2012 Financial Times Ranking of the Best B-Schools

An aerial view of the new Knight Management Center at Stanford

For the first time in the 14 years that The Financial Times has ranked full-time MBA programs, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business captured first place in the British newspaper’s new 2012 global MBA ranking published today (Jan. 30).

Stanford pushed aside both the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and London Business School, which had tied for first last year. Wharton fell to third, and London to fourth. No. 2 Harvard Business School was right behind Stanford in the new ranking, and Columbia Business School rose two spots to place fifth.

But the biggest gain of any school in the top 25 was made by UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business which climbed 11 places in a single year to be ranked 14th, up from 25th in 2011. Yet, the school’s alumni did not report an appreciable increase in compensation which carries the most weight in the Financial Times’ methodology. Three years after graduation, Berkeley’s Class of 2009 reported making $146,811 on average, representing an increase over pre-MBA pay of 91%. A year earlier, alums reported making $144,790 on average, with an increase of 87% over their pre-MBA salaries. The FT did not offer any explanation for the rankings improvement for Berkeley.


Other top 25 gainers include Cornell’s Johnson School, up six places to a rank of 24 this year; Duke University’s Fuqua School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, both up five places to ranks of 15th and 16th, respectively, and Oxford’s Said School, up seven spots to finish 20th this year.

The new Financial Times list was less kind to the Indian School of Business and CEIBS in China which both dropped seven places to 20th and 24th, respectively. Yale’s School of Management also lost five spots to fall to a three-way tie for 20th with Said and the Indian School of Business.

The Financial Times also made a point in noting that Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology Business School fell four places to tenth in the new ranking, and the newspaper said the decline is “partly explained by a reclassification of students, faculty members and board members from China, previously counted as international by the FT for schools based in Hong Kong.” Those factors are among 20 different data points in the methodology used by the FT to rank MBA programs.


As is often the case, the further down the list one goes, the more dramatic the results–a consequence of the fact that there is little if any statistical significance to these assigned numerical ranks. Indiana University’s Kelley School jumped 27 places to finish 46, up from 73 only a year ago, while the Warwick Business School in England rose even high–an amazing 31 places to a rank of 27, up from 58 in 2011. (See “The Biggest Winners & Losers of The Financial Times’ 2012 MBA Ranking“)

Perhaps the oddest showing of the new survey is the rank of the Chinese University of Hong Kong at 28 and the University of Hong Kong at 37. Both schools failed to even make The Financial Times’ 2011 list so their appearances at these relatively high ranks mean that the Chinese University had to climb a minimum of 73 places to enter at 28, while the University of Hong Kong had to gain at least 64 places to finish at 37. These results give the ranking little authority or credibility. (See “The Strange Math in the FT Ranking.”)

Some 13 schools fell completely off the list, including Arizona State University’s Carey School, which had been ranked 64th last year by the FT, UC-Davis, which had been ranked 83rd, the College of William & Mary’s Mason School, ranked 86th last year, and Pepperdine, ranked 92nd last year. Just about one in every four schools had a double-digit increase or decrease in their year-over-year Financial Times ranking.

The primary reason for Stanford’s rise? An increase in compensation, which gets the most weight of any criteria used to rank schools by the FT.  The newspaper surveys alumni three years after their graduation and asks them to report what they had made before going to school as well as what they made in the past year. The FT said Stanford graduates boasted the highest “sector-weighted” average salary, at $192,179 a year (based on purchasing power parity equiv­alents). “Pay has proved a strong suit for Stanford throughout the history of the ranking: the school has topped the list of earnings eight times,” The Financial Times said.


The Financial Times said that the rise of three U.S.-based schools at the top of its global ranking of 100 full-time MBA programs reflects a more general trend of U.S. schools doing better in the FT’s ranking.

U.S. schools, which account for 53 of the 100 ranked schools, “fared marginally better than their European counterparts (a quarter of the schools in the 2012 ranking are primarily based in Europe),” the newspaper said. “Of the 47 U.S-based schools that feature in both the 2011 and 2012 ranking, 20 moved up the list this year. In contrast, 18 of the 23 European schools listed in both years either did not move or dropped down the table in 2012.”

