INSEAD Tops Financial Times Ranking

Some of the 2015 MBA graduates from CEIBS, the highest ranked school in China

Some of the 2015 MBA graduates from CEIBS, the highest ranked school in China


Even several schools among the Top 25, where typically less change occurs, felt the topsy-turvy effects of the FT ranking and its peculiar methodology. IESE Business School plummeted nine places to rank 16th from seven a year ago, while CEIBS (China Europe International Business School) in China fell six spots to finish 17th from 11th a year earlier. IMD in Switzerland rose seven places to a rank of 13th from 20th, while the University of Michigan’s Ross School improved four spots to a rank of 20th. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Cambridge University’s Judge School, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management all gained three places each, respectively finishing at ranks of seventh, 10th and 11th.

More shocking, perhaps, is the disappearance of several highly prominent business schools. Purdue University’s Krannert School, ranked 48th last year, is no longer on the list. That means the school would have had to tumble at least 54 places in failing to achieve any numerical rank on the FT list. Arizona State University’s Carey School and Southern Methodist University’s Cox School, both tied at a rank of 76th in 2015, also disappeared, indicating drops of 26 spots each (see Winners & Losers In The FT’s 2016 Ranking).

The biggest drop among schools that still clung to the list was felt by the University of Iowa’s Tippie School. Tippie’s small full-time MBA program, with just over 50 graduates a year, plunged 31 places to a rank of 94th from 63rd only 12 months earlier. What disaster foretold the decline? The latest crop of MBAs from the school reported record average salaries of $94,088, up 10% from $85,585 in 2014, while the average signing bonus jumped 27% to $20,795, from $16,421 a year earlier. What’s more 98% of the grads had jobs three months after graduation, up from 93% in 2014. It would be hard to argue that Tippie deserved to fall 31 places after a year like that.


Compare Tippie’s fate on the list to the school, Renmin University of China, that rose the highest to make the FT ranking for the very first time. Rennin’s business school was only accredited by the AACSB in 2012, even though it was one of nine schools that began its own MBA program in China 22 years earlier in 1990. The class profile for its 27 MBA students shows an average GMAT score of 580, nearly 100 points below Tippie’s average, with only seven students from outside China.

There is no employment report available on the school’s website–for any year–but the median salary for MBA graduates of the best business school in China, CEIBs, was $54,715 last year, roughly $44,000 a year less than MBAs at Tippie made. Thanks to the magic of the FT‘s purchasing power adjustment to alumni salaries, however, the newspaper claims a Renmin alum made $94,233 vs. Tippie’s $103,058. The example is not intended to discredit Renmin but to point out the head-scratching, if not mindless, way in which the Financial Times assesses the quality of MBA programs.

Up and down the ranking, similar stories abound. Boston College’s Carroll School of Management jumped 21 places to rank 69th this year, up from 90th a year ago. The University of Cape Town lost 24 spots to rank 76th, down from 52. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sank 20 places to a rank of 91st, from 71 a year ago. Yet there were no substantive changes in the MBA programs or the fortunes of alumni from these institutions to justify those kinds of massive shifts in rankings.


    You guys need to understand that there is a world outside of the US. You don’t ask yourselves why Wharton partnered with INSEAD? I am one of those people only interested in INSEAD. Planning on applying to US schools only if INSEAD dings me.
    In terms of jobs INSEAD = HSW in the US in MBB, if you are American interested in going back to work there you just need to do the exchange with Wharton and that’s it. So why bother with a two year program that is twice as expensive?

    Also INSEAD is not for everyone, if you have never stuck your nose outside of the US, INSEAD will ding you. If you only speak one language, INSEAD will ding you.

    And I repeat I will turn down any HBS, Stanford and Wharton to go to INSEAD. As a matter of fact I only applied to INSEAD and I am not the only one in this case.

  • Mehul Mishra

    A really poor statistician if you make conclusions without data

  • PrincetonStats

    As a statistician, let me tell you this. You are really stupid. Thank you.

  • Skdbdjsb

    Of course it is no secret that Harvard, Stanford, MIT are the best overall universities in the US.

