Della Bradshaw, who pioneered the coverage of management education at the Financial Times as its business education editor, is leaving the British newspaper after completing her 18th ranking of the world’s best MBA programs.
Bradshaw, who originated the FT’s highly influential ranking in 1999, is uncertain about her next act. “I am thinking about a few things, but nothing concrete,” she told Poets&Qaunts. Asked who her successor might be, Bradshaw replied, “Adam Jones, Work and Careers Editor, will be taking over for the moment.”
When she first began the FT ranking, it was the first time anyone had attempted to measure the quality of MBA programs on a global basis. Nearly 20 years later, the Financial Times’ annual global MBA list remains the most influential global ranking of business school, especially in Europe and in Asia where it can impact application volume, alumni donations, and the overall prestige of a business school.
BRADSHAW CREATED A PROFIT-MAKING FRANCHISE FOR THE BRITISH NEWSPAPER
Bradshaw, well-liked and highly respected by business school deans and administrators, not only carved out a special niche of business journalism at the FT. She also created a profit-making franchise for the British newspaper, cranking out nine separate rankings annually on everything from custom executive education programs to online MBA programs. Bradshaw has long been considered a down-to-earth journalist, a reflection perhaps of her Yorkshire background and her English degree from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. After graduating from Ulster in the mid-1970s, she taught English in Sicily, Turkey and Japan returning to Britain to write for Electronics Weekly, a trade newspaper. She then joined the FT as a technology writer, returning after a maternity leave, to launch the newspaper’s business education page in 1995.
She started working on a ranking in 1998 but abandoned a first effort that year because she felt the initial methodology was “too biased.” Among other things, Bradshaw believed that an effort to include the views of MBA recruiters–a key part of Businessweek’s methodology–was not successful. A year later, in 1999, she unveiled the first of what would be 18 versions of the FT’s global MBA ranking. Bradshaw herself was surprised by the reaction to that first ranking along with how seriously the lists are taken by applicants, students, alumni and business school administrators. “I compare them to restaurant reviews,” she once told an interviewer. “People tend to stick to a favourite reviewer and I think the rankings are bit like that.”
For mostly European and Asian schools, Bradshaw quickly became that favorite critic. Detractors of the FT’s work charge that the rankings blantantly favor non-North American schools as a result of a methodology that rewards schools for having higher percentages of students, faculty and board members who are not from the country in which a school resides. They contend that the FT’s approach has led many to overvalue the quality of many MBA programs outside North America. But there’s no question that Bradshaw’s coverage has had widespread impact. One dean after another has make a pilgrimmage to the FT’s offices for sit-downs with her, with many of those sessions resulting in brief video interviews.
31 OF THE 50 SCHOOLS ON BRADSHAW’S FIRST RANKING WERE BASED IN THE U.S.
More than any other journalist or dean, for that matter, she has been instrumental in promoting the notion that business schools outside the U.S. are every bit as good if not better than their North American cousins. Bradshaw strongly believes that the former dominance of U.S. schools has been challenged by the rising numbers and quality of business schools and programs around the world, Her last ranking, published only yesterday, put an exclaimation point on her stated belief that U.S. schools no longer are the only leaders in management education. For the first time ever, INSEAD, with campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, was crowned the No. 1 business school, even though its MBA program is just 10-months long. More significantly, for the first time, a majority of the 101 schools on the FT ranking are based outside the U.S.
When Bradshaw cranked out the first FT ranking in 1999—11 years after Businessweek became the first publication to produce an MBA ranking and 10 years after U.S. News & World Report got into the act—31 of the 50 schools on the list were based in the U.S., with Harvard Business School at the top and Penn State University at 50th. In fact, 21 of the Top 25 programs were in the U.S., with London Business School the only non-U.S. institution cracking the Top Ten at a rank of eighth. At the time, even those results drew controversy and outrage because many would not have put even four schools outside the U.S. in the top group.
This year, only 21 U.S. schools made the Top 50—ten fewer schools than in the debut ranking— with three non-U.S. schools in the Top 10. More crucially, only 47 of the FT’s Top 101 schools on this year’s list are based in the U.S., down from 50 in 2015. One of the biggest changes over the years was the emergence of schools in Asia. In 1999, there were none. This year, there were seven from China, three from India, two from Singapore, and one from South Korea.