The culprit: Europe’s economic troubles. “Average alumni salaries three years after graduation were lower in 2012 when compared with the previous year for 16 out of the 23 European schools listed. This compares with increases for 26 out of the 48 alumni groups from US-based schools,” the Financial Times reported.

(See table of top 25 schools on following page)

  • V

    * Indicates that the school had to rise at least by the number of places and possibly more because the school was not on the FT top 100 last year.

    This is not true. As explained by the Financial Times (to my school), the dramatic increase is simply due to insufficient number of responses to the FT survey.

  • UDumb

    Firstly, I don’t believe your claims.
    Secondly, even if I do believe in your claims, your personal successes with LBS and INSEAD admissions and your choice for another top 10 US school don’t make your choice right or make LBS and INSEAD lesser schools.

  • Guest

     I like to hear from IE current students or alumni. I got admitted to IE and can’t make my decision whether to pursue my MBA from IE or not. I am a permanent resident in USA and planning to work in USA afterwards. However, if the school is good and can elevate my profile which opens up new avenues to me, then I won’t hesitate to pursue my MBA from it. Despite achieving outstanding rankings, I have been hearing mixed comments from people in forums. If there is anyone who can shed some light on the quality of the school and program, it would be of great help to me.


  • Nearly Nubile

    No they don’t. They will pay different salaries in different cities though, in keeping with the norms of that geography. The stats in these rankings are misleading as it’s an average. 

  • Nearly Nubile

    IMD is comparable in Europe. IMD is a no-name in Asia, except people who came from there. 

  • Nearly Nubile

    All this is splendid. INSEAD offers it all too. Point is, for most people, a US school is “international” too because they themselves are NOT from the US. Also, while the nationality may be American, most students are from different racial backgrounds. LBS is a great school, but the final and most important point, it’s got ways to go in terms of global brand cachet.  


    I’m from the U.S., attending LBS MBA program.  It was first on my list, of any school.  I only considered LBS and the top 4 in U.S., interviewed everywhere, and had several options.  

    The stuff I’ve read here doesn’t really capture what’s so amazing about LBS.  And let’s be honest – the MBA curriculum, independent of program, isn’t the toughest in the world – no matter how you slice it, finance and economics aren’t rocket science.  If you’re looking for academic rigor, you can find (or avoid) it at any top program.  It’s up to you.

    At LBS, it’s about the incredible student diversity – from Guyana and Ghana to Karachi and Hong Kong.  This is the world that we’re entering – it’s not 60% U.S. and 40% other… it’s, like LBS, highly mixed.  That’s a significant reason to attend LBS.

    The other is the flexibility in the LBS program.  One can graduate basically in 1 year (ok, 15 months), or extend it for the full 2 years.  I’ve chosen the 15 month plan, so have front-loaded my electives.

    The LBS program has also allowed me to launch a small company (we will see this summer if it truly pops) and I managed to find a coveted internship at a London-based hedge fund.  Maybe this is a bit atypical, but countless LBS students are doing some really amazing things.  One just, in fact, got back from skiing to the North Pole… another just summited Everest, and is on to his 7th extreme peak.

    Also the travel.  From London, the world is completely at your doorstep.  We just got back over Spring Break from Ethiopia and Uganda.  Standard stuff at LBS.  

    I don’t know much about INSEAD, HKU, or others, but I can’t imagine those experiences would be as rich as at LBS.  And I know that the U.S. schools just can’t beat LBS for all the reasons above.

    The world’s trends are simply in favor of the LBS model – it’s the blueprint.  

    Best of luck out there.

  • M

    @ gnut.sucram

    For Consulting, I believe Insead is above but I know that the competition is harsh!!! (for the big 3) Most of the student there dream of consulting!!!

    However, from what I heard IMD places also a good percentage in Consulting (Mckinsey, BCG, …). (15-20%) I heard that usually students get a higher salary in industry than in consulting, which can explain the slightly low rate in Consulting. But I talked with some IMD alumni and the big MC Companies come and hire from IMD.

