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

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.

  • Hu Jintao

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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

    Absolutely. Just fixed it.

  • deadlycat

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

  • ISB-Amit

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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?