Why Ivey Ranked First Among Global MBAs

The Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario

The Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario

Picture the top full-time MBA programs outside the United States. Chances are, INSEAD, HEC Paris, or the London Business School come to mind. No surprise there. These schools are often duke it out for the top spots in most international rankings. Year after year, their performance in metrics like starting salaries and placement rates is the envy of their peers. But statistics and reputation only tell part of the story.

You could think of Bloomberg Businessweek’s “Best Business Schools” ranking as a counterbalance. Here, 80% is based on subjective survey results from recruiters, alumni, and students. Compare that to the qual-quant balance in the U.S. News (40%) and data-intensive Financial Times (7%) rankings. In other words, Bloomberg Businessweek attempts to measures satisfaction. Are graduates returning to the workforce with the right skills and temperament? Do students buy into the culture and curriculum? Did the program help student achieve their career goals? When it comes to these questions, along with job placement and salaries, you’ll find an unheralded program from Western Ontario pushed to the top of the list of  traditional powers.


Buoyed by the highest marks among recruiters, the Ivey Business School ranked #1 overall in Bloomberg Businessweek’s now-annual MBA ranking, with Ivey repeating as the top international program for the second straight year (after ranking 7th in 2012). And they did so despite a change in Bloomberg Businessweek’s methodology that removed Ivey’s long-standing advantage in academic research.

Ivey students

Ivey graduates had a 92% placement rate in 2014

So what’s behind Ivey’s success? Well, if you’re expecting an awe-inspiring, game-changing curriculum, set your sights a little lower. While the Ivey approach certainly breaks new ground, particularly in process learning, the school’s strength lies in its focus on the fundamentals – and executing them better than everyone else.

Classified as a “one-year MBA program,” Ivey is really a three semester format with 85% of the contact hours of a two-year program according to Robert Kennedy, who became the school’s dean in 2013 after an 18-year teaching and administrative career at the University Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Harvard Business School. And this background has translated into the best of both worlds for Ivey MBAs.


Like Harvard and Darden, Ivey has traditionally leaned heavily on case studies. In doing so, the program simulates business realities that prepare students to identify the angles, weigh the options, and make timely decisions, says Kennedy. “I think the case method is a great way to not just learn the tools of business, but how to apply those tools,” Kennedy explains in an exclusive Q&A with Poets&Quants. “You have to learn how to exercise judgment. Most business is not just an equation where you get perfect data. It’s applying judgment, thinking about things and understanding the tradeoffs. The case method forces the students to do that in the classroom.”

Drawing from his experience at Ross, Kennedy is also accelerating the school’s push into hands-on learning, including a required experiential learning course. As a result of this case yin to experiential yang, students are bringing more real world experience into their internships and first jobs to complement their already-sharp analytical and communication skills. To give students a further advantage, Kennedy notes that the school has embraced its alumni like few other schools. “Ivey has about 25,000 alumni – and well over a third of them engage with school every year where they come to a class, participate in a case, taking a recruit to dinner. So we have all across the life cycle, from students considering coming here to when they participate in the program to recent alumni and very senior executives, those people are continually engaging our current students and recent graduates. That makes the current class much happier. As people leave Ivey and move along in their careers, that’s a huge support mechanism. And I think that’s reflected in their happiness with the school and it helps us in those rankings.”

Ivey students gathered outside class

Ivey students gathered outside class

And Ivey alumni have taken care of their own, as evidenced by the school’s most recent employment report. Here, the 143 members of Ivey’s 2014 Class maintained a 92% employment rate three months after graduation, with starting earnings of $98,205 (with the highest reported paycheck being $250,000). While 4 in 10 graduates ended up in finance, the class found their way into 85 firms, including Bain, Amazon, McKinsey, Coca-Cola, and Cisco.


Beyond the program pedagogy and engaged alumni, Ivey also leverages its career center to its stakeholders’ advantage. It’s no accident that Ivey has the highest starting salaries and three month graduate placement rate in Canada. The career center is involved in far more than simply coaching students and scheduling meet-and-greets with recruiters. Instead, they are a value add to recruiters and a resource to faculty and admissions alike.

“We give the recruiting firms feedback on how their firms are perceived,” Kennedy points out. “Did they pitch the firm right? In the info sessions and interviews, did the people feel taken care or did they feel abused? [We tell them] what their brand is. The reason the career management center is larger than other Canadian schools is that they’re not just organizing interview lists. They’re involved in the admissions process. They’re doing a lot of coaching of the students when they’re in the program. There’s a lot of two-way communication with the recruiting firms, both in terms of helping match them with the appropriate students and helping the firms put their best foot forward as well. This leads to a positive feedback loop where we really feel like we’re partnering with both the students and with the firms.”

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