It pays to be on top in the business education market. Despite a torrid year for US schools, in which even the elite institutions suffered declines in applications, the same names make up the top 10 of the FT’s 2019 Global MBA ranking as last year.

There have been notable shifts in their positions within the top 10, however. Shanghai-based Ceibs (China Europe International Business School) rises to fifth, up from eighth in 2018, making it the highest placed Chinese school to date.

Harvard Business School rose to second place after dropping to fifth last year but could not unseat Stanford Graduate School of Business from the top spot, an accolade the California-based school gained for only the second time in the ranking’s history last year.

More significant changes in position occur further down the ranking. It is these movements that seem to reflect some of the key changes in business education occurring around the globe.

Business schools in the UK have faced an uncertain period since the 2016 Brexit referendum vote triggered the government’s negotiations to leave the EU. But many of the greatest fears, such as a drop in demand from overseas candidates, have not come to pass. The sharp drop in the value of sterling in the wake of the EU vote, making British MBAs relatively cheap for overseas applicants, has undoubtedly been a factor.

The strength of the UK job market has helped graduates of the country’s institutions find better employment opportunities, although tightened visa rules have made it harder for foreign nationals to capitalise on this.

It has been a good year for the top UK schools, too. For example, the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School jumps 14 places this year to 13th, its highest position since it joined the ranking survey in 2001.

The high position achieved by Ceibs highlights the growing strength of top MBA providers in the Asia-Pacific region, a part of the world that has been driving the global growth in business education for several years, much as it has been an engine of economic growth. Applications to schools in the Asia-Pacific region rose 8.9 per cent last year, even as US demand fell, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which administers the GMAT business school entry exam.

For all the movement in the FT ranking this year, there is little change in the mix of countries represented on the list. The number of institutions from Australia, China, India and Singapore, for instance, is similar to 2017 or 2016.

That so few new schools made it on to this year’s ranking could be seen as a sign that the market for campus MBAs is reaching a point of maturity, where the gap between the top schools and the rest mean that the barriers to entry have become too high for others to gain a foothold.

This is bad news for those schools not on this year’s ranking. It is they, rather than the top schools, highlighted here in the rankings table, that face the greatest struggle to adapt to changes in the business education market.

The top 100 schools: by country
CountrySchools per country*
Costa Rica1
South Korea1

Top school: Stanford Graduate School of Business

For the second year in a row Stanford Graduate School of Business tops the ranking. This is also the second successive year that its alumni have had the highest weighted average salary, $228,074, up from $214,742. Stanford also ranked top for career progress. Survey respondents praised its network. “A business school’s network is only as valuable as the number of alumni multiplied by the odds that they [respond] to you. I doubt any other school has as high a figure as the GSB,” said one graduate. 

Class of 2015 alumni from schools surveyed for this ranking judged HBS top among institutions from which they would recruit graduates. It was last number one in the MBA ranking in 2015, but is edging closer to the top spot at number two, helped by the second highest average weighted salary at $205,486. HBS has also leapt 15 places to joint first place in the research rank. This measures the number of articles published by full-time faculty in 50 journals between 2016 and 2018, weighted relative to the faculty’s size. 

Top European school: Insead

Insead drops one place to number three, but it is the highest-ranked MBA provider in Europe. It was top in 2016 and 2017 — only the second European school to reach number one in this ranking. Insead’s position is helped by its class of 2015 alumni, whose average weighted salary was $179,661 — the top among European schools and above the average in the table at about $137,900. About half of its graduates surveyed for this ranking work in lucrative sectors, whether consultancy, finance/banking or IT/telecoms.

Top for international mobility: IMD

The Swiss school is number one for this criterion, based on alumni citizenship and the countries they worked in before their MBA, on completing it and three years later. IMD has been top in this category since 2006. Graduates praised the diverse alumni network. One said he built relationships with professionals from around the world that helped him to find opportunities in international businesses. IMD is second in the international students category, with 99 per cent of the recent class from abroad.

