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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  • heyholetsgo

    Can someone tell me why all the rankings separate US and non-US Business Schools? Is it because US Business Schools are in a league of their own? Where would LBS and INSEAD stand in the US ranking?

  • simone

    Only american publications separate. Financial Times and economist don’t. However, it is really interesting to look into BW, they only separate the Full time MBA ranking, and mix all the other rankings such as executive education. If I would guess, it is due to the desire of american publication to preserve the US schools from the competition and to insist the image that they are ahead of the others. But, with Financial Times ranking, the applicants and prospective students know really what the good schools are!. Wall Street used to publish a global ranking, they stopped in 2007, I believe it is due to some influence from top american schools. It is a syndrome with most american mentalities, they don’t recognize the world outside the US! having said that, I’d admit that the MBA industry has been invented in the US, and hence, the one would expect them to lead the industry, only few international and europen schools are in the same level of top US schools, INSEAD, LBS, and IMD are without question comparable to the top US schools! we should also, admit that most excellent international schools has been established with hep and cooperation from many us schools, for example IESE with HBS, and in fact, INSEAD itself is been established by Harvard alumni and professors, and till today they maintain a very close cooperation to the degree some people say, if you want harvard two years program go to Harvard, and you if you want harvard one year program go to insead. In conclusion, I’d say that Financial times global ranking is the best available international ranking, it is audited and very reliable despite some strange results!

  • Faria

    London Business Schools and INSEAD just like Chicago booth and Harvard even if it been ranked #1, no one really choose it over INSEAD! the lack of prestige and brand is killing them!

  • ISB-Amit

    ISB should be in the top 10. I can’t take these rankings seriously.

  • deadlycat

    42. Queen’s University should be 4th in the BW, not Forbes

  • JohnAByrne

    Absolutely. Just fixed it.

  • JohnAByrne

    The main reason why BW separates these rankings is because a completely different set of corporate recruiters go to the European and the Asian schools. Mostly the same companies, yes, but different recruiters. That makes it difficult to get a consistent read on the schools and would tend to penalize the non-U.S. schools if they were put together. The reason: far greater numbers of MBAs are being recruited in the U.S. by these companies and BW’s methodology would naturally hurt markets where fewer numbers of MBAs are recruited. That’s not true when they are separate.

  • JohnAByrne

    If you’ve been through the site, you’ll know that this is a fairly controversial and provocative topic. I believe that there are many exceptional business schools outside the U.S., including LBS, INSEAD, IESE, IMD and others. But the U.S. remains in a league of its own on business education given the number of long established programs, the value of a global higher education brand, the quality of the teaching faculty and support infrastructure, the high demand for MBA graduates, the very rich endowments, and the deep alumni networks. If you were to combine these rankings where would LBS and INSEAD be in relationship to Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Northwestern, Wharton et al? Hard to say.

    Based on my experience, I would put LBS and INSEAD in the top ten, but probably toward the bottom. If you plan to stay in Europe and make your career in London, Paris or Frankfurt, there may be less a difference between LBS/INSEAD and a Chicago or Northwestern. That means there is still a big difference even in Europe among HBS, Stanford and Wharton and those schools. And if you plan to make your career in the U.S., there’s no doubt in my mind that any top ten U.S. school is a better bet than INSEAD or London. What do others think?

  • Sali

    Except INSEAD, I agree. In europe, they look to INSEAD as a head to head to Harvard.

    Another point: P&Q is becoming more and more influencing on business education, in fact, some leading schools start publishing the P&Q ranking on their websites once released. Therefore, I’d expect the ranking to be very sensitive to its customers and to do extremely well in trying to address the flaws of the rankings.

    If you do rank with previous idea that US schools by default are the best, I’m afraid this will affect the result. Yes, all people do agree that business education has its heaviness in US, but this fact does NOT mean that there aren’t other schools in the outsider world that may be better. I know P&Q still doesn’t have its own ranking, but they fill a gap in the ranking market. I would expect them to be fair in evaluating the great schools outside US such as INSEAD.

  • Hu Jintao

    ISB is a good school, but the others are so rude and they do not let it play with them!

