The number of schools ranked this year is the same as last year, 45, but income and student numbers continue to rise. This reflects a robust market for open enrolment courses despite increased demand for customised programmes.

While 2005 saw a 10.5 per cent rise in average revenues relative to the previous year, the year-on-year rise in 2006 was 14.5 per cent.

An analysis of all 41 schools that have taken part in the rankings over the past three years shows that in 2006 there was an average increase in revenue of 15.4 per cent and enrolment grew by 7.4 per cent. (Corresponding figures for 2005 were 9.9 and 2.9 per cent).

This equates to a 14 per cent increase in income this year compared with a 9 per cent rise in 2005.

This year the Darden school at the University of Virginia was ranked the number one in open programmes. It performed well across the board and scored particularly highly in assessment of its teaching – with top three rankings for “course design”, “faculty” and “teaching materials”.

The comment of one Darden participant captures the sentiment expressed by most: “Darden was superior. From the faculty and course content, to the guest lecturers, my experience at Darden was spectacular.”

According to another: “No comments except that my company should have sent me there 20 years ago”.

Another US school which made good gains was Stanford University Graduate School of Business, which has risen steadily from the number 10 slot in 2004 to number three this year.

Like Darden, it also scored well in teaching and beat the number one school for the controversial top rank for food and accommodation. All 10 top slots in food and accommodation were taken by schools in the Americas.

Darden and Stanford notwithstanding, one of the most striking features of 2006 is the gains European business schools have made. Last year, two European schools came in the top 10. This year, there are four, with Spain’s Iese Business School ranked second.

One reason for the rise of European schools is a change in the way international students and faculty are compiled and calculated.

In previous years, schools have been assigned points based on how many faculty and participants were from outside their region. This year, for the first time, schools were asked to provide numbers of faculty and participants who were from outside the country and the region and were assigned points on this basis.

Participants thought particularly highly of the quality of Iese’s follow-up in the workplace after the course had been completed and the networking opportunities provided.

Iese ranked number one in this area, which business schools often seem to find problematic: that is, the provision of formal or informal follow-up in the workplace for large cohorts of participants who attend relatively short courses.

Although the top 10 US schools have mostly slipped down the table, they still occupy 11 of the top 20 slots, just as last year.

Of the 4,275 people who responded to the FT survey, 2,659 attended general courses of at least three days for mid-level managers and 1,616 attended the schools’ programme of at least five days for top managers – often referred to as advanced management programmes.

The graphs which accompany this piece give an indication of the broad differences between these two groups. Many more functional managers attended the mid-level courses and mid-level attendees tended to be concentrated in the 30-40 age bracket. The top level (AMP) participants tended to be in the 40-50 bracket. Perhaps surprisingly, the percentage of participants with an MBA is higher among those who attended senior programmes.

The graphs also show which areas of course provision the participants found most important – these are virtually identical between the senior and general groups, so no split is shown.

An analysis of senior versus general programmes based on 2006 data bears out the trend seen in the overall ranking: this year, European schools occupy two of the top five slots for senior programmes, with Instituto de Empresa coming top. Last year, it was a clean sweep for US schools.

Iese topped the ranking of general programmes and IMD ranked third. This sub-ranking of general programmes is also based on 2006 data only and for both sub-rankings, schools with fewer than 17 responses were omitted.

This year the table of 45 schools includes 19 from Europe, 15 from the US and four from Canada. Three schools are based in Central and South America, two in Australia and one each in South Africa and China. There were two new entrants: Universität St Gallen in Switzerland and EM Lyon in France.

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