INSEAD Does It Again: Tops Ranking Of Best International MBAs For Sixth Consecutive Time

INSEAD lands in first for the sixth consecutive year in Poets&Quants‘ ranking of the best international MBA programs

The past couple of years have been something of an oddity for MBA rankings. Several of the most popular and influential lists from The Economist to Forbes have been delayed. Bloomberg Businessweek skipped its annual ranking in 2020. And some top business schools decided against participating in several rankings due to the pandemic, including the lists published by the Financial Times and especially The Economist.

Aside from all the turmoil, however, one thing seems certain: Among the best international MBA programs, no school can beat INSEAD. For the sixth consecutive time, the school’s ten-month MBA program tops Poets&Quants‘ composite ranking of the best international MBA programs for 2021-2022 (see our separate ranking of the top 100 U.S. MBA programs).

INSEAD maintained its top status by consistently out ranking rivals, garnering a number one rank from the Financial Times, arguably the most consulted ranking for European business schools, and scoring highly on the lists published by Forbes, The Economist, and Bloomberg Businessweek. Rounding out the top five are No. 2 SDA Bocconi in Italy, No. 3 London Business School, No. 4 IMD in Switzerland, and No. 5 IESE Business School in Spain.


Among those elite institutions, the big surprise is Bocconi which moved up six places to dislodge LBS for second place, largely caused by a big improvement in its FT ranking to sixth from 14th place among the non-U.S. programs. The Top Ten programs are a relatively stable bunch. This year, only one new entrant, Britain’s Warwick Business School, muscled its way into the elite group, displacing the National University of Singapore. Warwick moved up seven places to rank eighth from 15th, while NUS slipped two spots to rank 12th from tenth last time.

As is often the case, there were plenty of surprises up and down the ranking, particularly in a year when the publication of the lists was hardly normal. The Chinese University of Hong Kong gained 22 places to rank 39th from 61th by advancing on the Financial Times’ list and earning a spot it did not have previously on The Economist‘s latest ranking. The Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad moved up ten places to rank 24th from 34th previously after a significant improvement in its Economist rank.

The biggest gainer this year was EADA Business School in Barcelona, Spain. The school’s 10-month-long international MBA program jumped 40 spots to finish 35th from 75th last time, propelled by its inclusion high up on the FT list, where it finished 38th among non-U.S. schools, and a double-digit improvement in its Economist ranking to 33rd.

The Top Ten International MBA Programs For 2021-2022

Rank & School Change Tuition & Fees Program Length
1. INSEAD ——– €91,225 ($103,997) 10 months
2. SDA Bocconi +4 €62,000 ($70,680) 12 months
3. London Business School -1 €97,500 ($111,150) 15-21 months
4. IMD +1 €92,398 ($105,334) 12 months
5. IESE Business School -2 €93,500 ($106,590) 19 months
6. HEC Paris -2 €78,000 ($88,920) 16 months
7. Cambridge (Judge) ——– €61,000 ($69,540) 12 months
8. Warwick Business School +7 €45,950 ($52,383) 12 months
9. Oxford (Said) ——– €65,520 ($74,693) 12 months
10. ESADE Business School -2 €73,800 ($84,132) 12-18 months


On the down side, the biggest plunge in the year befell Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom. Its MBA program was in a near free fall, dropping 36 places to end up 57th from 21st. The reason? Cranfield was not ranked by the FT last year and also suffered a double-digit decline in The Economist ranking. The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management also experienced one of the biggest falls of the year, dropping to a rank of 60 from 35, a decline of 25 places. Rotman’s MBA lost ground in the FT ranking, the only one of the four rankings where it even had a listing.

The P&Q list is a composite of the four major and most credible MBA rankings published by The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Forbes. The disruptions in rankings led to greater volatility for some schools and changes in the way the P&Q list was assembled. Among other things, serious questions arose over the credibility of the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking. The deputy dean of Yale School of Management, Anjani Jain, called out Businessweek on its methodology which caused Poets&Quants to publish Businessweek’s rankings for international MBA programs but not to include them in our overall ranking calculations this year.

When highly prominent schools, such as INSEAD and London Business School, decided not to participate in The Economist ranking, we used their previous ranks instead, while also crediting the participating schools with their full ranks. The reason: A ranking of the best MBA programs is not credible without the likes of INSEAD, LBS, Cambridge, Oxford, and other top MBA programs.


Nonetheless, 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.

By blending these rankings together, we’ve come up with what is the most authoritative ranking of MBA programs. The list tends to diminish anomalies and other statistical distortions that often occur in one ranking or another. A composite list that typically weighs all four lists lends greater stability 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. A total of 82 MBA programs were able to make at least one or more of the four rankings in our index. But only 11 of those–just 13%–received all four rankings, arguably the most important test of a world class MBA. Another 13 were ranked by three sources, while an additional 23 garnered recognition by two different rankings.

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