Top for CSR: University of Virginia: Darden

This is the first time that corporate social responsibility has been a criterion in the ranking. Darden is top for including a substantial amount of teaching on the subject in its core curriculum. In 2008, the school set an aim “to be a top 10 business school for teaching and research on sustainability and a zero waste, carbon neutral enterprise by 2020.” One graduate said: “Darden’s focus on ethics and socially driven leadership have directly influenced how I manage and lead”.

Highest salary increase: Fudan University School of Management

Fudan in Shanghai showed the highest increase on pre-MBA salaries, with a 195 per cent increase three years after graduation and an average salary of $110,062. Alumni ranked third in terms of career progress and were the sixth most likely to be employed three months after graduation (97 per cent). 

“I benefited so much in my MBA life in Fudan that I recommended my wife enrol last year even though the tuition has increased [since I began],” one student said.

Top for value for money: University of Florida: Warrington

This is the second year in a row the US school ranks top in value for money. This criterion is based on alumni salary, course length, tuition, other costs and lost income during the MBA. The school’s achievement is partly due to low tuition and financial support being available, which helps to reduce study costs. One graduate noted that the cost of living in Gainesville, Florida, is “exceptionally low”. Warrington is joint fourth highest climber overall, up 19 places to 39 — its highest rank so far.

Top for Careers Service: Sungkyunkwan University GSB

Alumni ranked Sungkyunkwan in South Korea top for its careers service, up two places from 2018. Ranked 42nd overall, Sungkyunkwan has moved up a further nine places from last year. The school is rated highly for career progress (14th) and value for money (16th). “The quality of teaching and infrastructure of the school are excellent [and the] school was very much involved to provide all opportunities for personal development,” one student said.

Biggest Riser: Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

Up 29 places from 78th to 49th, IIM Calcutta made the biggest leap this year. Alumni have the ninth-largest percentage increase on pre-MBA salaries (139 per cent, up from 117 per cent last year) with an average three years after graduation of $158,138 (up from $139,000). They are seventh for career progress. “Great faculty, great peer group, wonderful campus. Humble ways of teaching, yet rich in content that is time relevant and forward looking,” said a graduate.

Top for International Experience: The Lisbon MBA

The Lisbon MBA, run jointly by Católica-Lisbon and Nova SBE, is top for international experience for the second year running. In the top four in this category since 2013, the school’s integration with MIT Sloan adds a particularly well-received overseas element. While the Lisbon MBA’s programme is 86th overall, its graduates come eighth in the ranking for career progress. One student described a “close empathic relationship of the MBA team with the class”.

School profiles by Andrew Garthwaite and Wai Kwen Chan


This ranking features the world’s best 100 full-time MBA programmes. A total of 150 schools took part in the 2019 edition. All participating schools meet the FT’s entry criteria, including being accredited by Equis or the AACSB.

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 responses. About 8,000 from the class of 2015 completed our survey — a response rate of 38 per cent.

The ranking has 20 different criteria. Alumni responses inform eight criteria that together contribute 61 per cent of its weight. Eleven criteria are calculated from school data, accounting for 29 per cent of the ranking. KPMG audits a number of schools every year. The remaining criterion, the research rank, counts for 10 per cent.

Alumni-informed criteria are based on data collected over three years. Responses from the 2019 survey carry 50 per cent of total weight and those from 2018 and 2017, 25 per cent each. If only two years of data are available, the weighting is split 60:40 if data are from 2019 and 2018, or 70:30 if they are from 2019 and 2017. For salary figures, the weighting is 50:50 for two years’ data.

The first two alumni criteria are average income three years after graduation and salary increase compared with pre-MBA salary, both weighted at 20 per cent. For the latter, half of the weight applies to the absolute increase and half to the percentage rise (published). Current salaries are converted to US dollars using October 2018 International Monetary Fund purchasing power parity rates.

The salaries of non-profit and public sector workers and full-time students are removed, as are the highest and lowest salaries from each school, to calculate a normalised average. Finally, salaries are weighted to reflect differences between different sectors.

“Value for money” for each MBA is calculated by dividing its average alumni salary three years after graduation by the total cost, including tuition, lost salary, opportunity cost and other expenses. Any financial help given to alumni is subtracted from the total.