    The FT rankings look at MBA programs, and for that Harvard, Stanford and Penn (Wharton) are the established too schools, MIT (Sloan) is close behind.

  • Almost

    Not for undergrad. Berkeley has many good grad schools but for undergrads it is a stepchild to the ivies, Stanford, MIT, Duke,Chicago.

  • clark marian

    How i got my Desired Loan Amount from a Reliable Loan Company (JONES INVESTMENTS LIMITED)

    Hello everybody, I am Nina Jamie currently living in Toronto,Canada. I am a widow at the moment with three kids and i was stuck in a financial situation by September to December 31 2015 last year and i needed to refinance and pay my bills and start up a Business this year 2016. I tried seeking for loans from various loan firms both private and corporate but never with success, and most banks declined my credit. But as God would have it, i was introduced to a man of God by a friend named Clifford Boatin and i got a loan sum of $900,000.00 on the 4th of January 2016 and today am a business owner and my kids are doing well at the moment. So my friend, if you must contact any firm or investments into any company with reference to securing a loan with low interest rate of 4% and better repayment plans and schedule, please contact Mr Jones Investment limited (JONESINVESTMENLIMITED@OUTLOOK.COM) He doesn’t know that am doing this but am so happy now and I decided to let people know more about him, He offers all kinds of loans to both individuals and company and also i want God to bless him more. You can contact him through his email via: [JONESINVESTMENLIMITED@OUTLOOK.COM]

    God bless you all.

  • Mehul Mishra

    There is no college called “IMM Ahemdabad” please correct this to “IIM Ahmedabad”.
    Also i find it funny that you say that the US has “only” 47 colleges in the list. There are 196 countries on the planet . One country (USA) comprises half of this list and you are still complaining that that is too less.
    I think the fact that the other 195 countries have representation on only half this list is not fair. If we were to make this ranking by a global voting process it would be drastically different.

  • JohnAByrne

    Bonuses are not included nor are stock options or grants. Only salary. So total compensation is not reflected in the numbers.

  • Greg

    I quickly read through FT’s methodology (link below): still unsure whether or not bonuses are included in the salary figures. Given that salary after 3year and salary increase add up to as much as 40% of the weightings ..

  • C. Taylor

    IMD, Insead, and LBS are elite MBA programs on par with the likes of HBS, Wharton, and Booth.

    By the way. Karl Benz–a German–invented the car. Industrially-produced digital images were woven with a Jacquard loom (French) based on programmed instructions via punch cards. Most tools of modern warfare originated in Germany; guided missiles, jet fighters, stealth bombers, ICBMs, battle-ready submarines–this would include nuclear bombs if Germany hadn’t curtailed investment in its advanced nuke research. Also, China’s astronauts don’t face the same death rates faced by those at NASA.

    There is a whole world beyond the borders of the US.

  • David

    Hello there,

    No need to employ name-calling. The reason, it’s called a ‘rule of thumb,’ is because it’s a quick way to make an assessment for most cases and certainly doesn’t apply to all.

    In any event, I’m glad if you and your purported co-workers have found what you are looking for in an educational experience, but no need to bash any people or countries.

  • That has, in fact, occurred. Businessweek has even thrown a school or two out of its ranking for encouraging students to grade their schools as highly as possible. This is a perennial problem and it’s more significant in any one year. Over time, these things tend to cancel each other out. Besides, the scores on these surveys are so bunched together that one respondent with an axe to grind wipes out ten or more average cheerleaders. Still, it’s a problem.

  • Rule of Numb

    Ummmm what???? You should take your rule of thumb and put it back where it belongs.

    This is a classic example of American ignorance and arrogance. I know many people from my firm that have been accepted to some combination of INSEAD, LBS, IESE, IMD and the M7, and different people choose the school that fits them best (and yes I know several who have chosen INSEAD over HBS and Stanford and it is not at all laughable).

    Believe it or not but there is a whole wide world out there that conducts business outside of the United States. Some people want a global education, not a U.S.-centric view of the world. Some people see the clear value proposition that INSEAD offers with it’s 1-year program putting you in the same position as a 2-year program offered in the States. Some people just don’t like America and want to live and study in Europe or Asia. It really isn’t that far fetched. Don’t be such a clown.