    So after once the door is open it will depend on you personal work experiences and on how you perform on the interview rather than from which school you are coming!!!

    Frankly, I am still torn between the two and as you said it depends on “fit” but damn it is a so important decision!!!!!

  • ramon

    @ Mario

    Mario, I did not mean to offend anybody. INSEAD IS a GREAT school –> top 15 US equivalent is still great.

  • gnut.sucram

    @ Mazen

    How would you compare Insead to IMD ? For a 28 years old guy who wants to work in consulting post MBA, which one would you suggest 🙂

    Both IMD and INSEAD are top in Europe, No Doubt.

    It is impossible to compare who is better since each of them has their own strength and every applicant has their own needs. It is all about “FIT”.

  • Mario


    have you looked into the latest placement report of INSEAD FT MBA?, please don’t just make inaccurate judgement about the best GLOBAL b school. I wonder in which measure you measured the “dramatic” fall? and what is exactly the “dramatic” in your dictionary?, INSEAD has an alliance with Wharton, and INSEAD students share the same database of networking and alumni and career services with Harvard, Stanford, and Kellogg..do you think those top schools would do so with a school that “dramatically” falling??!!!!, finally, some respect is reflecting your way of thinking..

  • ramon

    @ stafan

    Stafan I completely agree

    @ Mario

    I have also asked the same qs about INSEAD wall street and non-wall street ppl. The quality of the school has fallen dramatically and in fact I always get the same answer: INSEAD is <= top 15 US schools- full stop.

  • Rehman


    when will the updated poetsandquants ranking be released?

  • stafan

    Rankings are very subjective and can be misleading. I personally believe the cost of MBA has risen to such level that we have reached the point of diminishing return.I believe the GMAC and all the MBA providers are in it for purely financial gain and they keep milking money from the ‘so called brightest students’. I actually worked in the public sector and moved into a top tier investment bank. It was passion ,dedication and determination to succeed which enable me to do this and not an MBA. For all those who want to pursue an MBA , please think twice about the opportunity costs.

  • jay

    I don’t quite understand the large discrepancy in average pay between top schools. A good portion of M7 graduates join the same consulting and financial firms. Assuming a normal career progression after 3-5 years (excluding superstars and laggards) shouldn’t their pay be roughly equal? I suppose my question is: at firms like Mckinsey, would a Harvard MBA earn more than a Sloan MBA in the same role?

  • Steve,

    I’ll definitely get out there at some point. Thanks much!

  • Appreciate the instant correction John, gives your site great credibility! I was quite serious about your visiting Hong Kong. If you can make time for it do let me hear. I promise you an enjoyable and enlightening visit which HKUST would be happy to help organize. Cheers, Steve

  • Mario


    US News does NOT rank MBAs outside US..I can’t blame them for that, their specialty is only US, may be they can’t have tools or open horizons as say BW, FT, or economist..having said that: if you want to work in Wall St in PE, then why you consider INSEAD from the beginning?!!!, everyone knows that Wall St is almost for MBAs from the M7..we are talking from broader prospective mate, we are talking about the GLOBE, not only wall st.. and we are talking about INSEAD as business school. I believe it is quite hard to compare 1Y program with 2Y, their prospective students are different, every program can serve certain career goals..so, it is not acceptable to say INSEAD is lower than the 12 US b schools in wall st in PE!!! we can say also, that INSEAD is better than Harvard if you are 30 and worked with Bain and sponsored to be back with them in Singapore!!, so, don’t base your judgement on very narrow view…

  • Vladmir

    Ted – What would you say abt Kellogg in this respect? It has very few people going into finance at 20% and limited recruitment from the top banks. Like Insead it is big on mgmt consultancy. How would Kellogg a top US school be better for finance than Insead?

