INSEAD Leads 2018’s Top International MBA Programs

Though INSEAD again tops the Poets&Quants ranking of the top international MBA programs for the fourth consecutive time, there’s a new top five in 2018. Following INSEAD is IESE Business School in Spain, London Business School in the United Kingdom, IMD in Switzerland and HEC Paris in France.

Spain’s IE Business School dropped out of the elite five group after losing its ranking in The Financial Times earlier this year due to what FT editors called “irregularities” that included surveys completed by users who were not alumni of the surveyed Class of 2014 (see Financial Times Excluded IE From Ranking Due To ‘Irregularities.’ The loss of the FT ranking was punishing: IE, ranked fourth by P&Q in the 2017 version of the international ranking, slipped to 18th this year, allowing IMD and HEC to both move up one place from fifth and sixth, respectively, a year earlier.

IE’s 14-place decline represented the biggest fall of any Top 25 international business school, though U.K.’s Warwick Business School was not far behind, dropping a dozen places to finish 24th from a rank of 12th in 2017. The Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands also fell eight places to rank 23rd this year.


Improvements among the Top 25 were more modest, though notable. City University’s Cass School of Business in London gained five places to rank 13th, for example, while the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Business & Economics also rose five spots to finish 15th. Imperial College Business School in London and Western University’s Ivey School of Business in Ontario, Canada, both improved their standings by four-place advances, rising to 17th and 22nd, respectively.

The biggest year-over-year swings tend to occur to schools that gain or fall out of one or two rankings and are further down on the list. Consider McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management in Canada. Desautels soared 26 places this year to 34th from 60th a year ago because the school gained a ranking from the FT, which put McGill’s MBA program 39th, and also improved its Bloomberg Businessweek ranking by 11 places to 17th from 28th. On the other hand, Mexico’s IPADE slumped 14 places to rank 42nd because the school’s MBA program disappeared from The Financial Times ranking in 2018.

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 Harvard & Wharton In A Draw For First In P&Q’s 2018 MBA 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 lated updated versions of 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 reported ranks reflect their standing among non-U.S. schools and not the global ranks assigned by the FT, Economist, and BW.

The system penalizes schools that either fail to make all four of the rankings or shop for the best ranking they can get and avoid the lists where they are less likely to do well. Yet, many of those schools will trumpet their single ranking, hoping that readers will simply assume that a school’s position on one list will be similar to its rank on another. That’s not true as the often considerable differences in the ranks of a school across the four lists clearly shows. So ranks based on more inputs clearly have more credibility than those based on only one or two.

Of the 76 ranked full-time MBA programs, only 13 managed to make all four lists, an accomplishment that puts all of those schools in a premium tier. On the other hand, 32 of the ranked MBA programs were made a single list. The upshot: You should put far more value on the MBA programs that have been subjected to some level of scrutiny by three or four of these ranking organizations.


When you compare the international schools on the two most prominent global MBA lists from The Financial Times and The Economist, you’ll often find significant differences. Some 19 of the 51 MBA programs ranked by the FT, for example, don’t even make The Economist list. Conversely, 17 of the ranked international programs by The Economist don’t appear on the FT ranking. And even when both publications rank a school, the placement of an MBA program can vary wildly. The FT ranks the National University of Singapore seventh among its non-U.S. schools, but The Economist puts it 27th. Oxford University’s Said Business School receives a 12th place rank by the FT, but is 32nd by The Economist‘s reckoning.

Those variations, of course, are the result of different methodologies created by the editors who rank the programs. But they tell you a lot about how rankings can be extremely limited and why it’s important to consult not just one list at any given time.

We’ve again chosen to rank U.S. MBA programs separately from options outside the U.S., even though Bloomberg Businessweek published a global list for the first time this year. That’s because we believe they are significantly different in many ways. For one thing, most of the European options are a year in length, rather than the customary two-year timeframe for most U.S. programs. For another, business schools outside the U.S. lack the significant endowment money that allows U.S. schools to buy the best faculty and students with lucrative compensation packages and generous scholarships–a factor that none of the rankings measure. And finally, separating them makes it more convenient for readers who want to attend an MBA program either in the U.S. or Europe, Asia or Australia.


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