Isabel Berwick. FT staff.
Isabel Berwick © Charlie Bibby
Experimental feature

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00
Experimental feature

Welcome to the Financial Times 2019 Global MBA ranking. As the FT’s new Work & Careers editor, this has been my first experience of seeing how much work — and careful checking and rechecking — goes into compiling these tables. We hope we can make them even more useful and relevant for you this year.

When the idea of the FT’s business education rankings was conceived in the late 1990s, they reflected a different, largely pre-internet world, dominated by a few business schools and where an expensive business education was for the privileged — overwhelmingly white, male — few.

Two decades later, a one- or two-year MBA remains the flagship course for business schools. The top 10 schools for global MBAs in 2019 are still dominated by long-established US and European institutions — the top three this year are Stanford, Harvard and Insead — but the business beyond the traditional big brands has been transformed.

More than 150 schools submitted data for this year’s FT global MBA rankings. We whittled those down to the top 100. This remains our biggest annual survey, but over the years we have expanded our roster of rankings to include other popular courses, with executive education as the fastest-growing of these rankings. That is no surprise: executive courses represent a smart, flexible option for many ambitious people worldwide.

As the business school sector changes, we at the FT need to keep up to date in how we report on this fast-moving world. While most schools are still full-service operations, how sustainable is that? Are we going to see increasing segmentation, with the prestigious high-end, full-service schools thriving alongside low-cost, basic — or “agile” — providers that are quick to market with courses designed to capture trends in business and technology?

New providers yet to emerge will certainly include sector disrupters; we are already seeing the rise of some alternative degree providers that invest heavily in online provision rather than physical premises.

When I spoke recently to Angus Laing, dean of the UK’s Lancaster University Management School (ranked 91st this year for its MBA), I was struck by a question he posed aloud about the industry: “Is there a case for rethinking the boundaries of the business school?”

The FT values rigour and quality and we are proud of the longevity and integrity of our rankings system. Those high standards will remain watchwords of our business education coverage. But, just as the business education community is rethinking its purpose and “boundaries”, the Financial Times is going to examine its own rankings and the ways in which these serve our readers and value institutions.

When we first compiled our MBA rankings, this course was overwhelmingly seen as a gateway to a much higher salary. The heavy weightings we give students’ salaries, pre and post MBA, have changed little since then. Being well paid after completing an MBA is still highly valued. We recognise that and will continue to make sure salary level is a marker of MBA “worth” in the years after graduation.

But it is clear that we need to consider taking into account other important criteria in our rankings. Our current focus on salary observations largely disregards professionals in the public and charitable sectors, and it does not assess their benefits to society overall. Nor can we mark the true value of entrepreneurship, since those who run start-ups may not take a regular salary for years.

Starting this month, the rankings team at the FT will begin a complete review of our methodology, with the aim of ensuring that our measurements of value and worth in business education are aligned with the needs of schools, students and wider society. We will think about new types of rankings that we could start to produce.

We want to hear your expert views and suggestions as we launch a consultation on the biggest potential change we have undertaken since the rankings began in 1997. Email us at mba@ft.com with your thoughts. We won’t be publishing them, but we will read them all, respond when we can and take note of what you, our readers, tell us.

Isabel Berwick is FT Work & Careers editor

Letter in response to this article:

Business school rankings should have wider criteria / From Chris Higson and others

Get alerts on MBA when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article