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LBS Tops Financial Times Ranking Of Best European B-Schools

London Business School Was named the top European business school for the second year by The Financial Times. LBS photo

The Financial Times has released its 2018 European business school rankings, and lest anyone assume the new list is simply FT‘s global rankings minus North American and Asian schools, let us enlighten you. What the FT actually does is mash together all the year’s rankings — customized and open executive education programs, EMBAs, Master in Management programs, and MBAs — to come up with the new list, which was released Sunday (December 2). It’s sort of an overall picture, but only for Euro schools. Topping this year’s ranking, as it has the last three years, is London Business School, followed by three-time No. 2 HEC Paris.

Those two schools’ status crystallizes a reality for European schools, which is that the UK and France are home to by far the most elite business schools in Europe. Indeed, despite Brexit fears, there are seven British institutions in FT‘s top 25 this year, up from six last year (Cranfield School of Management, pioneer of popular “levy-friendly” MBA courses, vaulted 13 places to No. 17). Meanwhile France has six schools in the top 25 and 25 in the complete ranking of 95 schools, three more than the UK. After LBS and HEC, rounding out the top five are France’s INSEAD, the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and IESE in Spain.

As FT points out, LBS “plays in a different league” than most other British business education providers, but in the grander scheme of UK biz ed, Brexit and its repercussions may actually be benefiting British schools. Among other factors, the drop in the value of the pound has made tuition fees cheaper for foreign students. Meanwhile, the political upheaval in the United States has contributed to a huge drop-off in international enrollment there for non-elite schools — a development that may be helping UK schools offset their own uncertainties.


Vincenzo Vinzi, dean and president of ESSEC Business School. ESSEC photo

So what do LBS and HEC do so well that they have outranked other European schools for the last 24 months (and, really, much longer)? According to the latest FT ranking, LBS has the No. 2 full-time MBA program, while HEC has the No. 6 (INSEAD, ranked third overall, has the top MBA program). LBS has the second-highest MBA salary after three years at $167,897 (after INSEAD’s $177,157), up $13,330, the second-biggest increase of any of the 95 ranked schools. LBS’s MBA grads can expect to see a 109% salary increase, up 17 percentage points from last year. HEC’s MBA grads, meanwhile, can expect a 105% pay boost, with an average three-year salary of $135,858, up nearly $4,000 from 2017.

HEC’s strength was innate only its MBA but also its second-ranked MiM and its sixth-ranked EMBA.

“Our consistent position over the years near the top of the European business schools ranking makes us very proud, all the more so with the rising competition and strength of the business education in Europe,” HEC Paris Dean Peter Todd tells Poets&Quants. “It emphasizes the hard work and dedication of all the faculty and the staff across programs in achieving and delivering academic excellence and innovation for our students. This year our satisfaction and pride are even greater as TRIUM and our solo EMBAs rankings reinforce our leading position amongst European business schools in the EMBA category.”

The biggest climber in this year’s ranking is another French school, ESSEC Business School based in Cergy-Pontoise, which rose 15 spots to No. 8. ESSEC has the lowest-ranked MBA (28th) of any school in the top 20, and the lowest salary increase for MBA grads (48%) of any school in the top 30, but strong showings in the customized (seventh) and open exec ed (10th) programs as well as the No. 4-ranked MiM program boosted the school of nearly 6,000 students on campuses in France, Singapore, and Morocco.

“Our exceptional performance in this ranking is due in part to the dynamic changes that took place within each of our programs: from the restructuring of our Global MBA, to the expansion of our customized program offering, to the success of our graduates in the job market,” says Vincenzo Vinzi, dean and president of ESSEC.


While ESSEC enjoyed the biggest year-to-year jump in the FT ranking, another school went the other direction: Madrid’s IE Business School, still reeling from a data scandal that resulted in an ouster from FT‘s MBA ranking in January 2018. The newspaper took the extraordinary step of removing IE from its MBA list when a series of mandatory checks it performs turned up a strange problem: Surveys meant to be completed by alumni from IE’s Class of 2014 were coming in from other people. “We found a handful of surveys completed by people other than the alumni named on the form, and at five we stopped counting,” Helen Barrett, FT‘s work and careers editor, told Poets&Quants at the time. “We alerted IE, who were unable to explain what had happened. Then we urged them to tighten their procedures. That’s really where our involvement ended.”

IE responded by firing three staffers and taking other measures. Executive President Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño said IE has changed the “front-to-end management of rankings under the new aegis of the dean of the business school,” as well as “designed new processes that will guarantee the accuracy and integrity of the collected information.” The school also said it plans to “launch new initiatives to strengthen our alumni engagement.” But the reputational damage was done. In its latest ranking, FT dropped IE from No. 3 overall to No. 20, a move predicated largely on the unranked of the school’s MBA; its MiM is ranked ninth and its open exec ed program, 11th.

“IE is a solid business school with an outstanding trajectory and will always be fueled by the energy of its students, alumni, faculty, and staff,” Iñiguez said in February. “Any episode like this yields lessons to be learned and will help us to emerge even stronger as a united IE community.”

(See the next two pages for the complete Financial Times rankings of European business schools.)