Ten Biggest Surprises In The Financial Times 2023 MBA Ranking

Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking

9) Show Me The Money — And The Pay Boost After Graduation

When it comes to salary increases, you’d expect the top schools to be the lower-ranked programs. It just makes sense: the programs attract the top talent – the students who started out in blue chip firms and earned near or more than six figures before returning to campus. Their pay is bound to double after an MBA – but it won’t stretch the needle after a strong career start. If you graduate from a program in an MBA-hungry region, such as Asia, you can pretty much write your own ticket. 

Three years after graduation, that doesn’t seem to be the case – except at the top. In the latest FT ranking, the top performers in salary increase were the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and the Indian School of Business. Their graduates experienced a 207% and 205% pay bump from their pre-MBA days. Their rankings are 23rd and 39th.

True, the salary increase measure accounts for 16% of the methodology weight, which helps to boost a school’s overall ranking. However, Shanghai University graduates received the 24th-highest salary, with the Indian School of Business coming in 40th–and that’s after the FT applies its purchasing parity formula which inflates those numbers far beyond the actual dollars. More than that, these school excelled in several measures. Notably, Shanghai University finished third in career progress, sixth in the alumni network, and 10th in value for money, which combine to count for 11% of the entire ranking. While alumni satisfaction isn’t factored in FT’s formula, the school also averaged a 9.67 – eighth best overall (and just .02 of a point behind Harvard Business School). By the same token, the Indian Business School ranked 12th in alumni network and 28th in career progress.

In other words, these schools have far more going for them than just market demand.

Overall, China and India achieved strong results in salary increases. Three of the 11 highest percentage increases stem from Chinese MBA programs:  Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Fudan University School of Management, and CEIBS. At the same time, India is represented by three schools in the Top 10: Indian School of Business, IIM Bangalore, and IIM Indore. To cement Asia’s dominance in salary increase, the National University of Singapore ranks 10th with a 158% increase in this measure.  

That said, you’ll find several prominent American schools with eye-catching numbers. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Isenberg School not only debuted in this year’s FT ranking but also finished third in salary Increase at 188%. The University of Rochester’s Simon School and Michigan State’s Broad College of Business ranked fourth and sixth at 185% and 169%, respectively, with Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School claiming eighth (161%).  

From there, top programs elbow their way into the mix. Cornell Johnson, which ranked eighth overall, achieved a 148% salary boost, followed closely by third-place IESE (144%), the University of Virginia’s Darden School (141%), and Yale SOM (139%). Maybe the biggest statement: #1 Columbia Business School ranked 26th overall on this measure, despite ranking third in weighted salary ($226,359). You could say the same about fourth-place Stanford GSB, which somehow managed to rank 29th in salary increase despite blowing out its peer in weighted pay after three years ($248,669). 

Meanwhile, among the bottom 25 programs for salary increases, all but three schools are based in Europe. At the same time, their salary jump ranges from 46% to 92%. In other words, if you are looking to jumpstart your existing pay, Asia and America are the places to go. 

London Business School

10) Two European Powerhouses Continue Their Downward Trajectory

What a difference a year makes!

In 2021 – at the height of the pandemic – the London Business School had claimed the #2 spot in the Financial Times ranking. It was a height it hadn’t achieved since 2015 when LBS was the runner-up to Harvard Business School. HEC Paris also moved the needle two years ago, holding down the #7 spot after seesawing in the 15-to-20 range for nearly a decade. 

To some degree, you could pin their 2021 fortunes on opt-outs. After all, many top programs declined to participate in the Financial Times ranking that year: Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Wharton, MIT Sloan, and Columbia Business School among them. When these schools returned in 2022, the London Business School and HEC Paris naturally lost ground – six and four spots, respectively.  This year, the slide continued. In just two years, LBS has plummeted from 2nd to 16th – a fall nearly matched by HEC Paris, which slumped from 7th to 17th in the same period. 

The move is certain to hit a nerve at LBS, which the Financial Times had pegged as the world’s #1 full-time MBA program in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (and #2 in 2015 and 2021). What happened? In a ranking whose methodology includes 21 different and changing measures, it is difficult to point to one area.  However, the school performed below expectations in the metrics emphasized most in the ranking. Under Dean François Ortalo-Magné, the school has fallen 12 places from fourth in 2018, the year after Ortalo-Magné became the ninth dean.

Along with average alumni salaries, the increase in pay accounts for the highest weight at 16%. Here, LBS has actually improved in the past two years, going from 103% to 108%. Problem is, that ranks 63rd in this measure – and below every program ranked above LBS. In terms of academic research, given a hefty 10% weight, LBS placed 23rd, down eight spots over the past two years. Aside from IESE Business School, every school ranked above LBS finished ahead of it in research. At the same time, LBS ranked 21st in weighted pay, again lower than every program ranked above it except IESE. 

The news wasn’t completely dour at LBS. The school ranked 12th for aims achieved (4% weight). London also more obviously finished among the top schools for international faculty and student body, a combined 6% weight. That diversity doesn’t extend to the FT‘s new metric that purports to measure sector diversity, however – a 4% weight based on the diversity of sectors the students worked in at the time of admission. In this category, LBS ranked 86th, a consequence of its reputation for being the European school for finance.

Overall, you could say the school’s decline stemmed from several more measures. Notably, it ranked 96th for value for money – a mathematical brew that includes current salary, tuition, cost, and lost income. Of course, LBS finished 98th in this measure two years ago, so it serves more as an albatross than a catalyst and a reflection of the lack of scholarship support compared to peers. The same can be said for new measures like carbon footprint (29th) and ESG (37th) – a combined 7% weight – considering LBS ranked 13th two years ago in CSR. The number that really stings? Think alumni network. While it only accounts for a 4% weight, LBS’ rank is 39th.

HEC Paris’ downturn hasn’t been as dramatic and over the past five years its rank has actually improved somewhat. In fact, 17th represents an improvement over historical norms, with the program ranking 21st just five years ago. Even more, on paper, HEC Paris actually outperformed LBS in several key rankings, including value for money, alumni network, sector diversity, international mobility, and ESG. The school even edged out LBS in alumni satisfaction (9.32 vs. 9.25) – albeit a measure that carries no weight in the methodology. On top of that, it posted the highest score for international mobility and the sixth-best one for sector diversity. 

Where is HEC Paris lagging behind? That starts with academic research – a measure that carries more weight than value for money and alumni network combined. In the past two years, HEC Paris’ rank has ebbed from 20th to 42nd. In value for money, a 5% weight, HEC Paris lost 24 spots, going from 15th to 39th.  At the same time, its career services rank improved by 16 spots over the past two years, though it still sits at 64th. And HEC Paris’ weighted pay of $172,393, good for a 16% share of the methodology, came in 29th in the FT ranking.

In other words, HEC Paris – like the London Business School – knows where it fell short: Alumni network, academic research, and value for money. If the school is going to return to the glory days, that means connecting with graduates, committing to actionable research, and boosting returns. And those are areas that take time to build. Don’t be surprised if returning to the Top 10 is an uphill climb for LBS and HEC Paris.  

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