10 Biggest Takeaways In The Financial Times 2019 MBA Ranking

Whatever you think of the Financial Times global MBA ranking, you have to admit that the British newspaper gathers a lot of data to put it together. For its 2019 list, about 8,000 MBA graduates from the Class of 2015 completed its alumni survey. Some 150 different business schools all over the world took the trouble to turn in a school survey.

The FT editors mine those surveys for data, pulling 20 specific metrics from them to create the annual ranking of the top 100 MBA programs in the world. In many cases, those individual measures metrics are as noteworthy as the actual ranking itself, even though little attention is paid to them. Alas, that is where some of the more surprising takeaways are buried.

So in addition to the ups and downs of business schools in the 2019 Financial Times ranking, here are the top surprises hidden among the newspaper’s extensive dataset:

A student getting ready to be awarded her diploma at Stanford GSB’s Class of 2017 Commencement. Photo by Nathan Allen

1. Stanford Takes First For The Third Time In 21 Years

In the 2019 version of the Financial Times ranking, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business came out on top. What’s the big deal? After all, the general and long-lived consensus is that Harvard, Stanford and Wharton are the best three MBA programs in the world, right?

Not so fast. While Stanford took first place on the FT list for the second consecutive year, the fact is that the school has only ranked first in three of 21 years of rankings by the Financial Times dating back to its debut list of 50 ranked schools in 1999. Besides winning this year and last, Stanford came in first in 2012. Otherwise, Stanford’s first-place showing merely puts it in a tie with London Business School for earning top honors on three different occasions.

When you look at the FT lists over the years, the undisputable winner is the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School which has claimed the top spot in ten of the 21 years. Next is Harvard Business School, with a half dozen number one rankings. London, as noted earlier, has three, though two of its number one finishes were shared with Wharton in 2009 and 2011. Finally, INSEAD gained the crown twice, in consecutive years in 2016 and 2017.

2. Harvard, Wharton & Stanford Lag Top Schools In Corporate Social Responsibility

For the first time ever, the Financial Times made an effort to value corporate social responsibility (CSR) in MBA programs. The new metric, worth just 3% in the overall ranking, is based on the amount of teaching hours in core courses dedicated to such issues as ethics, social and environmental issues. It is school-reported data so at best it’s a guess estimate of sorts by the business school staffers who complete the FT school survey. Still, the findings are compelling.

The big surprise? The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business ranked first among all schools in the world. Yet, the majority of the MBA programs ranked in the top ten on this metric are all located in Europe. Rounding out the top five were No. 2 IESE Business School in Barcelona, No. 3 INSEAD, No. 4 Yale School of Management, and No. 5 Durham University Business School in Britain (see below).

Where were the most elite MBA experiences? Harvard Business School ranked 25th, Wharton 48th, and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business placed a lowly 60th on the list. Perhaps the most shocking finding: Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, a college founded by the Society of Jesus that has maintained its Roman Catholic Jesuit religious affiliation, was dead last, in a tie for 99th place with Singapore Management University.


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