Only One International Business School Makes Businessweek’s Top 20 Global MBA Ranking

The IMD campus in Lausanne, Switzerland

For the first time ever, Bloomberg Businessweek today (Dec. 11) published a global ranking of the best full-time MBA programs but the results still favor U.S. business schools. The only non-U.S. player to break into the top 20 global list is IMD, the Switzerland-based school with a small, one-year MBA offering.

On the global ranking, which follows the publication of the magazine’s U.S. list on Nov. 8, IMD is in 10th place behind nine U.S. schools led by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. In contrast, the Financial Times ranking, which has been global from its start in 1999, has eight non-U.S. schools in its top 20 and IMD doesn’t even make it that high on the FT list. Instead, it was ranked 24th by the Financial Times earlier this year.

After IMD, London Business School is ranked 23rd in the world, INSEAD comes in at 25th, IESE in Spain at 28th, Cambridge at 34th, SDA Bocconi in Italy as 39th, and ESADE at 44th. That makes seven non-U.S. schools in the top 50 on the Businessweek global ranking, compared to 26 in the rival FT survey. Of the 124 ranked MBA programs by Bloomberg Businessweek, 33 are at schools outside the U.S.


The global ranking, using the same updated methodology to rank U.S. schools last month, contains some real shockers. HEC Paris, ranked 21st by the FT, ended up in 52th place. CEIBS in Shanghai and IE Business School in Spain also didn’t fare that well on the new list, ranking 81st and 83rd, respectively.

The FT had ranked CEIBS as having the eighth best MBA program in the world in 2018.

Yet, CEIBS actually did better on one account. Last year, on BW’s separate international ranking, the Chinese school ranked 26th. This year, among only non-U.S. schools, it placed 16th (see table on following page for year-over-year comparisons). IE, meantime, was dropped from the FT list this year due to “irregularities” in the school’s submission of information to the FT  (see Why IE Business School Lost Its FT Ranking). But IE had been ranked eighth by the FT in 2017.

There are also several notable omissions. The global list does not include a single school in India. The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, bowing out of participation this year, is also not on the list, helping to make Western University’s Ivey School, with a global rank of 56th, the best MBA program in Canada, according to Businessweek.

The results will likely cause an uproar of sorts among non-U.S. business schools. In recent years, many of the deans of those schools have claimed that they have caught up in quality with their U.S. counterparts as evidenced by their improved performance in the FT ranking. However, many U.S. B-school deans say the FT survey tends to favor non-U.S. players. Undoubtedly, deans of international MBA programs will now make the same claims about the Businessweek global list.


Before this year, Businessweek would publish separate U.S. and international rankings in the belief that its methodology was not easily transferable across vastly different cultures and regions. Last year, when BW produced its separate ranking for MBA programs outside the U.S., INSEAD was first, followed by London Business School, and IESE. IMD was ranked fifth best, just behind Oxford, which now ranks 51st on the combined global list.

The major reason for the comparatively poor showing by non-U.S. schools has to do with the way Businessweek crunched compensation data which is heavily weighed in the new methodology. For non-U.S.-based schools, local compensation figures were converted into U.S. dollars on or near the data collection cutoff date, but salaries were not adjusted for purchasing power parity. The FT adjusts MBA pay for PPP which tends to inflate compensation, particularly in nations where poverty is high.

Businessweek said that currently employed MBA graduates from U.S. schools had median compensation of $145,000 a year, 16% more than the $125,000 for graduates of non-U.S. schools. Signing bonuses also are more common in the U.S. than in other job markets. According to a recent Graduate Management Admission Council report, 56% of U.S. employers offer signing bonuses to new business school hires, but only 20% of European companies do. In Asia-Pacific, 36% of companies and in Latin American 30% of recruiting firms dangle signing bonuses in front of MBA grads.

Of the four indexes used to rank MBA programs, Businessweek places a 38.5% of the weight on compensation. That compares with 27.9% on a so-called networking index, 23.1% on learning, and 10.5% on entrepreneurship. Each of these categories include multiple metrics. For compensation, the editors place a 25% weight on survey questions and the remaining 75% on figures provided in surveys and year-old employment reports from business schools.

(See following page for how international schools fared on the new global list)

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