Poets&Quants’ 2016 Ranking Of The Best International Business Schools

Poets&Quants ranks INSEAD the world’s best international business school for the second consecutive year in 2016

In the aftermath of Britain’s vote to abandon the European Union and Donald Trump’s election as President of the U.S., many business schools outside these two nations believe they have a unique opportunity to attract more of the best and brightest in the global MBA applicant pool. If you are like many world citizens who believe that globalization has been a force for good, the 2016 ranking by Poets&Quants of the best international MBA programs is a great place to start a search for the most global experience.

And at the very top of the list for the second consecutive year is INSEAD, which bills itself as the business school for the world. With its three campuses in Europe (Fontainebleau, France), Asia (Singapore), and the Middle East (Abu Dhabi), the school offers in ten short months the quintessential global immersion in business with no dominant country culture.

“We have today 86 nationalities on campus,” explains Dean Ilian Mihov, the first leader of INSEAD dean to have his primary office in Singapore. “We create teams of people that sometimes are from countries that are at war with each other. Because we want to make sure that during this year they learn how to interact in teams with somebody that you may not like. But you still have to work on that team. So we’re trying to develop them as managers or leaders or entrepreneurs with a global perspective.”


Following No. 1 INSEAD in the new ranking is London Business School, IESE Business School and IE Business School, both in Spain, and IMD (the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. That’s the exact same lineup as last year’s top five, with one exception. HEC Paris slipped to sixth from fifth, while IMD moved up two places to finish in a tie for fourth with IE, up from sixth a year earlier.

Every school in the top ten is in Europe which after the U.S. continues to dominate the global business education scene. But three Asian-based MBA programs are now perched just outside the top ten, ready to move further ahead. The highest ranked Asian school is No. 11 Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, followed by No. 14 National University of Singapore and No. 15 CEIBS (China Europe International Business School).

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. Poets&Quants ranks U.S. schools separately (see The Top 100 U.S. MBA Programs of 2016).


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 tends to diminish anomalies and other statistical distortions that often occur in one ranking or another. Instead of simply merging together the four rankings, P&Q weighs them according to the soundness of their methodologies (The FT and Forbes are both weighted 30% each, while the BW and Economist rankings are each given a 20% weight.) A composite list lends greater stability to a ranking of schools that rarely change from year to year.

The very best schools on the list are ranked by all four core sources, generating something of a consensus on their reputation and overall quality. Those schools tend to dominate the top of this list. MBA programs that make only one or lists clearly have less reputational capital–and in all likelihood aren’t up to the quality of the higher-ranked schools.

More so than rankings of the U.S. schools, individual rankings of international MBA programs can be widely erratic, in part because rankings can markedly differ on each of the four major lists. The Economist, for example, assigns numerical ranks to many non-U.S. MBA programs that don’t even make The Financial Times‘ ranking and the same is true of the FT. The University of Queensland in Australia, for example, is overlooked by the FT, Forbes and Businessweek, but The Economist ranks the school’s MBA program third best outside the U.S. The Indian School of Business, considered by many the best business school in India, is ranked 15th best outside the U.S. by the Financial Times but gets no respect from the other three rankings. Such anomalies are common on a ranking of the best 72 MBA programs outside the U.S. market.


The biggest mover among the top 25 non-U.S. schools this year was Australia’s Melbourne Business School, which saw significant improvements in two core rankings. Melbourne jumped to ninth place from 23rd in Bloomberg Businessweek‘s international ranking and to 12th from 15th in The Economist‘s ranking. The result: It shot up 18 places to finish 20th from 38th a year earlier.

All told, 10 of the 72 ranked schools experienced double-digit rises or falls. Gaining the most ground were the business schools at the University of Edinburgh and the Grenoble de Management Ecole in France. Edinburgh moved up 20 places to finish 43rd from 63rd last year. Grenoble advanced 21 spots to rank 44th from 65th. The school with the single largest decline? The Chinese University of Hong Kong which lost 12 positions to finish 47th from 35th a year earlier.

Generally, schools that move up or down the most are those that either win or lose an entire ranking. HEC Montreal lost 10 places, falling to 30th from 20th last year because it is no longer ranked by The Economist and declined in the BusinessWeek ranking to 31st from 29th. Obviously, no school changes so dramatically in a single year to justify a double-digit rankings gain or drop. But losing ground in several rankings is certainly not cause for celebration.

(See rankings on following pages)


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