Ranking The World’s Most ‘International’ MBA Programs

One of INSEAD's three campuses in Fontainebleau, France

One of INSEAD’s three campuses in Fontainebleau, France

IMD also employed the highest percentage of faculty, with 95% of its instructors holding citizenship outside Switzerland — just a shade higher than INSEAD (93%) and the UK’s Imperial College (90%). However, board membership is where IMD really stands out. Some 87% of the IMD board consists of non-Swiss citizens, a percentage that exceeds INSEAD (81%)…not to mention regional competitors like IESE (86%), HEC Paris (67%), and the London Business School (65%). In short, IMD is a top-to-bottom international program in terms of the people who attend, teach, and manage the school.

Thanks to this intimate and immersive setup, which exposes IMD students each day to different languages and cultural nuances, the program also ranks #1 in global mobility (though INSEAD also finishes a close second here too). According to IMD’s most recent employment report, which covers three years, 63% of its graduates remain in Europe, with another 22% heading to Asia (followed by 9% to the Americas and 6% to the Africa and the Middle East). Impressive numbers, but slightly less robust than INSEAD, where 45% of 2015 graduates stayed in Europe, with another 28% in Asia, 17% in the Americas, and 10% in the Middle East and Africa. In other words, INSEAD students end up in a wider portion of the world. Given INSEAD’s Rottweiler-vs.-Terrier size advantage over IMD, their graduates are more apt to have a deeper impact as well.

This size differential also manifests itself in International Course Experience, where IMD ranks just 13th, compared to 5th for INSEAD. Here, the overall winner is a major surprise: Mexico City’s IPADE Business School, a program known for a whopping 71 international exchange programs. Not to be a spoiler here, but that many exchange programs can also mean that a school wasn’t very choosing about picking its partners. That’s a call for the reader to make.




Not surprisingly, the London Business School, HEC Paris, and IESE round out the top five in P&Q’s analysis of the Financial Times’ international benchmarks. LBS scored highest in international faculty (86%) and international mobility (4th overall) – though 52% of the 2015 Class chose to remain on the isles. HEC Paris finished as the runner-up in International Course Experience, an outgrowth of the school’s hands-on, project-based curriculum. Although IESE was hobbled with just 57% of faculty hailing from outside Spain, the school made up ground by ranking third in both International Course Experience and international board membership.

Looking for schools whose international performance outpaces its overall rank? Start with Singapore’s Nanyang Business School. Best known for its stellar executive MBA program, Nanyang, ranked 29th overall, posted solid numbers across the board, including an 87% international student body and ranking 9th and 15th respectively in International Course Experience and International Mobility. Notably, the program offers a required Business Study Mission (BSM) that takes place in Singapore or elsewhere, along with international exchange and summer programs.

And IMD isn’t the only Swiss school with a celebrated international footprint. The University of St. Gallen places in the Top 10 when only international rubrics are factored into the equation. Most notably, the program ranks just below IMD in terms of international mobility (though, like LBS, over 50% of the 2015 Class opted to remain in the host country).


Of course, some MBA programs didn’t fare so well – namely every single American MBA program. Here’s how poorly American MBA programs performed: MIT’s Sloan School of Management was the top finisher…in 39th place – buoyed by a 31st place finish in International Course Experience. Sloan was followed by Duke Fuqua (45th) and Columbia Business School (47th). Despite its reputation as the most “global” of American MBA programs, the Yale School of Management placed just 48th.

Columbia Business School - Ethan Baron photo

Columbia Business School – Ethan Baron photo

Here’s another indicator of just how far American MBA programs need to go to increase their international flavor. Based on P&Q’s methodology, the bottom seven programs in this ranking were all American programs. That’s quite a juxtaposition, considering American programs hold seven of the top 10 spots in the Financial Times’ overall rankings. In the international categories, Brigham Young finishing dead last with an index average of 8.0 (compared to IMD’s 97.6 average). On the plus side, 22% of Marriott’s full-time MBA students come from overseas. However, that pales in comparison to 1% of faculty and 4% of board members. Even worse, 18 of the 21 lowest-ranked international programs were based in the United States – with the usual culprits being low international representation on school boards and poor mobility rankings.

Those results also reveal how the FT created a ranking methodology biased against U.S. schools which are widely considered the pioneers in business education. If the FT were to give equal measure to technology, which has had a similar if not greater impact on business as globalization in the past quarter century, you would see a very different outcome. That’s because the U.S. has become the world leader in high tech, in innovation, and in tech-enabled startups.

In individual categories, Columbia Business School boasted the highest percentage of international faculty at 59%. The University of San Diego attracted the most international students with 73%, while 69% of the Boston University (Questrom) board hails from overseas. Columbia was also the best performing American program in terms of mobility, with Stanford producing the highest finish of any American program — 15th in the International Course Experience category.


Of course, none of this is new. Overall, the data has remained relatively consistent over time. Take the 2011 rankings, for example. IMD outpaced INSEAD in terms of international faculty by a 98%-90% margin. IMD also boasted the highest percentage of international students at 100% (with Oxford the runner-up at 95% with INSEAD at 92%). Even more, it held the top spot in international mobility, seven spots ahead of INSEAD in 2011. That said, IMD made huge headway in terms of International Course Experience, climbing from 46th to 13th over the past five years (with INSEAD and IESE also holding top five rankings back then). That difference is why IMD was finally able to overtake INSEAD.

The data also remains consistent if you head back a full ten years to the 2006 Financial Times Global MBA ranking. Here, IMD nabbed the top spots in terms of the highest percentage of international faculty and students, as well as international mobility. However, IESE finished first in International Course Experience with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology leading all comers in terms of board membership at 94%.

To see how the Top 100 MBA programs in the Financial Times Global MBA ranking performed across the five international categories, go to the next two pages.

DON’T MISS: INSEAD Claims First In New 2015 Poets&Quants’ Ranking Of International MBAs

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