Most & Least Recommended MBA Programs By Alumni

thumbs up approvalIn a typical year, more than 10,000 alumni of the world’s leading business schools fill out the survey sent to them by The Financial Times for its annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. Among other things, they’re asked to recommend a trio of schools that they think so highly of they would recruit their graduates.

Yet, their perspective on this subject only accounts for a measly 2% of the British newspaper’s ranking methodology. That’s a shame because those recommendations are among the most valuable pieces of information any applicant can receive. After all, you’re getting the opportunity to hear from people who quit their full-time jobs, paid out more than $100,000 in tuition and fees, endured the sometimes grueling pace of MBA study, and then worked for three years, often with graduates from other schools. They know firsthand what the MBA experience is all about–and they know what to expect from MBAs elsewhere. Their recommendations are the ultimate seal of approval.

This year, some 10,986 alumni completed the survey – a response rate of 47%. But The Financial Times says that it also added the views of respondents from one or two preceding years when available. In other words, these recommendations are the basis of tens of thousands of alumni over several years.


Which schools consistently are most highly recommended? Rather than look at one-year results, we crunched the numbers on the last five years from 2014 to 2010 to give a far more reliable look at the best and the worst. By taking that longer view, applicants can also see schools that may be trending up or down in satisfaction. Yale University’s School of Management is definitely doing better, improving its recommendation rank to 17 this year from 23 in 2010. UCLA’s Anderson School is going the other way, ranking 24th this year from 17 five years ago.

Surprisingly, though, there was remarkable consistency for the best schools over the five-year period. Many schools stayed within a range of two to three places over the entire span. This was less true for the schools in the bottom 10% where MBA programs are far more likely to pop in and out of the FT’s ranking of the Top 100 schools. It’s relatively rare for a school near the bottom to have a full five-year data set.

What we especially like about the results is that they are intuitive which suggests a high degree of reliability. After all, if a school like Hult International was ahead of a school like INSEAD you would have to scratch your head. That’s certainly not the case here. In fact, the top five schools scoring the best recommendations from their alumni are all familiar prestige names: No. 1 Harvard Business School, which has been ranked first for each of the past five years, No. 2 Stanford Graduate School of Business, No. 3 UPenn’s Wharton School, No. 4 London Business School, and No. 5 Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

U.S. business schools dominate the top quartile of these highly recommended schools, with 19 of the top 25 based in America. Five European schools make the list. After London, it’s INSEAD in France and Singapore, IMD in Switzerland, IESE Business School in Spain, and HEC Paris in France. Only one Canadian school makes the cut: The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.


And the schools at the bottom? They’re led by Tilburg University in The Netherlands which this year was ranked dead last in recommendations at 100th. Portugal’s Lisbon MBA is next, followed by University College Dublin’s Smurfit School, Hult International, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School in the bottom 10%.

John Delaney, the dean of Katz, acknowledges the disappointing survey results for his school but notes that he and his staff have been working especially hard in the past two to three years to improve things. The school has made a concerted effort to focus on processes that make it easier for students to change courses and to get into high-demand classes as well as processes related to careers and employment. He says that Katz’s internal surveys show improvement in student satisfaction which he expects to be reflected in future surveys of alumni.

To be fair, it’s worth pointing out that these schools are among the top 1% in the world. Otherwise, they would even be ranked among the top 100 by The Financial Times. So even those that are scoring at the bottom of the recommendation file are very good programs. Against this peer set, however, the competition is extremely tough and unrelenting.

For the best of the bunch, we imposed one rule: That each school received a recommendation rank in each of the five years studied. That rule brings a greater degree of confidence that these MBA programs are the most recommended in the world. For the group of schools in the bottom 10%, we insured that every MBA program had at least two years worth of rankings data. Obviously, these schools tend to move on and off the FT’s radar screen, a natural consequence of being near the bottom of the list.

(See following page for our table on the 25 schools most highly recommended by alumni)

  • Hanfeizi

    “Most faculty lack a PHD”

    Untrue. 66% of my profs at Hult had Ph.D.s, the remainder had elite MBAs…

    … and most importantly, ALL of them had industry experience.

    “It is run by Kaplan and makes a mockery of the actual degree.”

    Hult has no association with Kaplan. It is connected to Bertil Hult’s EF empire, however, with which it shares resources. As for making a mockery of the degree, it’s accredited by AMBA and teaches the same MBA curriculum globally, with the standard number of contact hours and content of any accredited MBA degree.

  • JDI

    why no uk school ?

  • ee

    Not on par with the other in the top 25.

  • tarf

    where is ESADE in Top 25?
    Shocked to see that it is missing!

  • rajendra

    No business school in the top list from India or even Asia. Way to go? HBS on top for the 5th consecutive year by a big margin.

  • rajendra

    In this list its difficult for any business school to move up 4-5 steps. Competition is that tough. Lets see this list even after 5 or 10 years and the change will be extremely small.

  • L

    What’s so low about being #12 in a list of top schools? I don’t really see any crap programs ranked above Tuck.

  • OLIN

    How? what happened?!!! Can you please share more info?!

