Ten Biggest Surprises In The Financial Times 2023 MBA Ranking

Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking

Who’s up and who’s down? We look at the schools with the most rankings momentum over the past five years vs. the schools that are on a downward trend

5) The Big MBA Momentum Plays Vs. The Slip, Slip, Slipping Away MBA Programs

If the FT ranking has any credibility at all–and we believe it does–then the dean who most deserves to lose his job is the head of the Australian School of Graduate Management. Nick Wales became director and deputy dean of the school in February of 2018. Since then, the school has suffered the single biggest rankings decline of any MBA program on the Financial Times ranking.

AGSM has plunged 32 places, hanging on by its fingertips to the Top 100 list at a rank of 95th. When Wailes became dean in 2018 the school’s MBA program was ranked 63rd best in the world.

Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking

AGSM Director Nick Wales

Sadly, there’s more. AGSM has the dubious distinction of scoring lower than any other MBA program in the ranking on alumni overall satisfaction: a measly 7.61 when the median score on satisfaction is 9.11 and the highest score is 9.98 achieved by the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

That is an abysmal record, for sure.

A school can go up or down in any given year in a ranking, of course. In many cases, a one-year roller-coaster ride is little more than a blip. It can be caused by a statistical quirk or simply be an anomaly. That’s why we prefer to look at the five-year trend to identify the MBA programs that are literally slipping away vs. those that clearly have upward momentum and are on the rise.

First, the good news. When it comes to the big momentum plays in MBA programs, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School cannot be beaten. Over the past five years, these two full-time MBA programs have climbed an impressive 38 places (see table below). All told, only ten schools have gained 20 or more spots on the Financial Times ranking. None of them are in Asia or the United Kingdom.

Half of the momentum plays are in the U.S. and those five are at the top of the gainers. The rest are in Europe, with three in France, one in Italy and one in Germany. The biggest momentum play in Europe? Edhec Business School in France (see EDHEC Dean Emmanuel Métais Wants Grads To Lead On Climate & Impact).

And now for the bad news. Why Wales at AGSM should worry about his job is obvious. No MBA program has suffered a greater decline in the FT ranking than the Australian Graduate School of Management under his watch. If there is a concession here, it's that he's not exactly alone. South Korea's Sungkyunkwan University's Graduate School of Business has fallen by 31 spots, just one fewer than AGSM. And the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and the Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom have suffered big declines as well, falling 28 and 27 places, respectively.

Only one U.S. school has seen a decline of 20 or more places: Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business whose MBA program has fallen 24 places to rank 92nd.

Whether these schools can turn it around is anyone's guess. But the unmistakeable trend shouldn't give applicants, students or alumni much hope.

Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking

SDA Bocconi's new business school campus


INSEAD, London Business School, and HEC Paris are the names most associated with the very best European MBA programs. Rich histories, diverse student bodies, impressive capabilities, and proximity to major metros and employers. When it comes to the Financial Times MBA ranking, INSEAD has clearly lived up to its reputation. The school has won three No. 1 rankings from the FT in the past and is ranked second this year. But now other two programs have stepped into the spotlight as Europe’s new business education royalty.

The changing of the guard started in the 2021 ranking when IESE Business School in Barcelona came in fourth and SDA Bocconi reached #12 in a year when many top American programs opted out of the ranking. Last year, IESE lost six spots while SDA Bocconi slipped by one. This year, both schools made impressive moves. IESE vaulted up to third, ahead of even Harvard Business School – the program that lent the school its distinctive case study approach to learning. At the same time, SDA Bocconi latched onto sixth place, ahead of American M7 programs such as Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, and Northwestern Kellogg.

What’s behind their ascension? In both cases, the schools maintained high scores in their strengths – and made improvements in other areas. IESE is a case in point. In the salary increase metric, which carries a 16% weight, IESE moved from 124% to 144% in just the past year, ranking 15th on that data point in the process.

In Alumni Recommendation, the school ranked 8th, while only losing a handful of spots in career progress, research, and value for money (with the latter two being a weak spot at 54th and 92nd respectively).
IESE also made major improvements in career services (17th to 5th) and International Course Experience (also 17th to 5th) – a combined 6% weight. In terms of carbon footprint (6th) and ESG (2nd), IESE performed among the best overall in measures that combined for a 7% weight.

SDA Bocconi actually ranked second best for its carbon footprint and sixth best for value for money. At the same time, it placed ninth in international course experience and 11th for sector diversity (the different industries represented in class). Together, these categories represent a 15% weight. That doesn’t count academic research, a category with a 10% weight where the school improved six spots to 22nd. On top of that, Bocconi’s career progress score rose from 82nd to 58th.

Still, you’ll find a few warning signs in Bocconi’s numbers. Last year, the school boasted the eighth-ranked career services center. This year, it has fallen to 18th. More worrisome is the overall satisfaction rate in the FT's alumni surveys. In 2022, Bocconi’s 9.89 scores (on a 10-point scale) topped every business school in the world. Compare that to the 9.28 it received this year – which was good for 27th-best in the world. While satisfaction isn’t weighed by the Financial Times, it could be a harbinger of future declines in other alumni survey-based categories like career progress, alumni network, and aims achieved.

But let’s not dampen the celebration yet. After all, Bocconi ranked 29th in 2018 – and 39th in 2013. Take it back to 2008 and the school was tied at 48th. That same year, IESE ranked 11th – and made several incursions into the Financial Times’ Top 10 over the past 15 years. After years of hard work, IESE and SDA Bocconi have made it into the Top 10. Chances are, you’ll find them there again next year.

IESE Business School's Barcelona campus

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