Poets&Quants’ Top 50 Non-U.S. MBA Programs of 2012

by John A. Byrne on

London Business School recaptured its number one standing in Poets&Quants’ 2012 ranking of the top 50 non-U.S. MBA programs, slipping ahead of last year’s best school INSEAD which fell into second place.

The two leaders in MBA education outside the U.S. were followed by No. 3 IESE Business School and No. 4 IE Business School, both in Spain, No. 5 IMD in Switzerland and No. 6 HEC Paris. IESE and HEC both gained two places this year.

London, for years neck-and-neck with INSEAD as the best business school outside the U.S., had been named the best non-U.S. school in Poets&Quants’ inaugural ranking in 2010, only to be nudged out of first place by INSEAD last year. The school, which is in the midst of a major expansion, is increasingly attracting better students and faculty and is launching a massive fundraising campaign to bring its resources more in line with some of the elite U.S. business schools.


This year’s list–based on a composite of the four most influential rankings of global business schools–has 11 new entrants which range from No. 23 Mannheim Business School in Germany to No. 27 School of Business at the University of Hong Kong.

European business schools continue to dominate the list of the best non-U.S. MBA programs, with 14 of the top schools in the United Kingdom alone. But Canada makes a strong showing on the list with seven programs, including No. 9 York University’s Schulich School of Business, No. 11 Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, and No. 21 Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. And Asia is slowly evolving into a powerhouse of business school education, with eight out of the 50 best MBA programs on the list led by No. 17 the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and No. 18 China Europe International Business School.


Among the biggest winners on the 2012 list are the Warwick Business School in the U.K., which had the largest rise among the top 25, jumping 17 places to finish 16th from 33rd last year. The Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University rose ten places to place 19th, up from 29th in 2011. And HKUST moved up nine spots to rank 17th from 26th last year.

Who lost ground during this rankings year? The National University of Singapore’s business school fell six places, most among the top 25 schools, to 22nd place from 16th; Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, the Cranfield School of Management, and the Australian School of Business all fell five spots to 12th, 15th, and 25th, respectively.

This new P&Q list is a composite of four major MBA rankings published by The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and Forbes. All told, some 68 schools that appeared on one or more of those four lists were considered for the P&Q top 50. The Financial Times and The Economist publish global MBA rankings, with more complete listings of schools outside the U.S. BusinessWeek and Forbes, on the other hand, publish separates lists of the best international schools that are far more limited.

BusinessWeek only ranked 19 non-U.S. schools this year, while Forbes ranks a dozen two-year MBA programs outside the U.S. and a dozen one-year MBA programs. In contrast, the FT has 47 non-U.S. business schools on its 2012 list of the top 100 global schools, while The Economist has 52 of its top 100 global schools outside the U.S.


The ranking takes into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in these major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the latest salary and employment statistics of alumni.

Combining the four most influential rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress it. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent.

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  • Johnny Fritzer

    Figure I’d share my two cents on this topic even though I already did in various other posts on this page. First off, I am a McKinsey consultant who works in an Australian office. I graduated with an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM). I work with post-MBA McKinsey consultants globally, and such consultants graduated from the world’s best business schools, naturally. I have interacted with LBS and INSEAD grads. I would have to say that LBS has a stronger brand value, but just by a little bit. Both are definitely considered peer schools and in the M7 in the US (if they had to be ranked side by side with American schools). I think Harvard, Stanford, Wharton are the top 3 in the world (in this order) and then Chicago, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia are the next group (not necessarily in that order). LBS and INSEAD are in the Chicago-Columbia family (not going to rank that 2nd family because depending on the subject, one school could be better than the other. Many students from LBS and INSEAD had offers from these top 7 US schools but chose to go to LBS and INSEAD because of international diversity/experience.

    Regarding LBS v. INSEAD, I think LBS brand value is slightly higher due to one main reason: it is located in London, UK. The two countries that have the most “higher learning” institutions are the US and UK. Because LBS is in the UK, it gets that edge as a UK school. Plus, being in London, all major executives in London have heard of LBS because of the school’s proximity to their companies/London offices.

    I think the caliber of graduate from LBS is on par with INSEAD and this distinction is a minor point. That being said, to add to this debate, yes, LBS has a stronger global brand value (including in the United States) compared with INSEAD. From a recruiter’s standpoint (from McKinsey’s standpoint), both are on par with each other without a doubt, so it doesn’t matter at all. If you are good at LBS or INSEAD and want to be at McKinsey, you have a great shot.

