Two years ago, The Financial Times ranked 15 business schools in its online MBA ranking. Last year the ranking shrank to 10, making it one of the most incomplete ever published by an authoritative source. In its 2023 ranking released Monday (March 13), the magazine has not gotten more comprehensive, once again ranking just 10 schools, six of which are based in Europe.
By contrast, Poets&Quants‘ 2023 ranking, released last November, is five times as big, and offers much more detail in terms of program admission standards, academic experience, how alumni grade their degree’s impact on their career, and more. In January, U.S. News ranked 344 schools.
The big news in FT’s 2023 list is that for the first time since 2017, the UK’s Warwick Business School does not have the top-ranked OMBA. This year, Spain’s IE Business School reclaimed the magazine’s No. 1 spot, returning to the dominant place where it had ruled from the ranking’s launch in 2014 until 2018.
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At about €50,000 (about $53K) for course tuition and fees, IE's Global Online MBA boasts a Value for Money rank of seventh. It is No. 1 in Environmental, Social, and Governance, which is "based on the proportion of teaching hours from core courses dedicated to ESG topics" as well as "time spent teaching how organizations can reach net zero"; and No. 1, too, in one of two new categories, Carbon Footprint.
IE also boasts a 44% salary increase for its graduates, one of the most important metrics in the ranking, accounting for 12% of a program's total score. That's how IE, ranked third last year, overtook Warwick, which saw its salary increase dip slightly to 33% from 36% last year.
The Warwick MBA by Distance Learning placed second this year, followed by another UK program, the Global Online MBA at Imperial College Business School. Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business' part-time online MBA was fourth, and the first of four ranked U.S.-based programs. At 45%, CMU Tepper was the only school with a greater salary increase for its grads than IE.
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CMU Tepper was one of three schools new to the ranking this year, along with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst's Isenberg Online MBA at No. 5 and the University of Liverpool Management School's Online MBA at No. 9.
Among the three schools that correspondingly dropped out of the ranking was the University of Bradford, a UK school that was last year's top school in the Value for Money category. This year's top school in that category is Massachusetts Isenberg, followed by No. 8 Durham University Business School and No. 9 Liverpool.
The other two schools to drop out of the ranking after making the 10-school list in 2022: the online MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and the OMBA program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
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The two other U.S.-based programs to make the ranking, the MBA@UNC at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and the University of Florida Warrington College of Business' Online MBA, both dropped two spots from last year's list: the former from fourth to sixth, and the latter from fifth to seventh. UNC's program was the top school in the key category of Aims Achieved, one of nine criteria informed by alumni responses that together account for 59% of the total weight of a school's score. UNC scored 83%, followed by CMU Tepper and Florida Warrington at 80% each.
It wasn't that long ago — 2018 to be exact — that the annual FT OMBA ranking included 20 schools. Twenty-three schools participated in FT's 10th annual list this year, but several were dropped for not meeting the alumni response rate threshold of 20%, and the magazine purposely pared down the list to reach 10. The small number of ranked schools may have made editors' jobs easier, but its incompleteness — underscored by the absence of so many excellent U.S. programs — makes its value questionable at best.
That is an insurmountable problem for FT's ranking, as P&Q editor-in-chief John Byrne noted last year, making it "more of an exercise in entertainment than a shopping list for serious would-be applicants. Sadly, with a mere 10 programs, the FT ranking lacks any credibility or authority."
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