2011 Financial Times Ranking of the Best B-Schools

London Business School. Courtesy photo

London Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School are locked in a first place tie in the new 2011 global MBA rankings published by the Financial Times today (Jan. 31). Wharton scratched its way into the tie after being in second place last year when London was the sole winner in the widely-watched FT survey.

Perhaps the single biggest surprise of the new ranking is the appearance of the Indian Institute of Management for the very first time in the Financial Times survey. Though highly selective in India, the school has only been ranked by The Economist at 85th last year. The Institute landed in the 11th spot in the FT survey. The newspaper attributed the IIM’s rise to what it called “impressive salary data, both in terms of  the average three years after graduation ($174,440) and increase in earnings following the MBA (152 percent).” The FT said the compensation numbers were consistent with another part of the newspaper’s methodology–its alums top the list for career advancement, a measure that compares students’ job titles before and three years after the completion of their MBA.

On the strength of an extraordinary 142% increase in alums’ salaries over three years, the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology rose to sixth–a jump of three places from 9th last year and 16th two years ago. Barcelona-based IESE also made its first Top 10 appearance in the FT list, ranking ninth with MIT’s Sloan School of Management (see our analysis on the big winners and losers in the survey).

The top ten business schools worldwide, as ranked by the Financial Times are: London Business School (1), University of Pennsylvania: Wharton (1), Harvard Business School (3), Insead (4), Stanford University GSB (5), Hong Kong UST Business School (6), Columbia Business School (7), IE Business School (8), MIT Sloan School of Management (9) and IeseBusiness School (10).

Of the five major MBA rankings, the Financial Times is only one of two (besides The Economist) that combines both U.S. and non-U.S. schools together in a single ranking. BusinessWeek and Forbes both rank non-U.S. schools separately. So does Poets&Quants. The result of the combined FT global ranking is an often highly quirky list with a bias toward non-U.S. schools due to the FT’s methodology (see our analysis on the strengths and flaws of each major ranking). The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, for example, which is ranked number one by both BusinessWeek and The Economist, ekes out a ranking of just 12th in the new FT survey–even behind the Indian Institute of Management, which had never made any other list before.

There are many more anomalies across the surveys. The Economist, for example, ranks Shanghai-based CEIBS 100th, while the Financial Times 2011 rank for the same school is 17. Berkeley’s highly reputed Haas School of Business is ranked 25th in the new FT survey, though The Economist ranks it third best in the world. These dramatic differences are the result of the different methodologies used to rank business schools by The Economist and the FT.


No ranking of MBA programs is without flaws, but the Financial Times methodology is especially peculiar among the most popular rankings of business schools. The FT uses a mix of 20 different criteria, including many that what could be considered “politically correct” metrics that have little to do with the actual quality of an MBA program. For example, the FT ranks schools on such factors as the percentage of women students and faculty, the number of women on a school’s advisory board, the percentage of international students and faculty, the number of extra languages required to be spoken at graduation, and the percentage of international directors on a school’s board. It also includes such things as the percentage of faculty with PhDs as well as the number of doctoral graduates from a school and how many take up jobs with the school that awarded their degree. What any of this has to do with the quality of the MBA or the MBA experience is open to question.

The single most important metric in the Financial Times methodology is pay. Just two out of the 20 criteria measured, “weighted average salary” of alums three years out as well as the “salary increase” for those same alums above pre-MBA, accounts for 40% of the weight of the methodology. This information, moreover, is voluntarily reported by alums in a survey to the FT that every respondent knows will be used for ranking purposes. The result: it’s possible that these numbers are exaggerated by respondents to help their alma mater. Another worrisome matter is how the FT manipulates the actual salary numbers in an effort to create a level playing field from one country to another by adjusting them using the World Bank’s purchasing parity power index. The result: all of this pay data, accounting for the largest single weight in the ranking, is significantly inflated in poor countries that lead to many distortions.

And despite the fact that so many metrics are tossed into the rank of each school, there are numerous ties in the 2011 survey. some 45 of the 100 schools occupy ranks that are tired with other institutions. In the top ten alone, there are ties at first, fourth and ninth place. There are four schools tied for rank 64th and also for rank 65th. The large number of ties suggests that the actual differences among the school ranks is so small as to be statistically meaningless (See the full list of the top 100 schools and how they compare with other rankings on the next page).

  • Ghosh

    Three facts that most non-Indians are not aware of :

    1. A majority of Indian students in the HSW trio are ones that are either ex-IIM grads or those that have attempted the IIM entrance (we call in CAT) and failed.

    2. Most Indians go for the US/EU B-schools to gain acceptability in International career paths, and Not because they consider HSW superior.

    3. In India, till date, the HSW alums are at best considered at par with IIM grads (unless they are IIT + HSW). The popular thinking is that you may be a prince or a pauper, IITs / IIMs judge you by PURE meritocracy. HSW’s first question, on the other hand, is who’s your Dad :).


  • Spearhead

    How does Darden get outranked by Emory, and Maryland! This ranking is a joke.

  • Common sense

    The point is emergence of this many non US based schools in various rankings. It certainly was not the case 10 years ago. Value is in the highlight not the rank……

  • Rich

    I’m going to start my own business school, admit a lot of homeless people, help them get a job, show infinite salary % increase, ask them to provide good FT survey when asked, and rank number #1 in FT. I just need to make sure I start my B-school in China or India since they are not in recession or my graduates may still be unemployed after graduation and my B-school will not rank #1.

