IE Business School Claims Top Spot In Financial Times 2024 Online MBA Ranking

mba rankings

In a ranking better known for the absence of major players in business education, the Financial Times named the online MBA program at IE Business School in Spain the best long-distance MBA in the world. With more than 350 online MBA options in the U.S. alone, this global ranking lists a mere ten programs, with only two of them in the U.S.

Every year, few schools agree to participate in this incomplete ranking, greatly diminishing its usefulness for applicant decisions. In contrast, Poets&Quants ranks more than five times the number of online MBA options, while U.S. News & World Report asigns numeical ranks to 345 online MBAs. The winner of both those rankings–Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business–isn’t even included in the FT ranking. The Financial Times‘ list even lacks some of the most prominent European online options, including that of ESMT Berlin’s disrputively priced long-distance MBA.

It’s highly likely that the newspaper would not have been able to rank even ten programs if not for bending its own rules on the minimum response rate for its alumni surveys. Typically, the FT requires each school to have a 20% response rate with a bare minimum of 20 responses. “However, due to the disruption from Covid-19 in 2020, the FT considered schools with a lower response rate,” the newspaper reported.

After IE’s program, the British newspaper ranked two U.K. programs next, No. 2 Imperial College of London and No. 3 Warwick Business School. A pair of U.S. business schools followed those three schools, the No. 4 University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and the No. 5 Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.


This is the second consecutive time that IE’s program tops the list. The school claimed the top prize last year, nudging aside Warwick’s Online MBA. IE has done well in this ranking over the years, having ruled the list since its launch in 2014 until 2018.

According to the FT, IE maintained its top status in the ranking due to its performance in several of the newspaper’s metrics for ranking programs, including “its high proportion of international students, the variety of sectors that the students worked in when admitted, and the international mobility of alumni. Graduates praised IE’s diversity of students, which contributed to their practical business skills, personal growth and management capabilities. The Madrid school was also ranked second for programme delivery, online interaction, ESG teaching and school carbon-footprint rank.”

The FT said that a total of 25 schools submitted data to be included in this year’s ranking, but several failed to make the final list because of an “insufficient” response rate to the FT‘s alumni survey.

Three U.S. programs that made last year’s list–No. 6 UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, the University of Florida’s No. 7 Warrington College of Business, and the University of Massachusetts’ No. 5 Isenberg School of Management disappeared from the 2024 ranking. So did the University of Liverpool which placed ninth last year. They were all replaced by four programs that were not on the 2023 ranking (see table below).

“Online MBA alumni who studied at schools in North America pay the highest course costs,” reported the FT, “but are rewarded with the highest salaries three years after completion. Schools in the UK have the lowest tuition fees, however, the remuneration for their graduates three years after completion is, on average, only $1,000 less than US and Canada alumni.”

The limited number of participants in the ranking, however, should raise significant doubts about this conclusion because two of the most high quality, disruptively priced Online MBA options at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business and Boston University’s Questrom School of Business do not participate in the data gathering for the ranking. Those two programs allow students to earn an MBA for just $25,000. That compares with the $39,450 cost of Warwick’s Online MBA program.

The ranking is based on 20 different metrics. Alumni responses inform nine criteria that, together, contribute 59% of the total weight. Another 10 criteria are based on the school data, accounting for 31%. The remaining metric, the research rank, counts for 10%. Average alumni salary three years after completion of the program and the percentage increase in alumni salary in an alum’s current job versus their pay on completion of the program account for 24% of the total ranking.

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