WHAT THE RANKING DOES NOT MEASURE
So what is the Financial Times actually measuring in this ranking? It’s not the quality of incoming students nor the opinions of the academic experience from alumni. There is no assessment of the quality of teaching, the accessibility of the professors, impressions of one’s classmates, or the quality of the course content. It is as if the academics don’t even count. Instead, the salary of graduates three years after graduation is given the most weight, 20%, while the increase in salary between graduation and three years later is weighted 10%. The payoff of the program is obviously important and it is reflected in those numbers, but in the absence of any attempt to measure the academics or the incoming students makes this ranking less valuable.
Not surprisingly then, the European school with the highest weighted salary is St. Gallen at $123,999. Only two other schools beat it and only then because of the purchasing parity adjustment the FT applies to the numbers. IIM in Ahmedabad with an adjusted salary of $139,978, and IIM in Bangalore with an adjusted salary of $132,446.
All told, the newspaper’s methodology is based on 17 different metrics, ten culled from school supplied data which account for roughly 40% of the weight and seven measures from its alumni survey accounting for the remaining 60% of the ranking thanks to the heavy emphasis on pay. Among the other aspects of a program measured by the FT are a school’s “value for money,” the “aims achieved” by graduates of the program, the “career progress” of graduates, and alumni opinion of the career services function. Each of these metrics is given 5% weight, which is also the weight assigned to both the percentage of female students and the percentage of female faculty (the FT thinks there is some magic to gender parity because a school would get the full 10% of the points on these two measures if it hits a 50-50 split between male students and faculty and women).
Oddly, a metric that most students and parents would consider more consequential than any other, actual employment within three months of graduation, is weighted a mere 5%, deemed less critical than the number of faculty with doctorates, which is accorded a 6% weight. That kind of mindless thinking behind the ranking leads to some counter-intuitive results. Essec Business School in France slipped three places on this year’s list to sixth from third even though its placement rate skyrocketed to 95% from a dismal 65% a year earlier. Yet that stellar employment rate for Essec’s graduates is higher than three other schools above it on the ranking, including No. 1 St. Gallen where the three-month placement rate dropped to 93% of the class from 97% last year.
MIM APPLICATIONS ARE SOARING DUE TO THE PANDEMIC
And then there are the programs that reported abysmal placement records during the past pandemic-impacted year. The University of Victoria in Canada gained employment for less than half of its graduates within three months: 49% versus 77% a year earlier. Yet its program was ranked 74th best, 26 places higher than other schools on the FT list despite its lackluster employment rate. The University of Exeter’s Business School didn’t do much better, with half of its graduates unemployed three months after commencement, and the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow only placed 54% of its graduating class. The school couldn’t blame the pandemic because the year earlier its employment rate was even worse: 45%.
To its credit, the Financial Times devotes considerable editorial resources to this project, largely because of the potential advertising revenue from the schools. So beyond the ranking itself, the newspaper publishes a surfeit of articles on the degree and its benefits to students. “Despite the economic disruption caused by coronavirus, average salaries reported by alumni of all participating providers were up slightly: to $81,537 three years after they completed their courses, compared with $79,985 in 2020,” according to the FT.
Many of the schools participating in the ranking have seen a big surge in applicants, largely the result of COVID-19 which made going to graduate school more attractive than attempting to find a job during a pandemic. Esade in Barcelona told the FT that MiM applications rose by a third last year and remained at similar levels this year.