The online MBA program at the University of Massachuetts’ Isenberg School of Business emerged the big winner today (March 5) in the Financial Times’ fourth annual ranking of online MBAs. The school jumped six places to finish third, the highest rank awarded to a U.S. program this year. Isenberg, which boasts the largest enrollment in an online MBA offering with more than 1,300 students, was ranked 11th only two years ago in 2015 and failed to make the debut ranking by the FT in 2014.
For the fourth consecutive year, IE Business School in Spain and Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom placed first and second, respectively. This year the FT expanded its online ranking by five programs to 20 from 15 ranked schools last year. U.S. schools benefited from the expanded list, capturing 13 of the 20 positions, up from nine of 15 last year.
From the start of this online ranking, U.S. schools have occupied the third spot. In the debut ranking, third place was captured by Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School, which has since fallen to 13th. In both 2015 and 2016, the third ranked online offering was from the University of Florida’s Hough School, which fell to sixth this year.
DREXEL & NORTHEASTERN FALL SIX PLACES EACH
The somewhat limited ranking by the FT compares with a much more expansive, though entirely U.S. centric list published by U.S. News & World Report which ranked 239 online MBA programs this year (see U.S. News’ 2017 Ranking Of The Best Online MBA Programs). U.S. News reported that 255 U.S. business schools now have online programs, up from 228 in 2016.
On the U.S. News‘ list, Temple University’s Fox School of Business has taken first for three straight years. Yet, Temple doesn’t make the FT list at all, because it declines to participate in the Financial Times ranking. Neither does the U.S. News’ No. 2-ranked school, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business or No. 4-ranked UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Business School. The more limited FT alternative is largely the consequence of fewer schools agreeing to participate in its ranking.
Rounding out the top ten on the FT list were No. 4 the Australian Graduate School of Management, No. 5 University of Florida’s Hough School of Business, No. 6 George Washington University, No. 7 Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, No. 8 Babson College’s Olin School, No. 9 Durham University Business School, and No. 10 Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Business. Both George Washington and Syracuse had been unranked last year by the FT.
Besides the surprise showing by Isenberg, there were for some schools fairly significant declines on such a short list. The online MBA program at Drexel University’s LeBow School dropped a half dozen places to finish 20th, from 14th last year, while the online MBA at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim also dropped six places to rank 13th, from seventh in 2016.
ISENBERG’S GAINS ATTRIBUTED TO IMPROVED GRADUATE SALARIES
The ranking by the British newspaper is based on surveys of alumni who graduated in 2013 as well as surveys to the schools. The FT assesses programs based on such metrics as the career progression of alumni, the quality of the online delivery, idea generation and the diversity of students and faculty.
The newspaper attributed Isenberg’s gains this year to improving graduate salaries. “Its 2013 alumni now earn an average of $159,000, 43 per cent more than their salary on graduation and the fourth-highest salary of the 20 ranked schools,” the newspaper reported. “The school is also in the top five for value for money and top three for program delivery and online interaction. Faculty were always available within 24 hours, wrote one graduate, adding that ‘the active and robust interaction among students certainly kept me engaged.’”
IE won its fourth straight No. 1 ranking by having more of the characteristics of an Executive MBA program than a typical online MBA offering. The FT noted that IE boasted the highest proportion of graduates working at department head level or above — 62% vs. 39% on average for all ranked schools. Grads of IE’s online MBA also earned the highest salary on average — at $191,000, the pay is 44% higher than what students earned at graduation.
RANKING HIGH ON ONLINE INTERACTION: GEORGE WASHINGTON, FLORIDA & ISENBERG
In its surveys of alumni, the FT found high rates of satisfaction with online programs. “Most alumni who responded to the survey said they were very satisfied with the online format,” according to the newspaper. “More students said they were very satisfied with asynchronous, or self-paced, study (81%) than synchronous content, or live streaming of lectures (74%). Online interaction between students and teamwork were not rated as highly: just under two-thirds of students were very satisfied by both.”
That was less of an issue at U.S.-based online MBA programs. Some 11 of the highest ranked 12 programs on the interaction between students, teamwork and the accessibility of faculty were all U.S. programs led by George Washington University, the University of Florida and Isenberg. IE Business School was the only non-U.S. school to finish in the top 12 on this measure, nabbing fourth place in what the FT calls “online interaction.” Durham was dead last, placing 20th.
The online MBA program at University of Nebraska-Lincoln ranked first for “value for money,” ahead of the University of Bradford and Durham University, which came in second and third, respectively, on this metric.
When the FT asked alumni if they felt the online degree program helped them achieve their goals, no school fared better than IE Business School, but close behind was Warwick Business School, Indiana Kelley, Florida Hough, and Durham.
(See following page for the full FT ranking of online MBA programs)