year program. But IE is tough to understand. Do rankings look at something called brand value and such? Judge may be a young school but I am sure it is Top 5 material as far as non- US schools are concerned. This is considering many factors: 1. The English language 2. The Spanish economy 3. University of Cambridge 4. Class size and placements. I’d be happy to hear the general consensus..

  • Cameron Rout

    LBS is ranked #1 for MBA in Europe, but the European ranking is based on a fully rounded business education. Note that the ranking in question is the ranking of business schools, not the ranking of MBAs.

    Full breakdown here:

  • 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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