The 2010 Financial Times European business school ranking sees HEC Paris come first once again. Despite challenges from old adversaries and newcomers alike, the grande école has been Europe’s top school for five years in a row. London Business School is ranked second and Insead third.

HEC’s continued domination of the ranking – a combination of the five business school rankings published annually by the FT – is partly explained by its range of expertise: it is one of only five schools to feature in all of the FT rankings in 2010. The quality of its programmes is apparent. Each is ranked in the top 10 in Europe, including a top place for the customised programmes the school designs to business clients’ specifications.

HEC forms part of the Trium executive MBA programme – in which it collaborates with the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Stern School of Business at New York University – is second among programmes involving European schools in the global EMBA rankings. It is also the second European school in the global masters in management rankings.

According to one masters in management alumnus, a degree from HEC is invaluable in the job market. “HEC is recognised as a quality brand in the financial world,” he says.

The experience of his peers from the class of 2007, surveyed as part of the FT 2010 ranking, support this claim. When asked about achievement of various personal goals following their degree, including career progression, international mobility and earnings, 82 per cent of graduates responded that they had accomplished their aims. This is perhaps not surprising, given the comments of another alumnus: “HEC Paris is the school of reference in France. It opens any door.”

The Paris-based school has not had things all its own way in 2010. The loss of the number-one spot in the masters in management ranking is a notable example. Having missed out to the Cems programme in 2009 (a global alliance of 25 business schools not eligible for the European schools ranking), HEC found itself relegated to third in 2010. The top spot was taken by ESCP Europe, edging out its rivals thanks to high scores for its internationalism. This rise to the top, coupled with a re-entry in the ranking of customised programmes, has helped ESCP to seventh place in the overall European table, up five from last year.

Another notable climber in 2010 is the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Having made its debut in the executive MBA ranking this year, ranked 15th of the European schools, Saïd climbed seven places to reach 11th position in the combined ranking.

It is a similar story for Universität St Gallen. The Swiss school entered the top 10 in the masters in management ranking and jumps 14 places in the European league table to finish 16th this year. Another school to break into the top 20 is SDA Bocconi at number 17, up seven places from last year.

Since the inaugural European business school ranking in 2004, the number of schools in the classification has increased each year. The 75 schools featured in 2010, spanning 21 European countries, is close to double the 40 schools listed in the very first ranking. The UK emerges as the primary location for schools in the ranking, with 21 out of the 75 having a presence there. France is not far behind, with 18 schools in total.

New entries include the European School of Management and Technology, at joint 45th thanks to its listing in both the custom and open executive education rankings. Aarhus School of Business at Aarhus University makes its debut at number 69 thanks to its masters in management programme. Overall, the masters in management degree remains the most common programme among European schools in the FT ranking. Fifty-eight schools have a ranked masters degree, compared with 32 schools with an MBA and 34 with an executive MBA.

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