  • Naoum,

    It’s impossible to know because the FT doesn’t provide info on the schools that fell off the ranking. It could be for something as odd as an inadequate sample size for the alumni survey or the school could have fallen short on any one of the key metrics used by the FT to rank schools. There are 20 such metrics! The school itself probably has the answer. I would ask the admissions office.

  • Naoum Barakat

    Guys, any idea to why Aston Business School wasn’t included in the global rankings for 2011? In 2010 it was ranked 73!


  • Delat

    To question how the diversity factor (%of women, international students etc) can influence the quality of an MBA reflects very poorly on poetsandquants´ common sense or MBA knowledge. The dynamics in a class with a significant % of women or internationall students are totally different from a class of “false heterogeneous” populations. This makes the MBA experience totally different!!

  • indian

    I do not want to contradict anyone of you. Just wanted to make a short clarification. I see that most of you consider IIM as a school that accepts students without work-experience. However its not that program which FT has ranked above. Instead FT, in its 2011 global MBA ranking, has considered the new 1 year MBA program at IIMA which accepts candidates with around 10 years experience and wherein the class size is around 90.

  • Hmmmm

    Perhaps P&Q could do a follow and expand upon the “different methodologies” that account for a particular school’s ranking swinging so much from one publication to another. There isn’t much literature that says, “If you value Metric A [e.g. median income five years after graduation], then Magazine X is the best ranking system for you, if you value Metric B, then…”

  • Kellogg MBA

    Despite the on-going debate about rankings of global MBAs and the controversy that accompanies it, I personally do not find it surprising at all to see certain B-schools, especially Asian ones emerge in the top 20 list. As a matter of fact, though I do not fully agree with the weightings of the FT ranking criteria used, the list and ranking they compiled does make sense and is reflective of reality to a large extent.

    First of all, we have to realize and admit that the era where top US and European B-schools dominate the top 20 Global MBAs list is fading. This will even be more pronounced as the pace of gloablization accelerates. The changing dynamics of global economics and power is a good leading indicator of this phenomena.

    As the economic and political clout of emerging superpowers like China, India and Brazil accelerates, the emphasis and need for a more dynamic and educated population drives the hunger and pursuit of advancement in knowledge. Compare that with the fading economic and political dominance of the US and Europe, it is no surprise that top B-schools from these emerging nations are rising to international prominence. It is not to say that these schools were never great schools in the past and they miraculously “became” great schools because of their nation’s newly found riches amid changing global economic tides. For instance, Beijing and TsingHua University has long been recognized in China as the top 2 elite universities where only the brightest minds could attend (let’s face it, with a population of 1.4billion, competition for a place at these 2 Chinese universities is no less than Harvard or Wharton in the US, perhaps even more fierce). The same goes for the IIMs and ISB in India.

    With their growing economic strength, these nations are constantly pouring millions into improving their institutions of higher learning and hiring the best faculty from abroad. In addition, many nouveau riche who made the Forbes 100 richest list in the world are alums of these elite institutions and are giving back to their alma mater at increasing amounts and pace never seen before. Consequently, it is no surprise that these top institutions that were once elite national or regional universities at best a decade ago, are now challenging the global educational giants that never saw them as competitors in the past. Top US and European B-schools have to constantly upgrade and innovate in order not to lag behind. Self-complacency is their worst enemy.

    Schools in the FT list like Hong Kong’s UST, China’s CEIBS, Singapore’s NUS School of Business, India’s IIM and ISB are great examples of tomorrow’s rising star. They have always been known for their excellence regionally and they are now ready to flex their muscles on the global educational arena. Kudos to Financial Times for recognising the changing dynamics in higher education and reflecting that in their ranking polls. It is time for The Economist, Business week and Forbes (both rather US centric) to review their ranking methodology to better reflect reality.

  • Authenticity_questioned

    I see Kellogg School of Management as a great school. They are the 3rd best for General management placements including top spot in consulting placements and number one in marketing and brand management globally. Their Finance stream is also not bad and almost all the finance majors recruit there. In terms of students and culture they have real good reputation. Many people have said that Kellogg is on par with Wharton if not Harvard and Stanford. John, can you please tell me why does FT always rank Kellogg so low.. worst part is even below schools like IIM, ISB and Yale. I have an admit from Kellogg, MIT Sloan and Booth ( i dint apply to H,S, W). I was inclined to take Kellogg to focus on management consulting. On the other hand I had admits 2 year before from IIM A ( number 1 IIM in india) and my study revealed they are way distant from an International MBA. I am a bit confused with the rankings of FT. What are they trying to say?

  • crap_ranking

    As usual FT’s shady ranking continues! IIM’s can never be compared to international Business schools any day! They take a lot of college freshers who ‘only clear CAT to get in’ no overall development or work experience. And most of them do a US MBA again for making their progress. FT is worst as ever! Same is the case with ISB’s! Totally irrelevant ranking

  • John,

    A bit more accuracy here:

    “The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology broke into the FT’s Top 10, rising to sixth–a jump of 17 places from 23 last year and 17th two years ago when it appeared on the FT ranking for the first time. Barcelona-based ”

    UST was ranked #17, #16, #9 and now #6 in the last 4 years. 2007 it was not ranked (not enough survey responses). 2006 and earlier it was ranked in the ranged of #20-40

    the other major point which should be mentioned ALWAYS when commenting on the FT ranking is that FT calculates salary on a purchase power basis, i.e. the 175k for the IIM is a real USD salary of probably 50-60k multiplied by about 3x to reflect PPP.

    on a separate note and something to ponder: India has 7 top-ranked IIM. of the 200,000 applicants for these 7 schools, one has to be in the top 0.7-0.8% to make the admission…