A New Winner Tops Our 2022-2023 International MBA Ranking

After racking up an impressive six-year run at the top of Poets&Quants‘ ranking of international MBA programs, INSEAD has moved aside to make room for another elite European business school. IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, takes the top prize in the 2022-2023 ranking, followed by Italy’s SDA Bocconi, IMD in Switzerland, ESADE Business School, also in Barcelona, and the National University of Singapore.

INSEAD loses its first-place standing, sliding into eighth place, by virtue of a technicality. The school’s MBA program went unranked by The Economist in its very last MBA ranking last year. INSEAD was not the only premier international business school to drop based on a decision to abandon a key ranking during the year. London Business School’s MBA program fell into ninth place after deciding not to cooperate with The Economist, while HEC Paris found itself in tenth place after walking away from Bloomberg Businessweek‘s MBA ranking.

Most of the movement at the top is a result of our methodology which brings together the top four international rankings from The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Forbes. Even increasing the weighting of the FT list in our approach, a long overdue move given the importance schools and applicants place on that ranking, failed to help schools that decided not to play in one or more of the other lists. This year, Poets&Quants gave the FT rank a 40% weight, compared to 20% each for The Economist, Businessweek, and Forbes, which last published its list in 2019. In previous years, all four rankings had been equally weighted.


IESE’s MBA program, of course, is one of the most consistently ranked across all four of the major lists. In fact, the school placed third on every ranking in our composite list. And in the all-important FT list, IESE was a mere two places behind first place INSEAD and one place between second-ranked London Business School. Founded in 1958, IESE in 1963 formed an alliance with Harvard Business School and launched the first two-year MBA program in Europe. It remains one of the few two-year programs taught almost entirely by case study.

To this day, the first-year workload in particular is highly challenging. Students are expected to essentially read and absorbe three cases a day, five days a week. “It adds up to about 4,000 pages of reading,” says Marc-Olivier Granger, a 2021 IESE grad who now works for the Boston Consulting Group. “Add on top of the academics the time spent on recruiting and extracurricular activities and you get very busy very fast. However, after having been through that first year and reflecting back, I can definitely say that all that effort pays off. Coming from a non-business background, my learning curve was steep and the academic rigor of IESE allowed me to become a full 360-degree manager now. When we started the MBA, we were told by faculty and students, to ‘trust the process’ and I’m glad I did.”

Even without the assist from INSEAD and LBS’ refusal to participate with The Economist, IESE Business School consistently finishes in the Top Five of the very best European MBA experiences. The decisions by several leading schools to drop out of certain rankings reflect the precarious state of the rankings industry itself. Increasingly, rankings have come under heavy criticism for their flawed methodologies, roller-coaster results, and the arbitrariness of what exactly journalists measure in compiling these controversial lists. What hasn’t changed, however, is the public’s appetite for rankings. It is the rare prospective student who does not consult the rankings before applying to a set of MBA programs, and it is just as rare for an admitted applicant to put aside a school’s ranking when choosing where to go.


Our 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 have more credibility than those based on only one or two. A total of 81 MBA programs were able to make at least one or more of the four rankings in our index. But only eight of those–a sliver under 10%–received all four rankings, arguably the most important test of a world-class MBA.

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