Poets&Quants’ 2016 Ranking Of The Best International Business Schools

Poets&Quants ranks INSEAD the world’s best international business school for the second consecutive year in 2016

In the aftermath of Britain’s vote to abandon the European Union and Donald Trump’s election as President of the U.S., many business schools outside these two nations believe they have a unique opportunity to attract more of the best and brightest in the global MBA applicant pool. If you are like many world citizens who believe that globalization has been a force for good, the 2016 ranking by Poets&Quants of the best international MBA programs is a great place to start a search for the most global experience.

And at the very top of the list for the second consecutive year is INSEAD, which bills itself as the business school for the world. With its three campuses in Europe (Fontainebleau, France), Asia (Singapore), and the Middle East (Abu Dhabi), the school offers in ten short months the quintessential global immersion in business with no dominant country culture.

“We have today 86 nationalities on campus,” explains Dean Ilian Mihov, the first leader of INSEAD dean to have his primary office in Singapore. “We create teams of people that sometimes are from countries that are at war with each other. Because we want to make sure that during this year they learn how to interact in teams with somebody that you may not like. But you still have to work on that team. So we’re trying to develop them as managers or leaders or entrepreneurs with a global perspective.”


Following No. 1 INSEAD in the new ranking is London Business School, IESE Business School and IE Business School, both in Spain, and IMD (the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. That’s the exact same lineup as last year’s top five, with one exception. HEC Paris slipped to sixth from fifth, while IMD moved up two places to finish in a tie for fourth with IE, up from sixth a year earlier.

Every school in the top ten is in Europe which after the U.S. continues to dominate the global business education scene. But three Asian-based MBA programs are now perched just outside the top ten, ready to move further ahead. The highest ranked Asian school is No. 11 Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, followed by No. 14 National University of Singapore and No. 15 CEIBS (China Europe International Business School).

This new P&Q list is a composite of four major MBA rankings published by The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek and Forbes. 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. Poets&Quants ranks U.S. schools separately (see The Top 100 U.S. MBA Programs of 2016).


By blending these rankings using a system that takes into account each of their strengths as well as their flaws, we’ve come up with what is arguably the most authoritative ranking of MBA programs ever published. The list tends to diminish anomalies and other statistical distortions that often occur in one ranking or another. Instead of simply merging together the four rankings, P&Q weighs them according to the soundness of their methodologies (The FT and Forbes are both weighted 30% each, while the BW and Economist rankings are each given a 20% weight.) A composite list lends greater stability to a ranking of schools that rarely change from year to year.

The very best schools on the list are ranked by all four core sources, generating something of a consensus on their reputation and overall quality. Those schools tend to dominate the top of this list. MBA programs that make only one or lists clearly have less reputational capital–and in all likelihood aren’t up to the quality of the higher-ranked schools.

More so than rankings of the U.S. schools, individual rankings of international MBA programs can be widely erratic, in part because rankings can markedly differ on each of the four major lists. The Economist, for example, assigns numerical ranks to many non-U.S. MBA programs that don’t even make The Financial Times‘ ranking and the same is true of the FT. The University of Queensland in Australia, for example, is overlooked by the FT, Forbes and Businessweek, but The Economist ranks the school’s MBA program third best outside the U.S. The Indian School of Business, considered by many the best business school in India, is ranked 15th best outside the U.S. by the Financial Times but gets no respect from the other three rankings. Such anomalies are common on a ranking of the best 72 MBA programs outside the U.S. market.


The biggest mover among the top 25 non-U.S. schools this year was Australia’s Melbourne Business School, which saw significant improvements in two core rankings. Melbourne jumped to ninth place from 23rd in Bloomberg Businessweek‘s international ranking and to 12th from 15th in The Economist‘s ranking. The result: It shot up 18 places to finish 20th from 38th a year earlier.

All told, 10 of the 72 ranked schools experienced double-digit rises or falls. Gaining the most ground were the business schools at the University of Edinburgh and the Grenoble de Management Ecole in France. Edinburgh moved up 20 places to finish 43rd from 63rd last year. Grenoble advanced 21 spots to rank 44th from 65th. The school with the single largest decline? The Chinese University of Hong Kong which lost 12 positions to finish 47th from 35th a year earlier.

Generally, schools that move up or down the most are those that either win or lose an entire ranking. HEC Montreal lost 10 places, falling to 30th from 20th last year because it is no longer ranked by The Economist and declined in the BusinessWeek ranking to 31st from 29th. Obviously, no school changes so dramatically in a single year to justify a double-digit rankings gain or drop. But losing ground in several rankings is certainly not cause for celebration.

(See rankings on following pages)


  • Ethan

    I would like to briefly mention about the Singapore Management University (“SMU”). SMU is a young but highly innovative Asian university, focused on business management, accounting and economics as well as Law. SMU is definitely gaining ground fast across global rankings and its graduates are recognised in Singapore and gradually in Asia as one of the most dynamic and global in outlook. Established in 2000, with just 16 years of history, SMU has made huge strides and is beginning to challenge the more established National University of Singapore (“NUS” – Ranked #1 in Asia and #12 globally ) and The Nanyang University of Technology – Singapore.