  • M

    @ Ted

    I guess it all depends on your post mba goals! For IB and PE I would agree with you but for management consulting it is well known that Insead is one of the best in the world. Unfortunately the rankings are too general to take into account everyone’s goals ;)))

  • ramon


    I totally agree with you. Such a money making machine business. I faced the same decision and I do not regret it. Ranking “volatility” is certainly a warning signal for manipulation.

    As for INSEAD, while a great school, I would never chose it over a top 15 US school. Same applies to LBS. Particularly a top 12 school in US is head and shoulders above those schools.

  • ted

    @ Mario

    I rejected INSEAD. I spoke to many people working on wall street and to some in top tier PE firms and they told me that INSEAD <= Top 15 US Business School. I visited campus, I spoke to many people and made my decision. While undoubtedly a great school I am convinced that its an equivalent top 12-15 US School by US news rankings, but absolutely not better. I know (inside info) that many ranking sources are biased and even get hidden fees from marketing Universities. US news is the only unbiased ranking practice because its based on truly transparent criteria and not on criteria which may become subject to manipulation and therefore lead to extremely high "volatility" in rankings. The higher the volatility and "noise" on the web around ranking methodologies, the more biased and un-transparent they are. This is the bitter truth.

  • asif


  • asif

    Hi John! Can you please name a few top programmes in operations management outside US? Thanks

  • Mario


    for speciality ranking of US MBA programs, I suggest you reffer to US news ranking, it quite reliable and convenient. worth mention, MIT Sloan and CMU Tepper.. outside US, I believe, IMD, INSEAD, and for lower ranked Cranfield is known for operation management.

  • Mario


    I can understand selecting HWS comparing with INSEAD, though it depends on your career goals. But INSEAD as brand and prestige globally is much better than the others in top 15 in US. if you have no enough ex and knowledge in business, then you may need 2 years in which all the best 25 b schools in US are really capable to give you solid business education. INSEAD is top top tier business school worldwide.

  • Andrea

    sorry, i thought you meant the weighted salaries.
    you’re right. the salary today figure makes no sense. even if it’s weighted, it’s only about 1k different from the current starting salary…

  • CL

    The improvement in the FT ranking for Kellogg and Duke should improve their standing in the overall Poets and Quants list.

  • b-school guy


    The FT provides two figures — one is weighted salary and once is “salary today” (unweighted)…. in the unweighted portion it also states that IIM grads make $175K — thus my confusion.

  • Ted,

    Forbes and the FT gets these numbers by directly surveying alumni with the help of the schools. The numbers, of course, are based on a sample of respondents. The size of the sample at the FT can be as low as 20 respondents. So how exact these numbers are no one really knows. Also, the alums who fill out the surveys know that their answers will be used to rank their alma maters. So there is some incentive to overestimate one’s income in the interest of promoting his or her own degree. These are the inherent limitations of the methodology.

  • ted

    May I ask how they base the salaries? Where do they get this information? Salary increase is something which is NOT a transparent number. I rely EXCLUSIVELY on the US News rankings. I strongly believe that the best School outside of US touches the top 15 US schools. I was accepted to INSEAD, LBS, etc and rejected them for a US top 10 school by US News.

  • Andrea

    b-school guy- it’s WEIGHTED salary. so the 175k isn’t based on the nominal exchange rate, but purchasing power parity.
    india is cheaper to live in, so 50k usd in india feels like 175k usd…

  • b-school guy

    also – did the FT make an error was the unweighted salary for IIM-A “salary today$” is still $175K —- John – you need to write to the editor of the FT to fix their methodology or data– it’s very misleading for international students

  • b-school guy

    Wow – the IIM-A and ISB figures are completely bogus. Take a look at the official employment report from IIM-A:


    The highest paid domestic package (including non-cash, long term
    and performance linked components) for 2011 was 37 Lakh Rs. (~$75,000) with a mean of around $33K

    The MAXIMUM base salary for IIM-A internationally was $104,525 or $135,643 with bonus,etc. … the average was $85K total … remember only 12 students went international

    So is FT telling us that 3 years out, IIM graduates make more than Columbia, Chicago, etc. that start off at a mean of $110K+ with base salary alone??? Also, this is with unweighted salary (i.e. not adjusted for PPP)

