Vive la France — after five years of playing the bridesmaid, HEC Paris has finally returned to the top spot in The Financial Times‘ annual ranking of European business schools, ousting cross-Channel rival London Business School, which fell to No. 2. LBS had dominated the composite ranking of major programs since 2014, the year it knocked HEC out of the top spot — but thanks to a top-ranked executive MBA, a No. 2-ranked Master in Management program, and solid-to-great stats in salary metrics, HEC has climbed back to the mountaintop.
FT‘s ranking is a mashup of its rankings of customized and open executive education programs, EMBAs, Master in Management programs, and MBAs, minus all North American, Asian, and Latin American schools. This is the 16th year the newspaper has released a Euro-centric ranking of B-schools. According to the UK-based publication, “High alumni salaries and pay increases for master’s in management and EMBA graduates contributed significantly to (HEC’s) overall success,” helping the school overcome a low ranking for the number of women (18%) on the faculty. Eloïc Peyrache, dean of programs at HEC Paris, tells Poets&Quants that the No. 1 honor is a result not only of the school’s leading-edge MiM, but great work by faculty and staff across HEC’s range of programs.
“Historically, HEC Paris has played a leading role in making the Master in Management a flagship program in business education,” Peyrache says. “The greatest strength of the school, however, beyond having been a pioneer with the MiM program, is being a leader in its entire range of programs at the same time, whether it is Executive Education, the MBA, or the EMBA. HEC is equally a leader in its production of research. It is the hallmark of major world-renowned institutions to have this dual positioning. This ranking, which is the result of an enormous amount of work by our teams and our faculty, is an important recognition of this.”
After LBS at No. 2, FT‘s ranking looks like a list of Western European powers, with schools from Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland crowding the top 12. Indeed, the ranking has more than a few surprises. France has five schools in the top 15 and seven in the top 25; the UK has six schools in the top 25. SDA Bocconi of Milan, Italy, vaulted to No. 3 from sixth place, where it had been the last two years; further down, below No. 4 St. Gallen of Switzerland and No. 5 INSEAD of France (the latter of which has the top-ranked MBA program), ESMT Berlin joined the top 10 at No. 9, climbing all the way from No. 24 last year — making the German school one of the two biggest risers in the entire 95-school ranking.
THE RETURN OF A SPANISH OUTCAST
In another interesting twist, IE Business School of Spain has served its time in the rankings doghouse and made a triumphant return, roaring into the No. 8 spot thanks largely to the re-ranking of its MBA program and the inclusion of its strong MBA salary data. Last year the Madrid-based school had dropped to No. 20 from No. 3 in the composite ranking as a result of a data scandal in which IE admitted that surveys meant to be completed by alumni from its Class of 2014 were submitted by 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 in January 2018. “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 laster said IE had 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 promised to “launch new initiatives to strengthen our alumni engagement.” But the reputational damage was done. Its MBA unranked, IE might have faced worse repercussions if its MiM (ninth) and its open exec ed program (11th) had not ranked so highly,
“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.”
Lessons learned, this year IE came back to rankings life, appearing on the top-10 lists of both average MBA salary (fifth) and MBA salary increase (10th). FT now ranks the Spanish school’s full-time MBA 9th, its executive MBA 10th, and its MiM 14th.
HIGHS & LOWS IN THIS YEAR’S RANKING
Along with ESMT Berlin, one other school rose 15 places in the new ranking: Nyenrode Business Universiteit, which slipped five spots in the MiM ranking but saw its MBA climb to 32nd to give the Dutch school a spot at 36th. Another school, Trinity College Dublin’s Trinity Business School, returned to the ranking for the first time since 2007, landing at 60th thanks to its first-ever participation in FT‘s EMBA and MiM rankings.
Leading the way in average MBA salary three years after graduation is INSEAD’s one-year program, with $179,661; London Business School is second at $169,675. Ten schools offered 100% improvement or greater in MBA salary, led by a Spanish school, IESE, at 128%; Milan’s Bocconi was second at 124%. Among the lower-ranked schools to pop up in surprising places is Durham University Business School, the No. 43 school overall (up from 47th last year) that nonetheless placed fifth in MBA salary increase at 110%. “Durham University Business School’s programs are all taught and delivered by world-class faculty, whose leading research underpins the learning experienced by our students,” Dean Susan Hart says in a statement about the new FT ranking. “Consistently high positions in rankings like the FT European Business School shows independently both the strong reputation and quality of all of our programs, and the business school generally.
“This ranking also comes at a crucial time in the school’s history, after officially becoming Durham University’s fourth faculty recently. This historic change and significant milestone on our development journey provides a key pillar for the school to become one of Europe’s top 20 business schools — and this ranking shows that we are on track to doing so.”
Other schools weren’t so lucky. The UK’s Cranfield School of Management pioneer of popular “levy-friendly” MBA courses, had vaulted 13 places to No. 17 last year but in 2019 saw the biggest slide, to 44th, a decline of 27 spots. But it could have been worse. Missing from this year’s ranking entirely were five schools, all based in the British Isles, that had been listed last year: Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, 94th last year; the UK’s Brunel Business School, 91st last year; DCU Business School of Ireland, 85th; the UK’s University of Bradford School of Management, 87th; and University of Liverpool Management School, 85th.
See the next two pages for the complete 95-school ranking from The Financial Times.