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September 19, 2011 12:48 am

Ranking: France loses stranglehold on the top

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The 2011 Financial Times masters in management ranking marks the seventh anniversary of the classification – and the end of an era. After six years of dominance by French schools, the top spot has been claimed by Switzerland’s Universität St Gallen.

Based on a survey of business schools and their alumni from the class of 2008, the ranking measures the career progress of graduates, the diversity of schools and the global nature of the various masters programmes.

The rise of the Swiss school after its debut at number four last year highlights the high level of satisfaction among alumni who completed the FT survey. St Gallen alumni were the most likely to have achieved their aims after graduation, with 93 per cent reporting their degree had enabled them to meet their career and educational goals.

St Gallen also tops the ranking for value for money, a measure that looks at the cost of the course compared with income three years after graduation.

Longlong Lai, a Chinese graduate from the class of 2008, agrees with the FT’s assessment. “[St Gallen] offers the best quality education and opens doors to all the best companies in the world,” he says, also citing the course’s affordability. Having completed an 18-month graduate trainee programme in Zurich after his degree, he now works in the UK as an internal auditor for Swiss Re, the global reinsurer.

With just 34 students entering the St Gallen masters in the past academic year, the course is the joint smallest in the ranking, with WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany, reflecting a focus on the quality of participants. This translates into attractive salaries for graduates. St Gallen alumni reported the third-highest average wage, reaching a purchasing power parity equivalent (see methodology) of $87,000 three years after graduation.

Other new entrants in 2010 have made good progress this year. WHU Beisheim rises to sixth, up from 12th last year. The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, consolidates its position in the top 10, up one to seventh. Strong salary data and the fact that all its recent graduates found jobs within three months are testament to the value of an IIMA degree, especially in the Indian job market.

The highest climber is HHL-Leipzig Graduate School of Management in Germany, which leapt 19 places from 38th to finish in the top 20.

Despite its schools surrendering the top spot, France continues to be well represented in the ranking overall. Of the 65 schools listed, 17 are based primarily in France, and the UK accounts for a further 13. Only four of the remaining 35 are non-European.

Data gathered from the 5,080 alumni of the class of 2008 show that the reach of masters programmes goes beyond Europe. While most alumni reported they were living in Europe before starting their degree (86 per cent), this proportion falls by 3 percentage points three years after graduation. The net effect is an increase of

16 per cent in the numbers living outside Europe. The US and Canada saw the biggest increases, with growth of 59 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively (albeit from low bases).

Movement within Europe was widespread. A quarter of alumni who remained in the region were living in a different country three years after graduation. Switzerland saw the biggest rise, with the number living there increasing almost threefold, and the UK saw the next-largest increase. While 263 alumni reported they were based in the UK before their masters, this increased to 419 three years after graduation.

France was the most popular location, with 37 per cent of all alumni living there before their masters. This proportion reflects the number of French students and schools in the FT sample. Nonetheless, the number of alumni living in France dropped by 16 per cent three years after graduation.

Regardless of where they studied or ended up living, the 2008 alumni seemed more satisfied than their 2007 peers with the effect their masters had on their careers. Of the 61 schools that feature in both the 2010 and 2011 rankings, 59 saw a rise in the proportion of alumni who felt the masters had helped them fulfil their professional aspirations.

Internships rated highly by graduates

There is much more to masters in management courses than traditional “chalk and talk”, with internships, overseas exchanges, research projects and study tours among the options offered to students.

Internships are the most popular of these, according to data gathered from schools participating in the 2011 masters in management ranking. Close to two-thirds of those who graduated in the past academic year completed company internships, with just more than half opting to do so overseas.

On average, students who worked for companies during their studies spent 41 weeks as interns.

While internships were de rigueur for those at French and Belgian business schools – where almost everyone completed some form of work experience – only 2 per cent of those studying in the UK gained professional experience during their studies.

The difference reflects the shorter time available to students in the UK, where the average length of programmes is one year, compared with 21 months and 17 months in France and Belgium, respectively.

Overseas exchanges, where students spend a month or more studying at an institution abroad, are also common. About 49 per cent of recent masters in management graduates completed such an exchange.

Once again, French schools lead the way, with 65 per cent of graduates in that country studying overseas for some time, followed by schools in Belgium (50 per cent) and Germany (49 per cent).

An entrepreneurial flair

There are signs of a growing spirit of entrepreneurship among masters in management graduates, analysis of alumni survey data has revealed.

Of the class of 2008 surveyed for the 2011 ranking, 11.5 per cent said they had started their own business in the three years since graduation, the largest proportion since the ranking began in 2005.

Male graduates were almost three times more likely to have launched a company than their female counterparts – 15.6 per cent of men said they had gone it alone, compared with 5.5 per cent of women.

The Czech Republic emerges as the home of entrepreneurial spirit. Close to 30 per cent of Czech alumni reported that they had started their own companies since graduating in 2008. The Swedes are not far behind (25 per cent), followed by graduates in India (21 per cent) and Poland (18 per cent).

If necessity is the mother of invention, then the surge in young entrepreneurs is not altogether surprising, as the increase in graduate start-ups coincides with tougher times in the job market. While 91.5 per cent of job-hunting alumni from the class of 2008 found work within three months of graduation, the figure dipped after the financial crisis, falling to 88.1 per cent for the class of 2010.

But there are signs of improvement, with data collected from business schools showing that 89.4 per cent of graduates in 2011 found a job within three months of graduation. – Michael Jacobs

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