    I’m sorry FT is full of $hit —

    School name Country Sal today ($) Weighted sal. ($)
    Stanford Graduate School of Business US 191,658 192,180
    Harvard Business School US 177,877 178,250
    University of Pennsylvania: Wharton US 176,299 172,354
    Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) India 175,077 175,077
    Columbia Business School US 171,647 166,497
    MIT: Sloan US 15,808 157,337
    London Business School UK 154,784 152,982
    University of Chicago: Booth US 154,449 152,585
    Dartmouth College: Tuck US 153,252 151,182
    IE Business School Spain 152,128 156,659
    Northwestern University: Kellogg US 146,136 145,834

  • Elisabeth

    @Mazen: While IMD scores well in the aforementioned areas in the alumni category, IMD does not do as well in the female faculty diversity at only 17% and idea generation with no PhD programme and ranking only at 76 at research rank (publication in major peer reviewed journals). The lack of prestigious PhD programme and hurts and there is a lot to be argued for PhD education in terms of primary research and scholastic work. PhD education is a cost centre and shows faculty’s research commitment.

    In the FT’s meet the dean column, Ross’s dean Davis-Baker took a swipe in FT’s ranking with its heavy criterion on alumni pay. She says that life is not only about money. “What kind of outcome do I want? What does a better job mean? It means I can make bigger contribution and influence over to society.”

  • Manel

    from business pointview: I believe FT ranking is realistic and really reflects the business world at the moment. why surprised by the fluctuations in MBA ranking and accepting the fluctuations in other business related rankings (e.g. Fortune 500, Forbes billionaires list, etc). people mix between academic universities world and business world. MBA is business-related degree and professional training to go to the markets, not to win Nobel in physics. so, the fluctuations in my opinion is just function of the economical state worldwide. and from this point: I think FT ranking is more credible than the others since it change according to the business change

  • tsiro

    I generally do not rely on FT rankings they are completelly unreliable. And as yenlightened mentioned, Booth, Kellog and Stern are double digit? I think rating agencies would do a far better job rating the business schools than any of the above crap 😉

  • Steven,

    Thanks for clarifying. I will correct the story. I do hope to get to Hong Kong in the near future.

  • Greetings John,

    We meet again! Congrats on your website. I was director of admissions at Kellogg in the 80’s. We had many conversations and information exchanges when you were at Business Week.

    This message is to take issue with what you have written (printed below). It was a change in the international criteria at the Financial Times this year which lead to HKUST decline to 10. Not an error that let to 6 last year.

    Also, the reason the other HK schools were not on the list in the past is either they did not participate or not enough alums filled out the questionair. FT is very strict about the size of the sample of alums. Please check your facts first before you go to print. Or better yet, come visit Hong Kong. You will be suprised at what you will find in Asia. The world has changed since you were at Bus week.

    Professor Steven DeKrey
    Senior Associate Dean,
    Masters Programs Director,
    HKUST Business School

    “The Financial Times also conceded that an error in last year’s ranking allowed Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology Business School to place sixth in 2011. The school fell four places to tenth in the new ranking and the newspaper said that the decline is ”partly explained by a reclassification of students, faculty members and board members from China, previously counted as international by the FT for schools based in Hong Kong.” Those factors are among 20 different data points in the methodology used by the FT to rank MBA programs.” (Wrong facts-See page 35 of the FT Business Education insert)

  • Conor

    yenlightened, I totally agree. Its laughable…

  • yenlightened

    I find this edition of FT’s rankings seriously flawed, making it two years in a row now. Booth, Kellogg, and Stern double digit? Laughable.

