Ten Biggest Surprises In The Financial Times 2022 MBA Ranking

Another year, another ranking?

Not quite.

This year’s Financial Times Global MBA ranking, the most credible and authoritative global look at the best business schools, was anything but normal. After a year-long absence by seven highly ranked U.S. players, including Stanford, Harvard and Wharton, the big brand American schools returned and fueled an unusual number of surprises and shocks.


Wharton’s rise to No. 1 is certainly newsworthy. It’s the first time Wharton has taken top honors since 2011. But it’s hardly unpredictable, given the fact that no school has been ranked first by the FT more often than the business school that gave Donald Trump a diploma. In fact, the Financial Times has bestowed its highest No. 1 honor on Wharton on 11 different occasions, nearly twice as often as Harvard Business School and nearly four times as frequently as Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

So what’s really new? For our money, here are the most important insights into the 2022 FT outcomes:

Rankings Return To Reality

For many programs, the 2021 ranking may be remembered as the ‘good ol’ days.’ After all, many of the big names opted not to participate in The Financial Times ranking last year. And these absences created opportunities.

INSEAD claimed the top spot, after spending years hovering among the Top 5. London Business School jumped to 7th to 2nd, with Chicago Booth making a similar move from 10th to 3rd. Not only did Yale SOM and IESE join the Top 10, but they tied for 4th!  Among the Top 25 programs, just two business schools — CEIBS and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology — lost any ground. Beyond that, 12 of the Top 25 programs were based outside the United States! 

Press releases were issued and champagne corks were popped. History had been made. It was a great time to be a business school if you weren’t an Ivy Leaguer — or a California juggernaut.      

What a difference a year makes!

The household names returned to the 2022 FT Rankings. They didn’t slink back to the fort — they outright blitzed it. The Wharton School seized the top spot, beating its nearest competitor in weighted salary — which held a 20% weight — by nearly $20K. And Wharton also finished 2nd in Research, which carried another 10% weight. After taking a year hiatus, Columbia Business School jumped from 8th in 2020 to 2nd in 2022, also buoyed by pay. Harvard Business School held down the #3 spot, where it tied with INSEAD. Stanford GSB joined the fray at #6, actually losing three spots from 2020. MIT Sloan suffered the same fate, falling from 6th to 11th between 2020 and 2022. Likewise, the gap year didn’t do any favors for Berkeley Haas or UCLA Anderson, which slipped from 12th to 14th and 25th to 26th respectively.     

Yes, the marquee names returned, but that doesn’t mean last year’s stalwarts made a full-on retreat. In fact, 6 of last year’s Top 10 stubbornly held their ground. While INSEAD tumbled two spots, Northwestern Kellogg actually rose from 6th to 5th. At the same time, Chicago Booth, London Business School, Yale SOM, and IESE round out the top 10. Yes, these four schools lost 4-6 places in the short term. Looking back, all but LBS now rank higher than they did in 2020. What’s more, they managed to knock HEC Paris, CEIBS, and MIT Sloan out of the Top 10 positions they held in 2020. 

In other words, last year’s FT rankings were less an aberration and more a sign of an emerging new order, one where traditional powers like Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and MIT Sloan may no longer enjoy their traditional sway. In the case of HBS and MIT, both were hurt by lower pay (6th and 8th respectively). Even more, both lagged behind Wharton, Columbia, Stanford, Chicago Booth, and Northwestern Kellogg by 10 points or more in percentage of salary increase, which accounts for 20% of the FT weight. In contrast, Stanford GSB performed splendidly in pay, ranking 2nd in weighted pay with a 114% pay boost over pre-MBA compensation. Still, Stanford GSB is a study in extremes. Despite ranking 2nd in Career Progress, Stanford GSB’s career services finished just 50th in the alumni survey. It also earned the 69th-highest score for Value For Money, despite having the highest score for overall student satisfaction among the Top 10 schools in the FT ranking.

Question is, will these rankings solidify themselves next year…or will upstarts break up the homogeny?  Historically, rankings tend to move at glacial pace at the top. Considering Stanford GSB’s resources and renown, you can expect the program to rank below the Top 5 for long. Plus, MIT Sloan notched the 3rd highest alumni recommendation score, a harbinger for a 2023 comeback.

Not Counted. The Most Important Metric For Would-Be MBA Applicants

In the Financial Times‘ recipe for its annual global MBA ranking, there are 20 different ingredients. They range from the most important–the average salaries of alumni three years out of school and the increase in salary from pre-MBA days–to the barely weighted–whether you are required to learn a new language during your business studies.

Oddly, though, there is one metric collected by the British newspaper that is arguably more important than any other and yet the Financial Times does not even include it in its ranking calculations. The data point, derived from the FT’s alumni surveys, is the overall satisfaction with the MBA program they attended. Because alums are surveyed three years after graduation, they have had the time to reflect on their experience and what role it has played in their success at work.

The FT relies heavily on those alumni surveys. Eight of the 20 measured data points,  accounting for 61% of the total ranking,  come from its surveys of alumni. To dilute the impact of any one year, the FT reaches back to two previous sets of surveys, putting a 50% weight on the most recent results and 25% on each of the previous two years. That’s a smart strategy because anomalies are likely in any one year portrait due to everything from sampling error to the undeniable fact that alumni know that their answers will help to determine their alma mater’s rank so they may be less than entirely honest in filling out the questionnaires.

In other words, if there is bias an alum’s rating of their overall satisfaction, it is a bias that extends throughout the FT surveys and therefore the newspaper’s ranking. So the satisfaction ratings, on a ten-point scale, are no less relevant than any other data collected by the Financial Times. And, more importantly, they are far more relevant to applicants who use rankings to select their target schools for consideration.

It’s important to note that most of the ranked programs do exceptionally well on this measure: this year, 59 of the 100 MBA programs were scored a 9.0 or above by alumni, up from 53 programs in 2021. The M7 business schools boast an impressive average score of 9.52 this year, with Stanford topping them all at 9.71, followed by Harvard Business School at 9.56, and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management at 9.60. The M7 laggard is the University of Chicago Booth School of Business which received a score of 9.31 in this latest survey, down from 9.53 a year earlier.

But it would be more telling to combine  two years of this metric–the only two years during which the FT has revealed this statistic–to dampen down any unusual one-year impacts or anomalies. The Top Ten in overall student satisfaction in the past two years? IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, which last year finished first on this metric and was ninth this year, leads the pack with a chart-topping 9.705 average score. SDA Bocconi in Milan, Italy, which was the highest-scoring MBa program this year,  after finishing 19th in 2021, is next with an average score of 9.655.

Also finishing in the Top Ten are No. 3 Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management (9.650), Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business (9.625), the University of Florida Warrington (9.60), Brigham Young University’s Marriott School (9.585),  the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (9.58), Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business (9.525), Northwestern Kellogg (9.55), and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business (9.54) (see table below).

And the weakest performing MBA programs? This year, Boston College’s MBA program was dead last, with a score of 7.85. Last year, the University of Connecticut’s MBA program scored at the bottom with a 7.0. But only one MBA program managed to be in the bottom ten for both years: the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, with an average score of 8.17. This year, Rotman’s 8.34 score put its MBA program 94th in satisfaction. Last year, it was even worse, scoring 8.0 and landing in 97th place.


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