IE Tops New FT Online MBA Ranking

onlinembaIE Business School in Spain topped the inaugural ranking of the world’s best online MBA programs published today (March 10) by The Financial Times. IE was followed by Warwick Business School in Britain, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School in Boston, the University of Florida and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

The highest ranked U.S. business schools with online MBA degree programs, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School and the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, don’t show up on the FT‘s list of just 15 programs. Presumably that’s because they have not been around long enough for FT to survey alumni three years after graduation or because they declined to cooperate. The British newspaper said 17 programs supplied data for the ranking, though two were obviously excluded from its ranking.

In any case, the FT follows U.S. News & World Report in cranking out a new list to rank online MBA degree programs. The FT list is comparatively skimpy and its methodology mimics the approach it takes for its full-time global MBA ranking. Through U.S. News only ranks U.S. business schools, it assigns numerical ranks to 172 online programs–more than 150 more than the FT. Because only 17 programs provided the FT with data, the list is not nearly as comprehensive and several schools appear to rank highly largely because of the absence of competition.


Thunderbird School of Global Management, embroiled in a contentious fight with alumni who are against a tie-up with a for-profit education provider, finished eighth in the new FT ranking. But when U.S. News crunched the numbers on its second consecutive ranking of online MBA programs, Thunderbird did no better than a tie for 51th place with Northeastern, which the FT ranks third in the world.

Regardless, Poets&Quants believes that a separate ranking for an online program is superfluous because the value of the degree is largely based on the overall reputation of the business school granting the degree. That reputation is typically a function of the school’s ranking for its flagship full-time MBA program (see American’s Top Online MBA Programs).

The FT methodology weighs 18 different metrics, ranging from a school’s “research rank,” based on the number of articles published by faculty in selected journals, to the percentage of women faculty at the school. The most heavily weighted metrics are compensation: the average salary of an alumnus three years after graduation accounts for 20% of the methodology, while the percentage increase from pre-MBA salary counts for 10% of the weight.


Interestingly enough, only two of the 18 metrics of the methodology bear more directly on the online experience: program delivery, which is how alumni rate the online delivery of “live teaching sessions, other teaching materials and online exams,” and online interaction, which is how alumni rate the “interaction between students, teamwork and the availability of faculty.” Those two measures account for only 15% of the methodology.

Looking at online program delivery alone, the winners of the FT’s alumni survey would be the University of Florida’s Hough School of Business, Indiana University, Syracuse University’s Whitman School, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Centrum Católica in Peru, Babson College, Northeastern and IE Business School, in that order.

Isolating the “online interaction” alumni survey results, the winners would be Florida, Thunderbird, Indiana, Syracuse, IE, Babson, Northeastern and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, in that order.

For a school’s online MBA program to be included, the school must be internationally accredited and the online program had to run for at least four consecutive years. A minimum of 70% of the program content must be delivered online, either synchronously or asynchronously. Finally, participants must pass a selection process before enrolling and an examination process before graduating.

The FT said that at least 20% of a program’s alumni had to respond to its survey for the school to be included, with at least 20 completed responses. A total of 844 alumni completed the survey, a response rate of 35%.

(See following page for table of online MBA rankings and comparison to U.S. News’ rankings)

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