  • ahmed


    Thank you for your valuable website and information. I’ve question in regard to certain program at MIT Sloan, but you didn’t mention it before, at Sloan they offer a MSMS (master of science in management studies), it is one year program, the interesting thing about it is that they mention that the program is offered particularly to the graduates of the top non-us mba program, who want to go further in deepening their knowledge in certain area. It looks like fantastic combination for any student, if I was offered a seat in an international one year mba program, then follow it by the MIT MSMS one year program, thats make total two year earning two degrees! Do you think this option would be better than earning a two year top US MBA! I just wonder why not so many student consider this option if they want the best of the two world!?

  • LBSer

    I chose LBS over INSEAD, as did many of my fellow students that got offers from both. In my view Prestige and brand is better at LBS.

  • heyholetsgo

    I am from Europe too and I have to say that INSEAD is NOT a huge name for the general public. Ask somebody on the street and he/she will not know what it is. Most people think LSE has the best MBA program, although the school doesn’t even offer one.
    As much as Americans do not really consider European achievements, Europeans are also incredibly smug about their education. I read multiple German language publications that said German speaking schools such as Mannheim or St. Gallen are world class, although most rankings would disagree.

    Also, I have to agree with John. Of course, European B-Schools predominately recruit from Europe (same with Australia…), but although MBB would beg to differ, getting into the NYC McKinsey office is ten times harder than getting into the Munich counterpart. This is due to the fact that NYC attracts the best people from all around the world whereas Munich attracts the best regional talent- a big difference.

  • Faria

    you are a student at LBS and this is your view. I am talking about the business world’s view! INSEAD is always far ahead of IMD, IE, IESE..let alone LBS!

  • LBSer

    You said “no one really choose it over INSEAD”. To which I answered
    “I chose LBS over INSEAD, as did many of my fellow students”. Thus
    invalidating a statement, which is outright inaccurate, and also represents your personal view, not that of the ‘business world’. The issue is rather 2 years vs. 1 year, France vs. London etc.

    The “Business world” you speak of ranks LBS number 1 in three out of the four rankings used for this article.

  • Faria

    Yes, as I said, just like Chicago Booth, most rankings put it ahead of Harvard, however, it is very hard to find someone turn down HBS for Booth! It is exactly same thing with LBS and INSEAD!! INSEAD has the brand and the prestige while london lacks those two things, the confusion with LSE, and other london based institutions makes it very hard to stand out by its own name and brand.

  • Lara

    LBS is a finance school while INSEAD is a comprehensive business school, this is the difference, INSEAD strong in many aspects of management, general management, international management, consulting, corporate, and finance, but LBS is strong in finance only, thus it could be good school for someone want to be financial analyst or so, but to produce a global entrepreneur, to generate a global CEO, to produce the international leader, those things are in INSEAD, and that fact what sets INSEAD apart from the competition and away ahead of London School of Finance!

  • john

    Faria, you make a point regarding the confusion between LSE and LBS, and the brand name being less strong for LBS, however your reasoning is a bit confusing : in terms of students choice, LBSer is right when he/she says that it is wrong to say that ‘nobody choose it over INSEAD’. I actually have no example of people (over a sample of, say, 50 people) going to LBS because they were not accepted by INSEAD. Therefore, your comparison to Chicago Booth/Harvard is incorrect, although I can imagine you may like the idea of describing INSEAD as Europe’s Harvard. I mean, that’s human. However, ask someone in the street if he knows INSEAD… INSEAD has a stronger alumni network in general because it has been at the top for several decades, and it is bigger, while LBS has been going up in the ranking during the last decade only, from what I know.

    Can someone compare the placement of LBS and INSEAD in the big three consulting firms, taking into account that more people are sponsored by them at INSEAD at the entrance ? I quickly gave it look lately, and over the last couple of years, I am pretty sure that the difference is very small (in relative number, since INSEAD has 800 students per class, I think) and the conclusion that LBS is “a finance school” would be different…

  • http://twitter.com/MBAReich Christian Reich

    Completely misleading including the international BW rankings in this table. So few schools are listed that it distorts the overall table. Only 19 schools managed to get included in the ranking making it more of a listing than anything else.