  • Sit Down

    M7 student now but I know former colleagues who turned down M7s to be at INSEAD. It’s a great program and if you don’t need the internship it’s the best 1-year program out there. All top firms know it and even if you want to work US/Europe/Asia it can be done. For me I wanted to pivot functions so I need the internship, but for those who don’t, it’s a great option — don’t listen to these trolls.

  • Guest

    “The problem in surveying alumni who know the results will be used for the purposes of a ranking is that there is a certain degree of cheerleading that occurs.”

    John, I sure hate to see the day when the whole ranking business denigrates to a point where the “cheerleading” is orchestrated by the schools themselves! What’s your view?

  • Butthurt blameshifters

    I’ve been at INSEAD for only one month now and have final round interviews with all BB banks for the London office. You must have been an admissions mistake.

    Maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror and stop blaming others for your inadequacy.

  • WSOreference

    haha!! am I the only one who got this?

  • David

    Moderators, please address this posting with personal attack. Thanks

  • Lala

    When a school has an application criterium of speaking 3 languages, there is pre selection factor

  • Duh

    Because INSEAD has a cap for nationality. Otherwise you could claim that HEC is the best school because of French representativity.

  • El Meerr

    You still have the butthurt? Chill. It is just an article. Ranking is just a ranking.
    US is a great country, center of the universe if you like. Bushes – are the greatest family in the history of mankind. US universities are top in the whole galaxy. Just sleep well and take care of yourself, my friend.

  • David

    El Meerr, I’m not sure what point you are driving, but the fact that GW Bush got his MBA at Harvard – along with it being Obama’s alma mater – is a powerful testament to Harvard’s continued dominance of US and worldwide commerce and power and helps answer why it continues to be the most sought-after educator for students aspiring to wealth and power.

  • David

    Hi Elsa, care to extrapolate on your and your brother’s thinking that went into your decision? I’m going to guess it related to your geographic preferences – perhaps a desire to stay/work in Europe – and a superior financial aid package from INSEAD?

  • elsa

    turned down 3 m7 schools to be at insead. my brother turned down 2 other.


  • El Meerr

    Correct me if I am wrong – George Bush Jr. did an MBA in Harvard. Harvard, huh?

  • David

    US News has their specialist rankings, which has its flaws but is a good place to start. Generally speaking, just look at whichever school has the higher rated undergrad in US News and World Report and supplement that with the specialist rankings.

  • george

    You are wrong. The report contains results from July 2015 and Dec 2014. But you are right that they have changed it and the previously reported results are reported again in this report. By the way, most if not all the INSEAD grads working with MBBs in US are sponsored students.

  • Greg

    Insead is not good…

  • Taye

    What are the top-5 best MPA programs in the northeast? Anyone want to weigh in? Maybe this is an opportunity for John.

  • David

    As other posters have rightly pointed out, it’s a bit laughable to imagine that a candidate would turn down acceptance to HBS or Stanford for a spot at INSEAD or in most cases LBS.

    To address this obvious flaw, my rule of thumb has been to add 10 places to any non-American school on the FT list. With this latest ranking – to pass the smell test – I would knock any non-American school down 20 places, at least. So, putting INSEAD at 21 instead of first, we could reasonably say it competes at a similar level as Duke. Or take IE – which ranks at #12 on this list and bump it down to #32 where it competes comfortably with Cornell. Going further down the list, Bocconi in Milan becomes a peer competitor with Georgetown and UW Foster. In many cases, even a 20 place penalty is likely not enough – hard to believe Emory at 55 is a peer competitor with Lancaster, Manchester, and Cass.

  • Charles

    you know you could be jailed for bothering me… but I will be nice and give you a chance to apologize..

  • TeachTalents

    100% Agree Dude. I would add Berkeley to your college list though.

  • Hank Piccion’s Moody

    Dude, any ranking for the last 5 years is telling you that Harvard is not keepingg the pace with tech and yes, MIT and Stanford are now 10 steps ahead. Don’t answer, because you know that as we know HBS itself is behind Stanford GSB. That said, great school but the MBAs are useless (btw I did a double degree Mit/Harvard and I have LSE as college, i know my stuff about rankings). Btw, Harvard is definitely behaind Oxford and Cambridge in several arts and sciences. Give me a break! This is why I am ashamed to be a Harvard grad sometime, because there are ppl like you!

