The 2017 Best International Business Schools

INSEAD tops the PoetsandQuants’ 2017 international MBA ranking from PoetsandQuants

For the third consecutive year, INSEAD’s 10-month MBA program has won top honors in Poets&Quants’ 2017 ranking of the best full-time international MBA experience. London Business School, which for many years was neck-and-neck with INSEAD for the top spot, slipped to third place behind Spain’s IESE Business School.

Otherwise, there were few ranking changes among the Top Ten international schools, with European MBA programs completely dominating the list. Spain’s IE Business School remained in fourth place, Switzerland’s IMD dropped to fifth after its tie with IE last year, and all the remaining Top Ten schools held onto their 2016 positions. HEC Paris was sixth, Cambridge University’s Judge Business School was seventh, Italy’s SDA Bocconi retained its eighth place finish, while ESADE was ninth and the University of Oxford’s Said Business School was tenth.

There were more dramatic moves up and down the ranking for many other schools, however. Germany’s Mannheim Business School rose seven places to rank 11th. The Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in Amseterdam gained eight spots to rank 15th, while both City Univercity’s Cass Business School and the University of Hong Kong advanced 11 positions to rank 15th and 20th, respectively.


This year’s biggest rankings’ winners and losers? No school fell further than the Australian Graduate School of Management which plunged 26 places to rank 50th, from 24th a year ago. McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management in Montréal, Canada, didn’t do much better. It plummeted 20 spots to rank 60th from 40th in 2016.

Among the largest gainers were Hult International Business School, with seven campuses in locales that range from London and Shanghai to New York and San Francisco, which climbed 17 places to rank 22nd. Audencia Business School in France rose 13 positions to finish 56th from 69th.

This P&Q list is a composite of four major and most credible 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 Wharton Dislodges Harvard In 2017 U.S. Ranking).


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.

This year, 70 different business school made one or more of the four lists. But only 16 of the schools won a place on all four rankings, and 10 schools were ranked by three sources. Several schools fell off this year’s P&Q ranking because they are no longer ranked by any of the four lists.


The schools that completely fell off the radar this year include two in China, Renmin’s China School of Business and Fudan University, two in Canada, the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business and Alberta School of Business. The University of Cape Town’s Business School also disappeared after placing 57th last year.

The newcomers include No. 54 Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta, one of a trio of IIMs on this year’s list, No. 57 Vlerick Business School in Belgium, and No. 59 Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business Management in Toronto, Canada.

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 Indian School of Business, for example, is ranks as the 14th best international MBA program by the FT, but doesn’t make The Economist list or any other ranking, for that matter. The University of Queensland in Australia, is ranked as the second best international program by The Economist, yet overlooked by the FT, Forbes and Businessweek. Such anomalies are common on a ranking of the best 70 MBA programs outside the U.S. market.


With its third consecutive time at the top of the ranking, INSEAD appears to be pulling away from London Business School as the premier international MBA in 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. In 2017, INSEAD was ranked first by both The Financial Times and Bloomberg Businessweek, second by Forbes, and fourth by The Economist.

By the numbers, INSEAD’s fall class is comparable to the previous year’s autumn intake, though numbers rose in several key measures. Notably, GMAT averages climbed for the 500+ student cohort, going from 708 to 712. This places the class four points higher than the London Business School – and 26 points above HEC Paris. By the same token, this average still lags behind the top full-time American programs, falling closest to the University of Virginia’s Darden School at 713. INSEAD also made strides in terms of the percentage of women in the class. 34% of the fall intake is comprised of women, up four points from the previous year.

What’s behind INSEAD’s consistent rankings’ performance? In an essay entitled Why INSEAD’s Time Has Finally Come, former admissions director Caroline Diarte Edwards points to five core factors: the academic excellence of the program, the fact that it is a truly international experience, providing a springboard for an international career and a global network, along with a killer return on investment in a program that can be completed in under a year.


“INSEAD’s winning formula has firmly cemented its position among the world’s  leading business schools,” she wrote. “We have certainly seen increasing volumes of applicants from the U.S. and around the globe targeting INSEAD as their first choice.”

IESE moved into second place in a year in which the school’s latest entering class features 359 students, up nine students over the previous year. Academically, the class matched the previous cohort with a 690 GMAT average — 20 points higher than its Spanish rival IE Business School. By the same token, the percentage of women continue to rise, climbing four points to a 32% share of the class. The percentage of non-Spanish students at the school rose from 81% to 84%.

(See following pages for the rankings tables)

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