    John, excellent website by the way…just found it tonight…very entertaining…love reading these posts as I wait for presentations to print…keep posting everyone, good luck, and cheers!! :-)

  • Johnny Fritzer

    Oh and last point: LBS and INSEAD are widely considered “Harvard and Stanford” outside of the US. Not saying which one is Harvard or Stanford because, no one aside from a prospective student, cares. 😉

  • BigSwingingD

    Completely agree with both of Johnny’s posts. I-banker here from Moelis. Although in finance world, London B School is the better of the two schools and top 5 I. The world (maybe even top 2-3). hmmmmmm. Here is my order for finance: Wharton, Chicago, Columbia/LBS for 3rd spot.
    Anyways, waiting for books sucks, eh, Johnny? I better check with our PPS on my books………………………….

  • Johnny Fritzer

    Yes it does….good luck to you.

  • dinghy

    indeed impressive. Better stats than a good chunk of the top 7 US business schools.

  • BigRed

    I currently attend Cornell Johnson. I worked at Google before my MBA and interned at BCG this summer. I second everything Johnny mentioned, but from a personal standpoint, I like the London Business School people way better. Compared to INSEAD folks I was exposed to, LBS folks were so humble and accomplished and cool. LBS wins this debate in my book. But, I still think Cornell is the best of all (disclaimer: may be biased about Cornell). ;D

  • Brett

    Focusing on actual MBA experience (i.e, outside of school), London business school wins. London rocks!! Did a term there when I was at Kellogg. I wish I would have gone there for my MBA. Students were so smart and international in point of views – loved it!! Highly recommend LBS to Americans looking at top 7 US b schools. Knowing what I know now, international experience is invaluable (not just a term abroad but a meaningful amount of time)…

  • AllIDoIsWinWinWinNoMatterWhat

    Also worth noting is the progress that both London business school and INSEAD have made in producing high impact leaders compared to other top 7 US business schools (some of which have 50-60 years of a head start). I know that LBS opened its doors in mid 1960s while INSEAD opened in the mid 1950s. Both of these schools have bright futures. I’d argue both are top 5 in the world…kudos to them on their successes so far! On a different topic, don’t get me started on the stagnancy of certain top 10 US b schools…I tell you America will lose its competitive advantage to the world very soon — if it hasn’t already happened yet.

  • Pablo

    Nonsense! INSEAD is the best school in the whole wide world. Better than Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, LBS, Columbia, booth, Kellogg, etc

  • Mike Wang

    Plus, 1 year programs blow. Why would someone want to cut their b school experience in half? Those looking for international flave while preserving the 2-year American b school structure while attending a top 10 school in the world – hands down London Business S.

  • Mike Wang

    LOL!!!!! How do I flag this as the “dumbest thing I’ve ever read”? All user is the ability to thumbs up and thumbs down….

  • MBB Brazil

    Hello every one. What your opinion about the entreprenership view between LBS and Insead? And what dou you think about the IE reputation?

  • BreakingGood

    HI MBB, I think both LBS and INSEAD are great for entrepreneurship. I may side with LBS not because it has a stronger entrepreneurship focus but because there are several LBS affiliated angel investors and London itself is a great hub for many venture capital provides and entrepreneurs. INSEAD isn’t really in Paris – it is outside of it. Both are great and you’ll be able to accomplish your goals if you are one who takes calculated risks.

    Honestly, the best two schools in the world for entrepreneurship are Stanford and MIT Sloan. You may want to check out ESADE or HKUST also if you are open to international.

    IE has a great reputation but definitely behind London Business School, INSEAD, and IMD.

  • Javier Macias Rodriguez Polamo

    Agree with Breaking Good. I am at Stanford GSB right now. Stanford and MIT are best but honestly you can achieve your startup goals anywhere (probably don’t need b school to do this). Move out west to Bay Area and you’ll learn by doing – b school won’t teach this skill set. London vs INSEAD, I go London because of the city. Both are incredible schools, but London is one of the most powerful cities in this world. Pays to be in the action.

  • Javier Macias Rodriguez Polamo

    Sorry meant I’m at Stanford not GSB :) Would love to go to GSB though :)

  • Ricardo Puleanas

    IE is way better than IESE. Have a friend from college (mid west US school) that attends IESE and is a huge dumba**. IE > IESE. Rankings are only one aspect. Trust me on this…if people like my friend make up the class that’s bad news

  • FutureLBSMBA

    LBS is one of the most well-rounded schools in the world (probably top 3). The business school is excellent in most academic disciplines, great size of ~400, very highly ranked (see Wikipedia page for specifics as that is how I learned about the school’s rankings or I think the P&Q LBS page would have this info), excellent recruiting stats, international study body and faculty, heart of one of the world’s most important cities, and an accomplished and loyal alumni base across the world – again ACROSS THE WORLD (stress this for a reason)!