  • Hank Piccion’s Moody

    I work for MBB and I confirm all consultants out of MBA are paid the same. Otherwise we don’t hire them.

  • Hank Piccion’s Moody

    I liked it just for your username

  • Hank Piccion’s Moody

    When i read BS this big, I understand that ranking are for mediocre ppl. If you have lived more than 3 months in Cambridge, MA and attended Harvard or MIT (colleges because MBA are useless) or Stanford on the other side, you know that we are talking about ppl who are 10 years ahead Compared to INSEAD’s and 2-5 compared to all the others. Come on FT… this is rubbish!


    very interesting that insead changed its employment report in the time of FT ranking! it used to publish the july and dec of the same year around may or june the following year. now they put july of 14 with dec of 15!! how come they did manage to get results from 15 dec class !? it is just one month since graduation!

  • David

    Precisely – it’s that kind of hard thinking and analysis that is needed to pull the curtain and take a look at the mechanics at work in the rankings game. In fact, this kind of critical analysis can be used in any number of rankings, from ‘best country rankings’ published recently by the World Economic Forum (and, interestingly, devised by Wharton) to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business to the Freedom Index’s ‘Freest Countries’ scoring system.

    Personally, I tried to adopt your approach when investigating professional master’s program in International Affairs. Sadly, apart from law schools there is very little systematic data out there on other graduate professional programs despite the need for greater scrutiny of career outcomes claims made by US educational institutions as cost of education skyrockets and gains seem to be diminishing.

  • Charles

    Tuck handed out the first GRADUATE degree in commerce NOT an MBA! could you please focus when reading!!!

  • Based on INSEAD’s newest employment report, the top consulting firms pay INSEAD grads who work in North America exactly what they pay HBS, Stanford and other grads of top U.S. schools: a $140K base to start. The overall base salary for consulting at INSEAD is lower–$113,600–largely because a good many MBAs who go into consulting from the school are working in countries where the pay is lower. I’ll be doing a deep dive on the employment report momentarily.

  • Because people love to have “a number” even when the number may in many cases lack real meaning. This was true when I was in charge of the Businessweek ranking.

  • Les Diables Bleus

    Tuck handed out the first MBA. Good luck believing your own fantasy though.

  • lol

    Brady is that you?

  • eddysham

    He is an example of INSEAD idiot by birth..

  • 3MBAS

    You did MBAs at H S and W? Silly boy.

  • Charles

    I do bot know about others, but let be candid for once: do you really believe someone would turn down Harvard for any other school apart from Stanford?! Do you think that anyone would sacrifice being a graduate of the world’s most prestigious name in education and the very best brand?! Boys, it is Harvard! do you hear me, it is Harvard, the inventor of MBA, the oldest, the richest, the inventor of case study, the publisher of HBR where 80% of the business education cases worldwide!, the golden example and the best university on the planet, and yes, the best university in the history of mankind! unless you are already done your graduate at Harvard, it is very hard to turn it down for any school, many if not all the prospective applicants would agree.

  • Les Diables Bleus

    You sound very intelligent. You know, statements without scientific explanations and all…


    FT ranking INSEAD is similar of BW ranking duke last year.. it is very flawed ranking and they will change it next time.. i have no doubt about it. .stay tuned..

  • Orange1

    Well said @Happy but human nature being what it is……. And as I have put it, in meetings with multiple MBAs from Harvard to tail of top 25, NOBODY can differentiate who went to where.

  • Orange1

    John, this is why through the years I have advocated a tier system. The underlying data is so close as to indicate negligible differences. Why do law schools do this but not business schools?

  • C. Taylor

    Some suggest Harvard types can’t do spreadsheets but are very pleasant to converse with. Not sure I’m comfortable broadly stereotyping grads of either program.