  • Assaf


    It depends on your career goals, your experience, where you want to work, program teaching style, placements, class size, location, languages, and other factors.. both INSEAD and IMD are good programs.. plz note: class size at INSEAD is around 1000 and at IMD is 90… 90 students means intimate and personal program but much less alumni network..again, it is about fit criteria… 32 Y and industry seem to be IMD guy but be aware of the program admission and style..they are pretty selective and they conduct full day for assessing the candidates. also, it is very intense and demanding..6 days a week..+10 hrs a day!!! yet, they are prestigious within industry..
    the point: pick the best one for you..not for the others..(hint: it worth looking to IE, Kellogg 1Y, and Cornell AMBA)

  • Mazen


    How would you compare Insead to IMD ? For a 32 years old guy who wants to work in industry post MBA, which one would you suggest 😉

  • Andrea

    Polla- no one is measuring the worth of people/cultures with business school rankings.
    maybe you should pull your head out of your own bottom.

  • Assaf


    IMD is very very unique program and it is not for every one. it is only for the one who wants only IMD. in my opinion, it is the world’s best in industry. and from the best in GM.

  • Polla

    Your heads are so deep inside of the US buttoms that you do not realize that there is life outside of it. All of the countries that have strong and mature economies also have good schools. It is dumb to assure that only in “America” (name that some use out of complete ignorance) can quality engineers and businessmen be formed. People that talk like this only reinforce the idea that people in the United States have very little culture and serious limitations in the international context.

    Si tan sólo fueran capaces de leer en otro idioma podrían comenzar a darse cuenta de la importancia que tiene la apertura, sobre todo de cabeza. Les recomiendo vivir en otro país, aprender otros idiomas y tratar de convertirse en profesionales bi o multi-culturales.

    If you were only capable of reading in a second language you could start to understand the importance that openess has, specially that of your brains. I recommend you to live in another country, learn other languages and try to become multicultural professionals.

    Keep on with your “American Dream”.

  • Andrea

    i wish they also had the nominal salaries. iim-a salary is super high if you convert with ppp, but it’s actually 54k not 175k using regular exchange rates.

  • Conor

    Placing so much weight on salary increase really distorts the picture. In WS they are decreasing salaries by 30% and no wonder this has an impact on Stern..

  • Mazen

    Another weird stuff is how come IMD is always stuck at the 13-14th place!!!
    If you select the most important Fields:
    Weighted salary: 14
    Value salary: 7
    Careers: 7
    Aims achieved: 1
    Placements: 1
    International mobility: 1
    Recommends: 16
    I don’t understand how it can end up there

  • Mazen

    How can we compare data from different audit year!!!!!
    It makes no sense to me.

  • @Assaf – I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed for Fuqua’s continued rise. Looks like their “globally distributed” strategy is paying off.

  • Guest

    This is by far the most useless ranking out there. It truly does not provide any value. The FT should just stop trying to be part of the rankings craze and dedicate to journalism

  • The Financial Times also conceded it had made an error in last year’s ranking that allowed Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology Business School to sixth in 2011. The school fell four places to tenth in the new ranking and the newspaper said that the decline is ”partly explained by a reclassification of students, faculty members and board members from China, previously counted as international by the FT for schools based in Hong Kong.”

    I think your assessment is a bit questionable here. What’s the “error” that FT made before? While Hong Kong might be part of China, a Chinese can’t just move in and out of HK at free will for work, living or studying. In fact the requirements are much more stringent than for example within the EU

    Secondly, CUHK and HKU were not ranked at all last year. That’s different from being ranked outside the 100. Not being ranked at all can happen if you have less than 20 alumni responding to the survey in any given year. Since the classes at some of these schools are very small (~30-40 students), this is more likely to happen at small schools than large US programs.

  • Gosh

    Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, the good old Trinity is always the same and will probably stay at the top for the years to come.

  • asif

    Guys can any one tell me which are the best programs for operations management in US and outside it?

  • Assaf

    but totally disappointed by the continuous drop of Tuck. what is going at Dartmouth?

  • Assaf

    I am not surprised by the rise of Fuqua. this school will become top 5 very soon. I wish the administration of Yale SOM will learn something from Duke Fuqua.

  • Gnut Sucram

    No suprise to CUHK ranked 28 this year. They ranked 28 on 2010 FT ranking.

  • Alois de Novo

    Nothing happened whatsoever. FT recalibrated in deference to the received wisdom. God bless ’em.