FT’s New MBA Ranking Out Monday

The new 2012 global MBA ranking of The Financial Times will come out this Monday, Jan. 30th—and one of the most interesting issues will be whether Britain’s best business schools suffer a significant decline on the list.

In gathering data for its 14th annual ranking, the British newspaper has already reported that enrollment at the United Kingdom’s best 16 full-time MBA programs has fallen by 10% in a single year, with an even steeper fall of some 15% for domestic students. The 16 programs, which include London Business School as well as the business schools at Oxford and Cambridge, are those ranked by The Financial Times.

The paper quoted the director of MBA programs at Nottingham University Business School, John Colley, who estimated that over the past three years the number of qualified applicants to accredited U.K. business schools had fallen by about 35%. Meantime, the Association of MBAs, a British accreditation group, reported that between 2008 and 2010, the number of students enrolled at 43 of its accredited schools in the U.K. dropped more than 14% to 8,082 from 9,429.

Drops in enrollment can be directly correlated to a significantly smaller applicant pools as well as a decline in the overall quality of MBA candidates. That, in turn, can put downward pressure on GMAT and GPA averages, and later on, pressure on compensation which accounts for 40% of the FT’s methodology for ranking programs. So it’s very possible that U.K. schools will fare less well in the new Financial Times survey that comes out on Monday.

Last year, only one British school managed to crack The FT’s Top 25 list: London Business School, which tied with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for first place. Some 13 of the top 25 were based in the U.S. The Brits did better in the top 50, landing seven places, while exactly half of the programs—25 out of 50—were based in the U.S.

It was only two years ago in 2010 when The Financial Times’s made much hoopla over what it called “the diminishing dominance” of U.S. based business schools over the previous decade.

The British newspaper, in a commentary on its global MBA rankings in 2010, noted that only 11 of the top 25 schools on its list were now U.S., a dramatic decline from the 20 U.S. players in 1999 when The Financial Times first started ranking MBA programs.

The newspaper attributed the fall to declines in the degree’s return on investment, especially in the U.S. The Financial Times observed that while it had been commonplace for graduates to triple their pre-MBA salaries three years after graduation, those returns are now rare.

With the significant declines in enrollment at U.K. schools, it would not be surprising if more of them fell out of the top 50 this time around. The enrollment problem is the result of new visa restrictions on graduates so that MBAs no longer have the automatic right to work in the U.K. for two years after graduation as they once did.

“Overseas students like the option of working here for a spell for the experience before they go back,” Nottingham’s Colley told The Financial Times. “The new visa restrictions are killing that.”

Added Lindsay Duke, postgraduate recruitment manager at Durham Business School: “I think the message out there is that the UK is closed to students.”