    What more would you want from a b school? The only 2 schools that would stir up any debate for me if I were choosing business schools right now would be Harvard and Stanford. Truthfully, it wouldn’t be a clear answer to me because beyond academics, recruiting, and rankings, the personal experience is critical. I feel like living in London for a while would be a great life experience — one that would allow me to personally grow — one that I could definitely leverage as a professional to gain a competitive advantage against top US b school peers. Ultimately b school is a personal choice but LBS jumps out at me.

    My Two cents — some may disagree. I’m ok with that. For the record, I am biased. I will be applying to b school next fall and LBS is my top choice. But you can see my reasons are objective.

  • Homerunyep

    After reading these posts, I can definitively say that I WILL
    NOT be applying to INSEAD. More like INSAD. Such negativity coming from INSAD supporters. Here is my final list of schools after exhaustive research:
    Reach – Harvard, Stanford, Booth, London Business School
    Target – Kellogg, Tuck, Fuqua
    Safety – UCLA, Stern, Yale.

    Wish me luck. Excited for upcoming app process!!!

  • CE

    Congrats rodrig!! I got into LBS, INSEAD, IMD, Wharton, Tuck, and Kellogg. Very hard decision but chose LBS. Was particularly impressed with our class, or at least the ones I met during admits weekend in early June. Where you there? Can’t wait till the fall!!!

  • Chiara Maldovich

    New to business school world but learn wonderful things about LBS although can’t say good or bad things yet since have not been yet in campus. Also discover bad thing about Columbia, Wharton, Stanford, Tuck, Kellogg, INSEAD.

    My opinions, Columbia b school students is not team players but out to get each other. Wharton, Stanford and INSEAD are elitist. These schools students think they run world and met not smart people. Tuck and Kellogg are filled with rejected students from Wharton, HBS, Stanford and the other top 10 US and top 3 foreign schools. Seems like schools for lesser students. Don’t want to sound mean just observations and from conversations with alums, students, and administrators. Will not be applying to schools which I report negative observations.

  • Anon

    Incredible stats but not surprising. London Business school is in the club and top 10 in the world. One would expect such stats given the school’s world famous reputation. I suspect these numbers will be even higher in the future. Nice job LBS.

  • Rohit

    Why not Wharton?

  • Prmr

    I find this debate on rankings to be rather funny to be honest.. I am at INSEAD and have friends in all top 10 US schools (the company i work with sends quite a big number of people to b school every year). What i have noticed based on 2-3 years of talking with students at various schools is that HSW are clearly in group 1 with very little except personal preferences to differentiate between them. this is purely due to the number of PE/VC jobs up for grabs at these schools. Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, INSEAD, LBS form the next group with rankings often moving up and down and people again choosing schools based on personal preferences. Having compared employment reports the percentage of people in bulge bracket+consulting is more or less the same at all these places. At the end of the day, if you are good you will be able to pursue all of your dreams irrespective of which of these schools you really go to.

  • sri krishna

    I have got a GMAT score of 630, Toefl yet to write, Bachelors- 9.13/10, 3 years of work ex., good academic credentials and recommendations.

    What can be my target and safe side good B schools with 1 year MBA program?…Thanks in advance..

  • Kevin Smith

    the competition is on another level??? this is so idiotic i don’t even know that to say, do you really think it’s harder to get a job at McK in Pittsburg or Cleveland than it is in London or Paris??? I’m sorry but not only do many LBS and INSEAD grads make it to US MBB offices, but the quality level and competition for European jobs is pretty much on the same level. Of course you’ll see less competition for smaller regional offices, but the same hold true for the US as well. Outside of NYC, SF & CHI, many MBB need to be VERY proactive to recruit because finding good talent in those regionactually isn’t that easy. although i had no intention to go into consulting and did not even apply, i was invited to first round for my local office (ie. where i’m from) by by all 3 of MBB…

  • RangersNYC

    I’m not Homerun dude, but my guess is that Wharton just wasn’t a good fit personally. Philly vs Boston/San Fran/London? Those 3 cities win. Honestly, take these posts with a grain of salt. You will get two types of people: Those who really like a program or those who really hate one. :)

    But, I think the above breakdown is pretty accurate (although LBS has a low GMAT average). But, the caliber of student at H/S/B/L are equivalent – no doubt.

    Good luck Rohit!

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