    Take Mannheim for example: a good school in Germany and a ranking of 12/19 is pretty average considering the others in the BW ranking. But to consider that this really means that they are the 12th best international school is ludicrous, especially when it boosts them above somewhere like IIM! Few people would consider Mannheim top tier even in Europe…

    This table is a good way of measuring US schools where most schools have a value in most of the columns, but when there are so many NR’s this becomes a statistically flawed methodology:

  • LBSer

    The booth/harvard comparison is simply incorrect. Both schools attract the same calibre of students and many receive offers from both or only apply to one or the other, as they are so different. This is not the case for Booth and Harvard.

    Consistently being a the top of rankings has generated very strong prestige and momentum for LBS.

    John, if you are interested in comparing MBB placement have a look at the latest employment reports for both schools (google). Both are very strong, and roughly in line with each other. LBS doesn’t show how many are sponsored but the % is significantly lower than at INSEAD. Do the calculations and form your own view, don’t base it on biased comments on an internet forum.

  • bro

    In Europe they do not see Insead as head to head with Harvard.

  • LBSer

    Lara, have a look at the latest LBS employment report and you will see that LBS is just as strong in consulting as it is in finance.

  • Nora

    so, you are trying to compare LBS placement in consulting with INSEAD!!! in a statement by BW ranking editor, even Harvard and Stanford are away behind INSEAD in consulting, let alone lower regarded schools!

  • Sali

    I meant the business professionals and recruiters, NOT the street people, if you want the view of streets people and grandmoms, Oxford, Sorbonne are the world’s houses of wisdom!! Don’t confuse between MBA education and Other academic reputation.

  • Patrick

    I just want to remind you that Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are modeled on Oxford and Cambridge!! I wanted to remind you that Albert Einstein been educated and graduate at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, I want to remind you of names such as Sorbonne, Cologne, Karolinska, and many many more. However, I would agree in the term of endowment american institutions has no peer on how much money they have!

  • heyholetsgo

    We are talking about the unis in the 21st century. In the 18th century, central Europe and Germany especially was a hotbed for natural sciences, social sciences and philosophy. But things change. At the latest after WW2 when most great scientists emigrated to the US (amongst others also Einstein) central European universities lagged clearly behind American universities. It is not just about the money. It is who you attract and there is no doubt in my mind that the best and the brightest come to Ivy League plus in the US, a couple might find their way to Oxbridge & LSE but the rest in Europe cannot compare. The mighty have fallen and frankly if I had to bet on schools that might be able to compete with the Ivies, they are probably in Asia and not in Europe…

  • heyholetsgo

    I was at a BCG campus presentation and they said BCG’s acceptance rate for INSEAD is 96%…. So I would assume there are quite a few consultants. However, I would be cautious to assess MBA quality by MBB placement. As MBB offices are mostly recruited locally, INSEAD placement might not be comparable to LBS placement and certainly not comparable to placement in the US…

  • Patrick

    I agree on US been attractive overall, but european institutions still has their portion of advancing science and technology. Just to mention the CERN lab, Higgs achievements and many more. Asian universities! are you serious?! It is only university of Tokyo that can be compared to the leaders in europe and US, the remaining universities are away behind. I would suggest you to look into the shanghai ranking of the world’s universities, it is at the moment the most credible in term of pure science and academic knowledge. Yes, overall, and in generic words, US education is better, but please don’t mislead people when coming to specialties in education, for example, oxford is away better than the majority of US institutions only handful US universities can be compared to Oxbridge. similar thing applied to MBA, I would understand someone choose Harvard, Wharton, or Stanford over INSEAD, but would you recommend any applicant to turn down INSEAD for a program that after 15th place in all rankings?! I do not think so. If I’d conclude my point here, don’t think all MBAs in US better just because they are in US! and when talking about MBA, the prospective student should care about what the industry’s professional know and believe NOT the street people’s perception.

  • Doma

    The elitist and the most sought after jobs for an MBA is with MBBs, so, why not to assess the quality of any MBA program by that measure?! It is clearly the best measure ever.

  • Plutus

    Wherever I look on forums (poets and quants, WSO, Businessweek, Beat the GMAT, etc.) I always see these types of comments about INSEAD. The comments are usually things like “the HBS of Europe” or “Better than LBS” and many others. From my perspective, INSEAD students/alumni/fan-boys obviously have a huge chip on their shoulder about their status in the world, and it is a pretty big turn off for applicants. While I usually don’t take comments like these to seriously (also comments such as the Booth hype, CBS bashing vs ‘M7′, HBS idolization, etc), the INSEAD people take this to a whole new level. Do yourself and your school a favor and stay off the message boards.