  • MG

    Based upon its metrics, I don’t think that INSEAD would rank within the top 6 or 7 in the U.S. The low GMAT score. The high acceptance rate. I’ve worked with a number of INSEAD grads, both in the U.S. and abroad, and even launched a startup with two INSEAD grads: I’ve been impressed by a few, but by and large, these are folks who are well-spoken on matters of fluff.

  • C. Taylor

    P&Q goes off on pretty much every ranking, just less on USN&WR.

    These guys aren’t numbers types and rely on their impression of numbers type arguments. What else can they rely on? Plus there is home court bias–US schools look better when ignoring cost of living.

    Which is silly when you can endlessly rock the town in emerging markets for pocket change (for the models and bottles types)–and your whole paycheck goes in your bank, not someone else’s. And your flat is 2,500 square feet not 500 square feet–and on the company’s dime, half the time.

    Check out this list of cute little Manhattan flats: ny.curbed (dot) com/archives/2012/06/26/the_10_smallest_apartments_on_the_market_in_manhattan.php

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved NYC. Just costs WAY more to live the same life you can elsewhere for much less. If you get to use a company card to network, it does make things easier. But then you can get one of those in a developing country too.

  • C. Taylor

    Haven’t been in on any pay decisions for MBB, but generally speaking, global companies have a local pay rate and international pay rate. The trick is to get the international rate. More qualified applicants command greater bargaining power. ‘More qualified’ here means in greater demand from the recruiter perspective–meaning greater potential you’ll get snagged by a competing offer; say, from across the pond.

  • get real

    My MBA experiences at Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton were all just as miserable!

  • FT is a haughty bunch

    I think we all know FT has a pro-Euro bias

  • Hilary is going down

    Not sure why H fell behind S & W in salary this year. I have three gripes with this ranking.

    Why is PPP used for WHERE a school is located? PPP-weighted salaries should purely take into account where the schools’ graduates end up going post-MBA – not the physical school itself. Or, because the survey is of alumni who have been in the workforce for 3 years, the figures should reflect wherever the alumni are actually based at the time of survey completion… When determining a school’s ‘Salary Increase %,” does FT also adjust pre-MBA salaries in the same way? If a school is truly a touted as a “global MBA” where students COME FROM and GO TO a multitude of other countries then why does Fountainbleu, FR determine the PPP index for a school’s weighted salaries?

    Second, Insead and other 1-yr programs may be higher up on the ‘Value’ rank solely because they’re 1-yr programs… But why should this harm all the 2-yr full-time schools in the list? One may argue that 1-yr schools provide less in many other ‘Value-related’ categories such as network development, exploring new ideas, school morale & environment, etc.

    Third, even though ‘Female representation’ is important for many reasons, this leaves out other social categories like ethnic diversity. I suppose we should value Female representation over the other social balancing acts – as FT does.

  • P&Q USA

    John, the problem is we read the site too often. You obviously have certain views and opinions that you like to spew out which is fine if you identify your articles as opinion pieces, but quit masquerading around like you are some kind of objective journalist.

  • Inseadsux

    It is hard to believe that INSEAD is rated as the world’s best MBA, in my experience it was not a premium product it was useless and I worry that future MBAs are going to consider this school. I was not able to land a single interview post INSEAD, I have had INSEAD on my linked in profile for years and have never had a single person contact me because of my MBA. Given the click data it looks like no one even searches linked in for INSEAD alumni.

    So what is happening here?

    The marketing of the INSEAD MBA starts in earnest once the program begins; every lecture contains 2 or 3 pieces of class cheer. The message is that you are special because you’re at INSEAD. Also INSEAD does have some aspects of a cult: The isolation of the Fontainebleau campus, the hazing, the single option social life and the shunning of non conformers. Given all this; when the Dean tells students to give INSEAD high ratings is it any wonder that many students do what they are told?

    INSEAD is more of an experience product that other MBAs – it’s more like a vacation than an educational product. There are some people that do well post INSEAD, but these people were doing well before INSEAD. For an MBB or wealthy participant INSEAD is a fun party that has an elite brand.

    INSEAD should publish more granular data, I suspect that there is a Simpson’s paradox here. There is a large minority at INSEAD, approx 20 percent, that see no value add from the product. I would love to see how many native English speakers or French people were able to boost their careers. Have you ever thought: Why are there more French people at LBS than INSEAD?

