When it comes to master’s in management programs, the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland must have the secret formula for staying on top. For the 11th year in a row, this small university in a sleepy town of just 80,000 that is barely known outside the German-speaking world wins top honors for its MiM program in the Financial Times‘ 2021 ranking.
By ranking standards, that is a phenomenal record of consistency. Year after year, the Swiss university has beaten some of the best business schools in the world in a graduate degree field that is seeing increased competition from the likes of INSEAD, IESE Business School and others.
Rounding out the top five are HEC Paris in second place, University College Dublin breaking into the top three for the first time ever, London Business School fourth, and the Rotterdam School of Business in fifth place.
THE BEST U.S. MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS DECLINE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE RANKING
Several schools made major advances near the top of the Financial Times list which puts numerical ranks on 100 programs, up from 90 last year. ESMT Berlin, which only launched its program three years ago, moved up 14 places to rank 12th, the biggest advance for any program in the top 20, while IE Business School in Madrid jumped a dozen 13th, up from 25th a year earlier.
There was even bigger year-over-year movement up and down the list. Some 25 of the schools experienced double-digit rank changes from last year, with the biggest gains achieved by St. Petersburg University in Russia, Edinburgh Business School and Alliance Manchester Business School, both in the United Kingdom. All three schools advanced by 16 places over their year-earlier ranks, with St. Petersburg moving up to 25th place from 41st a year ago (see table of the largest advances below).
And then there were the losers. The steepest declines were felt by Kedge Business School in France and Lancaster University Management School in the U.K., both falling by 21 places to ranks of 67 and 79, respectively. In all, a dozen business schools plunged by double-digit numbers (see table of the biggest declines below). If you subtract the 17 new programs from the ranking of 100 schools, 30% of the returning programs slid or climbed by 10 or more places.
France and the U.K. did especially well in the ranking. Four French business schools — HEC Paris, Essec, ESCP and Edhec — ranked among the 14 leading programs. Two British schools — LBS and Imperial College — were also in this grouping which the FT refers to as the "first tier." Warwick Business School's program was ranked 15th in what the FT calls its second tier of schools from 15th to 47th, the latter occupied by the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. By the way, the third group, headed by Hult International Business School, spans schools ranked 48 to 88. The fourth group includes schools from Henley Business School at 89 to Hong Kong Baptist University School of Business at 100.
These tiers are important because the FT feels the need to make clear that the actual differences among programs in each of the four groups may be so small as to be statistically insignificant. Rather than provide underlying index scores for a school's specific ranking, the British newspaper uses this shorthand to discount the actual numerical ranks. It would be better if the Financial Times simply provided the index numbers to allow readers to decide if the differences were meaningful.
HULT IS THE ONLY STANDALONE U.S. SCHOOL IN THE RANKING
As in years past, the MiM ranking is largely a European game, giving short shrift to U.S. schools that offer superb graduate programs in management. The highest ranked standalone program in the U.S. is 48th place Hult, a result that reflects poorly on the Financial Times' credibility. In fact, Hult is the only standalone U.S. school, even though its program is offered in four places, Boston, London, Dubai, and San Francisco. Otherwise, a three-way partnership program called the Global 3 Masters in Management puts the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Business in 11th place, shared with Esade at Ramon Llull University in Spain and Lingnan University in Hong Kong. And another trio of a partnership with schools in Spain and Taiwan allowed the University of San Francisco's program to place 39th.
This is despite the fact that business schools with far more prestige than most on the FT list are missing in action. Among them: Northwestern Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Michigan Ross, Yale SOM, USC Marshall, and Duke Fuqua, just to name a few (see Poets&Quants' directory of specialized master's programs to get a more complete view of MiM options). The MSx program at Stanford Graduate School of Business, which confers a Master of Science degree in management, would certainly qualify in a more inclusive ranking, even though these programs are for students with little to no work experience. Precious few of the ranked programs would come close to Stanford's admission standards which yielded a 2021 cohort with a 700 median GMAT score and highly accomplished students who include former elected representatives of national legislatures, Olympic athletes, surgeons, space program engineers, architects and successful entrepreneurs.
The reason for the lack of the U.S. business schools? They simply decline to cooperate with the ranking, which makes this less of a global ranking and more of a European-centric list, though there are schools in the ranking from Asia. Two more Indian Institutes of Management from Indore and Lucknow, in fact, now bringing the Indian school total up to six, with the IIM at Ahmedabad the highest ranked at 26th.