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25 Years Of The FT Global MBA Ranking 1999 – 2023

  • Columbia Business School Ranks #1 for first time in 25-year history of the FT MBA ranking; Wharton is dropped after ranking #1 in 2022
  • 15 changes to weights for ranking criteria with 3 new criteria sees only 4 of the M7 make top 10
  • IESE climbs 7 places to makes the top 3 for first time behind INSEAD at #2, while LBS drops out of top 10 for first time since ranking began in 1999

When the Financial Times published its first MBA ranking in 1999, Harvard Business School claimed the #1 spot ahead of a familiar list of top US business schools – Columbia #2, Stanford GSB #3, Wharton #4, MIT Sloan #5, Chicago Booth #6 and Northwestern Kellogg #7. This group of schools is often referred to as the M7, and while many consider them to be the most prestigious they have rarely if ever occupied the top 7 places of the major MBA rankings published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, US News, Forbes and The Economist.

The debut FT MBA ranking aligned with market perceptions. The top 10 was rounded out by London Business School #8, Dartmouth Tuck #9 and UCLA Anderson #10.

For the 25th FT Global MBA Ranking the results are dramatically different. Only four of the top 10 schools from 1999 made the top 10 this year.

Columbia Business School Ranks #1 for first time in 25-year history of the FT MBA ranking. The business school, which recently relocated to a $600m new campus in Manhattanville has watched the FT rank its MBA program in second or third place a total of eight times since 1999. Columbia was always the rankings bridesmaid, never the bride… until this year.

But the biggest surprise belongs to Wharton, which has ranked #1 a record eleven times over the past quarter-century including 2022, and has featured in the top 3 on 19 occasions.

Wharton does not feature in the 2023 ranking because the school failed to meet the FT’s threshold for the alumni survey. This is unprecedented among the top US business schools.

The FT surveys alumni three years after completing their MBA. For schools to enter the ranking calculations, the FT requires that a minimum of 20 per cent of alumni reply to the survey, with at least 20 fully completed surveys. 

With 863 students in the Wharton Class of ’19, the FT would have needed fewer than 175 responses. But they never came, and now the school and its alumni are left to reflect on the consequences at a time when the FT MBA ranking has even greater visibility in the absence of rankings from Forbes, Bloomberg and The Economist.

INSEAD did not make the top 10 in the first FT MBA Ranking (it was #11). It has since made the top 10 every year, including three times at #1 in 2016, 2016 and 2021. The ‘business school for the world’ with campuses in Fontainebleau, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and San Francisco ranks #2 in 2023.

The London Business School, which has similarly achieved consistent FT MBA rankings success over the past 25 years is the other non-US business school to have claimed the #1 spot, again on three occasions in 2009, 2010 and 2011. But the 2023 rankings sees LBS drop 8 places to #16, the first time it has not been in the FT MBA top 10.

It is IESE Business School that has benefited from the major changes to the weighting in this year’s FT MBA ranking. The Spanish school climbed 7 places to #3, scoring well in the new Carbon footprint rank and in second place for the ESG rank. This is the first time it has reached the top 3.

Bocconi also had a great year, climbing 7 places to #6 as part of a wider trend that sees many European schools from Spain, France, Germany, the Benelux and Switzerland all doing well. IE Business School is back in the top 25 after a 5-year absence, while France’s EDHEC (+26 places) and ESCP (+25 places) saw the biggest EU jumps, followed by RSM (+23 places), St Gallen (+17 places), Mannheim (+16 places) and emlyon (+13 places).

The changes to the FT methodology have meant that the M7 schools that dominated the 1999 ranking now share the rankings limelight with Berkeley Haas up 7 places to #7, Cornell up 9 places to #8 and Yale SOM staying in the top 10 ahead of MIT Sloan and Chicago Booth. The case for an M8 or even an M10 has never looked stronger.

Canadian schools also surged across the board, led by Queen’s (+28 places), UToronto Rotman (+12 places), Ivey (+8 places) and McGill Desautels (+7 places).

The results in 1999 did not include a single business school from Asia or Australia, and only three from Canada. Today, two Chinese schools feature in the top 25, with a total of 21 schools from Australia, Canada, China, India, Singapore and South Korea in the top 100.

However, most of top Asian schools have dropped in the 2023 FT MBA ranking despite reporting highest salary increases. CEIBS, NUS, Indian School of Business, HKUST, Fudan, SMU, CUHK, IIM Calcutta and Sungkyunkwan all lost ground, though there are now a record five IIMs from India in the Top 100.

When the FT’s former Business Schools Editor, Della Bradshaw oversaw the first FT MBA Ranking in 1999 she wanted to find out which business schools were producing the top global managers for the 21st century. That focus is still at the heart of this ranking, but after lengthy reflection and widespread industry consultation, the rankings team at the FT have re-visited the weightings in their methodology.

Until now, salaries accounted for 40% of the FT’s methodology based on the weighted salary and salary increase 3 years after graduation. MBA programs with strong placement in financial services and consulting typically outperformed others. For the 2023 ranking, Salary Today and Salary Increase are now worth 32%. The FT has introduced a new Carbon Footprint rank worth 4% and ESG / net zero teaching rank worth 3%.

This re-calibration has clearly shaken things up.

We will provide more analysis of the 2023 results on BlueSky Thinking, and take a closer look at the changes to the FT methodology that have had such a dramatic impact on the results this year.

We’re going to be talking about these results for a long time.

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