Poets&Quants’ 2014 Best International Business School Ranking

MBA students outside London Business School

MBA students outside London Business School

Differentiating itself as the world’s best MBA program with a global learning community in a global city, London Business School again topped the 2014 Poets&Quants’ ranking for having the best MBA experience outside the U.S. It was the fourth time in five years, that LBS came in first ahead of other world-class programs at No. 2 INSEAD in France and Singapore, No. 3 IMD in Switzerland, No. 4 IE Business School in Madrid, and No. 5 IESE Business School in Barcelona.

Tucked away on the edge of leafy Regents Park in central London, LBS is conveniently down the road from the Boston Consulting Group, who alongside McKinsey & Company, regularly hire some two dozen MBA graduates every year. It’s the only U.K. school to feature in the top ten of the Financial Times’ global MBA rankings – this year overtaking Wharton for third place. A third of its cohort are women, and the average GMAT score is 700. Some 15% of students are North American, and this year’s students come from 62 different countries and have an average six years’ work experience.

Students have all the benefits of proximity to London’s financial centre, but increasingly to the boutique finance firms springing up, as London’s alternative investment community grows. And then there’s London’s busy technology start-up scene; more LBS graduates are finding work outside of the traditional stomping ground of finance and consulting. “There are big advantages for our students being in a city so diverse in terms of professional sectors,” says David Simpson, admissions director of LBS.

With London on top, the European business schools completely dominate the best non-U.S. MBA programs, with not a single school outside Europe cracking the top ten. The U.K. and Spain each can claim three spots among the top ten programs, while France has two and Switzerland and Italy are represented by IMD in Lausanne and SDA Bocconi in Milan.


Among the Top 25 schools, the biggest gainer was the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, Germany, which jumped 19 places to finish 22nd just behind German rival Mannheim. Founded by 25 mostly German-based companies only 12 years ago, ESMT boasts a relatively small one-year MBA program starting each January. The Class of 2014 has only 63 students representing 34 nationalities. Other gainers on this year’s list include Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, which rose six positions to finish sixth, and the National University of Singapore’s business school, which also improved by six spots to finish 14th.

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.

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, which includes the recently released 2014 rankings by The Financial Times, The Economist, and Businessweek tends to diminish anomalies and other statistical distortions that often occur in one ranking or another. A composite list lends greater stability to a ranking of schools that rarely change from year to year.


This year, Poets&Quants made two notable changes to its ranking of international MBA programs. First, it changed the weighing of the four major rankings so that more weight is given to both the more widely followed and influential Financial Times and to Forbes, whose list is based solely on return-on-investment, and slightly less weight on Businessweek and The Economist. The FT and Forbes are both weighted 30% each, while the BW and Economist rankings are each given a 20% weight. And instead of stopping the ranking at 50 MBA programs, Poets&Quants extended it this year to include 69 schools.

More so than rankings of the U.S. schools, individual rankings of international MBA programs can be widely erratic. The Economist, for example, assigns numerical ranks to 19 different non-U.S. MBA programs that don’t even make The Financial Times‘ ranking. Meantime, the FT ranks nine MBA programs that fail to make any one of the other three lists.

And even for any individual school, rankings can vary wildly. Consider Western Ontario University’s Ivey School of Business. Businessweek recently crowned the school No. 1 in its latest ranking, but The Financial Times puts it at 45th among non-U.S. MBA programs. Ivey isn’t ranked at all by either The Economist or Forbes. Or take the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin. Businessweek claims it has the third best MBA program outside the U.S.. The Economist ranks it eighth among non-U.S. programs, while the FT puts it a lowly 44th.

The lesson here is simple: Take all these rankings with a very big grain of salt. The reason for results that don’t seem to coalesce around a single number has to do with the different methodologies employed by each ranking organization. Those approaches are made up by journalists who often know very little about graduate management education. So peculiar, if not nonsensical, results in any one survey are not unusual. That’s why Poets&Quants’ composite ranking makes more sense.

(See following pages for our tables ranking the top non-U.S. MBA programs)