  • John Doe

    Sure they don’t, but what does that have to do with the FT adjusting salaries for the cost of living the same way employers do?

    The fact that MBB may offer different salaries to different grads in the same market will have a miniscule impact on total reported salaries for an MBA class. Even if it did, it would still be reflected in the adjustment.

    Not sure I get your point Yalin?

  • avivalasvegas

    Judge and Insead ranked above Stanford and HBS? When pigs fly!!

  • Toro

    John, are we talking about “american” rankings or global rankings?

  • avivalasvegas

    You are correct in stating this. And its not just the consulting firms.

  • permanda

    i know many insead grads who did not receive the questionnaire because insead didn’t provide the newspaper with their contact. the school provided a selected contacts to provide positive answers.

  • yalin

    MBBs don’t pay insead students the same of hbs and stanford in the same country. take us as an example..

  • Thank you. The analysis is meant to convey the fact, especially to newcomers who may not understand much about the rankings game, that every ranking should be viewed skeptically. A sample error, a judgment on a single metric by a journalist, a few alums who are less than candid about their experience in filling out a survey could have very big consequences given how close the underlying index numbers are behind each numerical rank. Unlike U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek, the FT does not share these index numbers so it’s not possible to judge the legitimacy of a given rank on a school.

  • The problem in surveying alumni who know the results will be used for the purposes of a ranking is that there is a certain degree of cheerleading that occurs. That is not only a challenge with the FT ranking, It is also a challenge with Businesweek’s ranking which I created in 1988. BW employs statisticians who look over the alumni results for bias. But given how close the results are from school to school, very small, statistically meaningless changes can result in big ranking changes.

  • You obviously don’t read the site often enough. Here is just one of many examples:

  • David

    John, fantastic and illuminating analysis as always – I greatly enjoy your ‘ranking of the rankings.’ Would be great if you could do some consulting for the various publications that put out rankings to strengthen their methodologies, and/or devise your own ranking.

  • JackS

    Mr. Byrne winning because Harvard is not number 1. Pathetic.., . Not sure this kind of ball-sucking is really helping HBS hahahahaaa

  • John Doe

    A poorly crafted all-out attack on the FT rankings. It’s disappointing to see such bias from Poets&Quants.

    The argument against the FT’s use of a purchasing power adjustment is beyond ridiculous – every global company establishes salaries in each market based on the cost of living so why shouldn’t MBA rankings reflect this?

  • Sigh.

    “both metrics are derived from the newspaper’s surveys of alumni that are highly dependent on response rates and honest replies from respondents”

    Ok – I was with you most of the way. But this is where I stopped taking this article seriously. OF COURSE the FT needs to assume honest replies – just like they did in all the previous years of ranking. Why would this year be any different? By the logic of this article, alumni from every year would inflate their figures and lie. Ultimately, take the rankings with a grain of salt and assume that the top 5 all deserve to be there. The order will change every year and trying to justify the validity of one years rankings over another years is utterly moronic.

  • No

    HKUST is not China but rather a SAR of PRC.

  • Jason

    Funny how the rankings methodology is never questioned when US schools or LBS come out on top of the rankings…

  • el chefe

    John, CEIBS is not the highest ranked China school as you mention; Hong Kong UST is according to your published ranking

  • Happy Camper

    I agree with Swissmix. All of these rankings need to be taken with a grain of salt, and I do think this site does a good job at explaining the flaws in all rankings, even if it seems a bit butt-hurt about INSEAD beating out Harvard. Candidates should only use these rankings to group schools into tiers and then make their own decision based on location preferences etc… I will say that the FT ranking (despite some obvious flaws) is WAY less mind-boggling than the Economist rankings of global MBAs.

  • Swissmix

    Definitely some methodological flaws, but that’s always been the case with FT. I don’t think that anyone should take this too seriously beyond trying to understand how schools cluster together (e.g., top 5-10, next tier, etc.). It’s tricky to argue too strongly for or against any school in the top 10.

  • INSEAD–70%-acceptance

    What a farce!