  • Jim

    I attended a Hult info session, frankly it is a fraud. How can some program rise from bankruptcy ( Arthur Little ) seven years ago and be ranked now. Most faculty lack a PHD, students seem scripted during the info session. They DO HAVE an amazing bar and food at the session. It was a rather dodgy sales session with all these locations etc. Frankly the FT is dumbstruck in not figuring this manipulation out. It is like a language school frankly and not ready for prime time. All the money goes on fancy brochures and drinks. It is run by Kaplan and makes a mockery of the actual degree. I got the impression that alumni make up stuff and it has to be reflected also to the FT . Caveat Emptor on this multi-level scheme.

  • RankingsGuru

    It is not what your own alumni say about you but what alumni of other schools say about you.

  • RankingsGuru

    John. Well done for highlighting this important element of the FT ranking. It is incredibly meaningful and astonishingly consistent. As you point out, it takes into account the views of 30,000 alumni from 150 odd top schools. These alumni are all in the 3-5 year out window, and many will be active and/or influential in their company’s MBA recruiting efforts. If you are considering an MBA, it is worth paying attention to this single point – even if you don’t like the results. Because it is such a pure measure of what the market is saying, I would go so far as to argue that it is the single most important ranking of top MBAs, more meaningful than any other published list, including the FT ranking itself.

    As you say in your article, the most remarkable thing about these data is their consistency over time. Even if you go all the way back to 2001, there have only ever been 3 schools in the top 3 slots (Harvard, Stanford and Wharton) and the next 6 slots are also always occupied by the same six schools (LBS, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, INSEAD and Chicago). To me, this is the market defining its own elite. Simply saying that the list must be wrong because X or Y are not on it is naive in the extreme. The list is not an opinion, it is a reflection of market sentiment, which you ignore at your peril.

  • Skdjkd

    Read about what’s happening to Dartmouth college. That entire university is in the dumps.

  • daphne

    You should join them.

  • Jhonny

    Isn’t it weird that Tuck is so low ranked? It is widely known that Tuck has the most supportive alumni network! Wouldn’t it make more sense if its alumns ranked the school higher?

  • forrest

    There at least 3 schools from Asia in the top 25 alumni rankings for the year 2014.
    It would have been more meaningful if their averages were computed for available period and listed in the rankings. Is it that none of them had an average rsnking of higher than 25 or is it that data was not available for 5 years?
    In case they finish higher than 25, don’t they desrve to be called out?

  • OLIN

    I thought dartmouth would easily placed number 1 when it comes to alumni things!!! why is it in such low rank??!!!

  • cbs14

    Not sure if your inability to pronounce a name qualifies as criticism. Anyway, good job Duke and NYU.

  • Haha

    Fuqua…nobody cares about Fuqua…I don’t even like the name..Fuck*You*Ah(?)

  • Matt

    You three should get a room together

  • Tom

    Ah yes, once again RACISTS come out of the woodwork.

  • Johannes de Silentio

    Ah yes, once again the Old White Boy Network pats itself on the back…

  • JohnAByrne

    Not at all. There are two in the bottom 10% of our analysis as you can see from the table. The rest finished higher in the analysis and therefore didn’t deserve to be called out.

  • jason

    Quite true. Increasing class sizes also had an effect.

  • Janice Lao

    What happened to the schools in Asia? Did you forget to include them on your analysis?

  • Duke Alumnus

    Earlier when the rankings came out, Fuqua was a top 6 school and was rattled up by the cheating scandal. I say Fuqua is starting to get back to where it was and should be.

  • JohnAByrne

    Absolutely. That’s another reason why a five-year view is helpful. An orchestrated campaign is usually a one-year effort, if it occurs at all. Sustained cheerleading almost always leaks. So a five-year look is far more reliable.

  • Questioning

    What about taking into account the fact that some b-school administrations do more to encourage their students to rank their school higher on these types of surveys compared to other schools? Students are not motivated to respond to these honestly, and even more so from students from schools where the administration is telling them as such. I’d hazard a guess that schools that send their students to blitz the P&Q and similar type discussion boards also strongly encourage positive survey responses.

  • JohnAByrne

    Incomplete? Given that these schools are among the top 1% of the world, I thought it fair to identify only the bottom 10% over a five-year timeframe. I think that’s quite valid.

  • JohnAByrne

    Because looking at five years of data is a much fairer way to look at these stats. Adds far more credibility and authority to them rather than a one-year glimpse.

  • Jerome

    This ranking is not valid. It is incomplete and misses lots of other reputable schools. How can you conclude that Tilburg or Katz are the worst in Alumni’s satisfactions when you don’t use a complete panel of schools to compare with? Where are Carlson, Illinois, Warwick, Manchester etc …

  • Nhat Linh Nguyen

    Using one year would skew the result. The better estimate would be weighted average with recent years having higher weights.

  • JohnAByrne

    Yes, indeed, though it has numerous locations.

  • Jason

    Once again, Fuqua makes the biggest jump in the rankings. This is a business school that is really going places. Fuqua rose 3 spots. No other school rose by more than one spot. That speaks volumes.

  • Rammy

    Why have you ranked the schools based on a 5-year average? The list is very different if you just look at the 2014 rankings. That is what you should be focusing attention on.

  • PJN

    “…and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School, the only U.S. school in the bottom 10%.” Isn’t Hult in Cambridge, MA?