    Within the next decade, I am confident that SMU will rank Among the Top 10 business schools in Asia and within the Top 50 globally. With Singapore’s demonstrated track record and renowned prowess in education (from secondary to tertiary) globally, SMU certainly has the potential of becoming the London School of Economics (“LSE”) of Asia. This is one dynamic and high achieving university to watch out for in the coming years.

  • Utsav Pathak

    Is the 27th rank of York justified?

  • INSEAD-Alum

    As an INSEAD alumni I am always surprised at how highly INSEAD is ranked on the league tables. The INSEAD MBA has been a zero value add for me. INSEAD is a for profit school just like Hult or the University of Phoenix, INSEAD has all of the same issues and problems as any for profit school. Nobody has ever failed, you pay your fee you get your MBA.

    Who owns INSEAD and are there any conflicts of interest? This should be investigated. The school is heavily orientated towards participants from strategy consultancies. The strategy consultants have on average 2 years of experience vs the non strategy students must have approx 7 years of experience. Could the owner of INSEAD be the partner in charge of education at one of the strategy consultancies? I made a mistake; I bought an intangible product from a seller I knew nothing about and that product was useless.

    The first few days of INSEAD were interesting, I had many interesting discussions; but then the welcome week hazing event started. This consisted of the upper class playing a series of weird and often cruel pranks on the incoming class. For example; people were forced to fight each other and others were abandoned in the middle of the forest at night. This in a program were the average age is 28. This hazing ruined what might have otherwise been a good year. After the hazing event no one takes the school seriously. Since this hazing event was not listed on the brochure and this event negatively impacted my experience I feel that INSEAD was a bait and switch scam.

    The final part of welcome week is the Dean’s speech during which the Dean told us: ‘INSEAD offers a general management MBA but if you want you can say that you have a specialization. If a background investigator calls the school, staff are trained to always answer ‘yes’. You should try this; call INSEAD and ask does a specific alumni have an MBA with a concentration in Taxidermy or any other ridiculous subject, the school will say ‘yes’!

    After welcome week the place feels like a cult, no one will say anything against the school, facilities or social life. Descent is discouraged, those that fall foul of this rule can find themselves ostracized. People display symptoms of being brain washed. Hundreds of students, average age 28, get drunk in barns and tell each other that these are the best parties they have ever been to. However; one on one, in hushed tones, people said to me ‘I thought I was the only one that didn’t like the social life’.

    The career service didn’t seem to actually exist; there was an office labelled careers and there were people working there but it was a sham. The alleged career service did not even maintain student records, nor a job bank nor interview preparation materials. My undergraduate university offered this level of career services, I had expected INSEAD to exceed this standard. The careers services released reports on their own performance that read like North Korean harvest reports. In my promotion apparently a large percentage used the career service to find jobs and almost everyone changed career. We see the external economist report contradicts these assertions. After graduation when you cannot get a job that is when the careers service start their victim blaming: ‘you need to be more of an entrepreneur to get a job’ or ‘you didn’t try hard enough’.

    The actual education was a joke e.g. the finance professor stated ‘the school has had feedback that some graduates don’t know what bonds are; therefore, we’ll spend the next 15 minutes on fixed income. Before INSEAD I had completed the CFA level 1 – I had expected my ‘intense’ INSEAD MBA to be a similar level of challenge to the CFA, INSEAD was trivial in comparison. The education was neither wide nor deep, the classes were pitched at the high school level.

    The participants can be split into the following groups:

    Wealthy global elite (top 0.1%)
    Strategy consultants (non native English speakers)
    Developing world (non elite,non strategy)
    Developed world (non elite,non strategy)

    The wealthy and strategy students are well served by the school. These people want to have a good time and get a rubber stamp MBA. Students from the developing world have language skills that will enable them to get jobs in growing markets that are underserved by other business schools. Developed world students get a very poor deal from INSEAD; the INSEAD MBA is just not sophisticated enough to compete in the MBA job market in the developed world. During INSEAD you will be a resource for other students, you will probably have more experience, be educated in leading universities and have a wealth of other experience. This will be sucked out of you and fed to people in the other groups. Employers will laugh at your MBA. Also INSEAD uses the word entrepreneur to mean unemployed. If you couldn’t start a business before INSEAD how could you start a business upon graduation with all that debt?! Becoming an entrepreneur right after business school doesn’t make sense; no pay for a year, spend $150,000, then start a business whilst servicing that debt?! INSEAD reports how many graduates go to the top consultancy firms; what they don’t tell you is that almost all of those people are sponsored by those firms and already have those jobs. In reality very few people (1 or 2 in my class) get a new job upon graduation.

    If you are there as a career changer from the developed world you are being scammed. You share your experience with the strategy consultant and family business students and when you graduate there are no jobs for you. The only logical explanation for the consistent large minority of students that do not do well post INSEAD, is that INSEAD is ripping of one group of students for the benefit of another.

    INSEAD is constantly asking for donations – a ‘for profit’ business asking for donations! How is that not a scam?