  • Carlos

    Then what bothers you if they like their school? I suggest you to contribute to the discussion rather than just senselessly shouting your judges everywhere! In fact, I see it very cool and good to see any students loyal and talking about their school,

  • coco

    don’t worry sir, I’ll write to INSEAD to hold up its boys and keep them out of the street ;:)

  • heyholetsgo

    Yes, of course European programs are up there. As John said, they would probably make the top 15, maybe even 10. However, the gap between a Top 15 school and M7 is huge, and then there is another big gap between M7 and H/S.
    And when it comes to specialties, 17 out of the top 20 unis in the Shanghai ranking are American. Oxford ranks at number 10 with a score of 56.1/100 compared to Harvard’s 100/100. Personally, I would say Oxford is a great university. But is it playing in the H/S/P league? No, especially not when it comes to MBA or College admissions. Further, the average acceptance rate for Oxford’s grad-schools is around 30%. That’s pretty different compared to the top US schools.

  • heyholetsgo

    As MBB staffs regional offices locally it doesn’t make ANY sense to use it as a measure. In Europe, LBS and INSEAD are the top business schools feeding consultants into European MBB offices. LBS and INSEAD alumni applying for MBB Europe do not compete with M7 alumni applying to MBB in the US. Trust me, the competition is on another level. To quote Frank Sinatra, if you can make it in the US you can make it anywhere, but the same does not hold true for Europe.

    Further, I think it is offensive to all other industries attracting talent (and entrepreneurship), that MBB is thought of as the “gold standard.” To get in, you have to be able to solve a case study. Big deal…. That’s a very one dimensional measure of achievement and can be learned within a month. I don’t need to go to business school to be good at that… Moreover, the difference between people getting MBB offers and not getting MBB is subjective and sometimes non-existent (considering that case study math is on the level of 3rd graders and most “out of the box answers” have been read in “case in point”)

  • Plutus

    Nothing bothers me if someone is a proud alumni – I know I am. But two things: First, when you feel that you have to tear other schools down to bring your school up, then there is a problem. Second, and as I stated in my previous post, the INSEAD grads on these forums obviously have a chip on their shoulder. It isn’t the fact that they are supporting their school, it is the ridiculous assertions made. A quick scan shows…

    Doma, when arguing INSEADs MBB numbers to measure a school “It is clearly the best measure ever” – tens, if not hundreds, of measures exist; ‘clearly the best measure’ is a ridiculous statement.

    Faria, “no one really choose it [LBS] over INSEAD.” – statement is immediately disproved by a subsequent poster

    Lara “but LBS is strong in finance only, thus it could be good school for
    someone want to be financial analyst or so, but to produce a global
    entrepreneur, to generate a global CEO, to produce the international
    leader, those things are in INSEAD, and that fact what sets INSEAD apart
    from the competition and away ahead of London School of Finance!” – really? really? LBS is for finance only? I agree that INSEAD does a good job at producing general managers, but LBS does much more than just produce financiers.

    Sali “Except INSEAD, I agree. In europe, they look to INSEAD as a head to head to Harvard.” – Are these comments coming from the twilight zone? I am sure there are some Europeans with this belief, but I would put good money that the vast majority would vehemently disagree.

    One more note, when you look at many of these comments, many have similar grammatical errors and tone. I would bet that some or several of these INSEAD supporters are really just one person.

  • Patrick

    Oxbridge are not compared to Harvard or Stanford!! really?! this statement disapprove automatically your credibility. even harvard itself say they are on similar par. Cambridge in particular is ahead of harvard in pure science. Imperial College London is ahead of Yale, and Harvard in engineering. Infact, engineering education at those two schools is rubbish. btw, I saw you in all your posts hate of all things not american! I’d remind you that there are 6.7 Billion pobulation out there. there are world outside US.. boy.

  • Carlos

    why don’t you like insead anyway? you know it has credits of being the first european b school, right? it invented the one year mba, right? many top american schools adopted insead aspiration in multiculturalism and in the last decade insead reversed the way and sent professors and deans to top us schools. why you trying to show it as comparable to LBS or any other lower ranked b school. if you have fair judgement, and not biased, you see that Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, and INSEAD share same alumni database and contacts. do you think they do this for nothing?!

