Stanford Tops FT’s 2018 MBA Ranking

For only the second time in 23 years, Stanford Graduate School of Business captures the No. 1 spot in the Financial Times global MBA ranking

For only the second time in 23 years, the Financial Times named Stanford Graduate School of Business the best MBA experience in the world. The last time Stanford occupied the top spot on the FT list was in 2012.

Stanford was able to nudge aside INSEAD, which had been ranked first by the FT for two consecutive years in 2017 and 2016, by performing better on the three most important metrics used by the British newspaper to compile its annual global MBA ranking. Stanford handily beat INSEAD on “weighted salary” and “salary increase” over pre-MBA pay, two factors that alone account for 40% of the ranking. And it also outdistanced INSEAD on faculty research, which carries a 10% weight on the list, with Stanford ranking fifth and INSEAD pulling in at ninth place, a drop of four spots from a year earlier when it tied with Stanford.

The bigger news in this year’s ranking, however, is the disappearance of a major European player: IE Business School. Ranked eighth last year, IE didn’t make the Financial Times ranking for the first time because of what the newspaper vaguely called “irregularities” in the school’s submission of information to the FT  (see Why IE Business School Lost Its FT Ranking). IE had been ranked by the FT in 22 of the previous annual lists dating back to the list’s debut in 1999. While schools routinely fall in and out of the list, this is also the first time that a top ten school did a disappearing act.

CEIBS in Shanghai gains its highest rank ever, a top ten finish with a rank of eighth place


Also for the second time ever, CEIBS (China Europe International Business School) based in Shanghai cracked the top ten, moving into an eighth place finish, up from 11th last year. The increase marks a steady improvement in the stature of the school, coming from a rank of 90th 15 years ago in 2013. The only other Asian school to ever manage a top ten finish in this ranking has been Hong Kong University of Science and Technology which placed as high as sixth in 2011. This year HKUST is 14th.

Rounding out the 2018 top ten were No. 3 Wharton, No. 4 London Business School, which rose two places from sixth, and No. 5 Harvard Business School, which slipped one spot from fourth last year. The FT attributed Harvard’s fall to its measurement of academic research based on bylines and citations in 50 scholarly journals. HBS fell to 16th this year from third last year on this part of the ranking. Harvard’s from third to 16th and LBS’s from 12 to 27. HBS had topped the research ranking a dozen times, more than any other school, but the FT noted that “several Harvard faculty last appeared in these publications in 2014, too long ago to count.”

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business climbed three places to rank sixth from ninth in 2017, Columbia Business School maintained its seventh place finish, CEIBS was eighth, and improvements in rank for No. 9 MIT Sloan and No. 10 UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business brought those two American favorites into the top ten. Sloan and Haas had been tied for a rank of 13th last year.

This was an especially volatile year for the FT ranking. Besides IE Business School, some 12 schools dropped off the list entirely. Another 13 became new entrants, and 23 schools that remained in the top 100 experienced double-digit increases or falls. U.S. schools made something of a comeback, with seven in the top ten, up from five last year, and with some notable advances by key players.


Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School Business jumped 10 spots to rank 17th from 27th a year earlier. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management rose seven places to rank 25th from 32, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business improved by six positions to earn a rank of 19th from 24th. The biggest fall for a top ten MBA program was at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School which tumbled eight places to a rank of 13th this year from fifth place in 2017.

The volatilty in the FT ranking—which diminishes the credibility of the list because there are few year-over-year changes at schools to warrant big changes—means that there were plenty of big winners and big losers this year. While there is nothing worse than dropping off the FT list entirely, the full-time MBA programs at several schools experienced dramatic drops in rank. Lancaster Business School in the United Kingdom plunged 28 spots to rank 70th this year, from 42nd in 2017. University College Dublin’s Smurfit Graduate Business School lost 24 places to end up at 94th, from 70th a year earlier. And the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management plummeted 21 positions to rank 86th, from 65th.

On the other hand, champagne corks will likely be popped today at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business which climbed 19 places to rank 45th in the world, from 64th a year ago. Washington University’s Olin Business School, under a new dean from Britain, zoomed up 18 spots to rank 50th, from 68th. The University of Edinburgh Business School also rose 18 places to achieve a rank of 73rd, much better than last year’s 91st place finish.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.