The FT also collects information from schools on their current faculty, newly enrolled students and the latest graduating class. School criteria include the diversity of staff, board members and students by gender, nationality and the MBA’s international reach. For gender criteria, schools with a 50:50 composition score highest.

The research rank is based on the number of articles by full-time faculty in 50 internationally recognised academic and practitioner journals. The rank combines the number of publications from January 2016 to October 2018, with the number weighted relative to faculty size.

The FT has removed the PhD graduates category from the criteria and replaced it with a new criterion: Corporate Social Responsibility. It is based on the proportion of teaching hours from core courses dedicated to CSR, ethics, social and environmental issues. It carries a weight of three per cent and additional weightings have been placed elsewhere.

The FT Global MBA ranking is a relative listing. Schools are ranked against each other by calculating a Z-score for each criterion. The Z-score is a statistic that shows where a score lies in relation to the mean. These scores are then weighted as outlined in the ranking key and added together for a final score.

After removing schools that did not meet the response rate threshold from the alumni survey, a first version is calculated using all remaining schools. The school at the bottom is removed and a second version is calculated and so on until we reach the top 100. The top 100 schools are ranked accordingly to produce the 2019 list

Judith Pizer of Jeff Head Associates acted as the FT’s database consultant. The FT research rank was calculated using Clarivate Analytics data from the Web of Science, an abstract and citation database of research literature.


Salary today: average alumnus salary three years after graduation, US$ PPP equivalent (see methodology). This figure is not used in the ranking.†

Weighted salary (20): average alumnus salary three years after graduation, US$ PPP equivalent (see methodology), adjusted for variations between sectors.†

Salary increase (20): average difference in alumni salary from before the MBA to now. Half of this figure is calculated according to the absolute salary increase and half according to the percentage increase relative to pre-MBA salary. †

Value for money (3): calculated using salary today, course length, tuition and other costs, including lost income during the MBA.†

Career progress (3): calculated according to changes in the level of seniority and the size of company alumni work in now, compared with before their MBA.†

Aims achieved (3): the extent to which alumni fulfilled their stated goals or reasons for doing an MBA.†

Careers service (3): effectiveness of the school careers service in terms of career counselling, personal development, networking events, internship search and recruitment, as rated by their alumni.†

Employed at three months (2): percentage of the most recent graduating class who had found employment or accepted a job offer within three months of completing their studies. The figure in brackets is the percentage of the class for which the school was able to provide employment data and is used to calculate the school’s final score in this category.*

Alumni recommend (3): calculated according to selection by alumni of three schools from which they would recruit MBA graduates.†

Female faculty (2): percentage of female faculty.

Female students (2): percentage of female students on the full-time MBA.

Women on board (1): percentage of female members on the school’s advisory board.

International faculty (4): calculated according to the diversity of faculty by citizenship and the percentage whose nationality differs from their country of employment — the figure published in the table. ‡

International students (4): calculated according to the diversity of current MBA students by citizenship and the percentage whose nationality differs from the country in which they study — the figure in the table. ‡

International board (2): percentage of the board whose citizenship differs from the country in which the school is based.

International mobility (6): based on alumni citizenship and the countries where they worked before their MBA, on graduation and three years after.

International course experience (3): calculated on whether the most recent graduating class completed exchanges, research projects, study tours and company internships in countries other than where the school is based.*

Languages (1): number of extra languages required on graduation.*

Faculty with doctorates (5): percentage of full-time faculty with a doctoral degree.

FT research rank (10): calculated according to the number of articles published by current full-time faculty members in 50 selected academic and practitioner journals between January 2016 and October 2018. The FT50 rank combines the absolute number of publications with the number weighted relative to the faculty’s size.

Corporate social responsibility rank (3): proportion of teaching hours from core courses dedicated to CSR, ethics, social and environmental issues.

Schools with a 50:50 (male/female) composition receive the highest possible score in the three gender-related criteria.

† Includes data for the class of 2015 and one or two preceding classes where available.

* Graduated between July 2017 and June 2018.

‡ While we recognise the distinction between Chinese and Taiwanese scholars and students, within China no such distinction may have been observed when recording diversity.

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