  • Ammy

    well thats explain it. you are in consultancy but not an INSEAD alumni. I can see the frustration and how tough is to make it to partner with all those INSEADers ;))))

  • heyholetsgo

    As a matter of fact I am European and my point is that the US talent pool has 7 billion people because US schools attract the best students from all over the world. Although I find Ivy Legacy admissions disgusting, Oxbridge takes this to a whole different level. Oxbridge is full of over privileged rich kids, who went to Eton and other prep schools. There is tons of research that the cronyism in Oxbridge is far greater than at Ivies or Grande Ecoles… Cambridge and Oxford are also nowhere near US schools in terms of overall selectivity, not on a grad level and certainly not on an undergrad level. In terms of research, the Shanghai ranking shows the superiority of the US schools and I don’t have the time to go into details or every subject in particular. Oxbridge is as much en par with H/Y/P as INSEAD is en par with M7 schools. If you want to play in the big league, come to the US, EU.. boy.

  • Patrick

    why you are always angry, aggressive, and nervous man in your discussion?! you know this isn’t democratic. why you try to scare others from talking to you!? although I am a boy, by gender category, but you look like using it in a bad way. I’ll not forgive you for that!

  • Vishesh

    I think this ranking is fair enough. It somewhat in align with the public image of the good business schools eithier in america, europe or asia. I can’t understand though why some people are so sensitive about rank #1, 2, or 3. as long as the school in good place say in top 5 or top 10, thats excellent position and I don’t think one place or two is gonna hurts.

  • heyholetsgo

    Ohhh nooo, “Patrick” on the internet holds a grudge against me 😀
    First of all, I am not a nervous man, that’s why I took offense in the “boy” comment in the first place. Your male centric view of the world is as obvious as your European centric view about universities. I do not try to scare others and I don’t know when I supposedly did this. Your tone is at least as aggressive, considering that I have been quoting mostly facts throughout the conversation.

    Anyways, Oxbridge, INSEAD and LBS are great schools by any standard. However, I don’t think they are comparable to the top of the pop in the US and the data I cited supports this statement. Now listen to me or just don’t…

  • Plutus

    I have no problem with INSEAD, and it is a great school. But all schools have their own strengths. You are entirely missing my point. I have not attacked or put down INSEAD as a school. Rather, I was merely highlighting the insane degree that some of INSEADs fans go to in order to support their school – and in turn they end up turning off applicants.

    If you think it is fair for me to highlight the benefits of school then I will. INSEAD has an unrivaled percent of students that go into consulting, the school places very well in Europe and has a widely international alumni, it has an excellent partnership with Wharton, and the school’s campus in Singapore shows its commitment to the growing Asian markets.

    Once again, my comments were in response to ridiculous claims of INSEAD fans, but not against the school itself.

  • maria

    I disagree in regard that insane in comments is turning off applicants. INSEAD has one of the highest yield rate, around 75%. and I do think that the applicant who build his/her decision on forums and comments is definitely not a top school’s student.

  • Fred

    Honestly, and specially in consulting, they actually do.

  • plutus

    Maybe, maybe not. Some on here are arguing that INSEAD is equivalent to HBS, which has a yield of ~90% (as does Stanford GSB). INSEAD is about on par with CBS (whose yield is 71%) – a school that has had a lot of bad press in recent years (scandals, wall street ties, etc.)


    So you may be right, maybe these comments don’t turn off applicants. Maybe they do. It is my opinion that comments such as these would turn off applicants, and I am not basing it off of and hard data – I will give you that much. But yield rates are not a good indicator. Whether or not people choose to apply after doing online research and coming across forums such as these would be the appropriate indicator, and those figures obviously don’t exist.

  • tomy

    look insead always accept some idiots in its classes, i strongly advice u to apply -;)

  • FGTH

    why there is no details on the profiles?

  • James

    But this just doesn’t make sense… the recruiters in Singapore or Hong Kong are not the same recruiters in London or Paris. So there are different recruiters no matter where you go! I never understood this “recruiters” based explanation. It would be better to just design a methodology that normalizes for these differences.

  • George

    Do you expect an american publication or editor to praise a non-american business school? every one in the global recruiting and hr industry consider insead and london as good as harvard and wharton, yet mr byrne couldn’t admit this fact.

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