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America’s elite Ivy League business schools continue to dominate the top echelons of the MBA market according to the latest Financial Times ranking of Global MBA programmes. However, the best European business schools are beginning to chip away at their dominance.

The Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania has retained its number one position for the sixth year in a row, with Harvard Business School taking the runner’s up prize. Ivy leaguers Columbia, Dartmouth College and Yale are close behind, all featuring in the top cluster of schools.

However, six of the top 20 schools are now European, with the Saïd school at the University of Oxford, less than a decade old, entering the top 20 for the first time.

Overall the ranking is particularly good news for British business schools which take 16 out of the top 100 slots. London Business School has retained its fifth position, making it the highest ranked of all the European schools. Of the remaining 15 UK schools, 14 moved up the ranking or entered the table this year.

The Financial Times rankings are based in part on the salaries earned by alumni three years after graduation. Over the years, the salaries earned by alumni from European schools has inched towards the top American salaries, hence the increasing success of these schools.

This is particularly true in areas such as management consulting and the industrial sector - this year for the first time alumni from European schools who worked in industry earned more than their US counterparts, an average of $104,000.

Despite years of falling applications for full-time MBA programmes, the data collected for MBA 2006 shows that a place on one of the top programmes is still a sound investment. Alumni of more than 70 of the 100 schools have doubled their money - that is, the salaries they earn today, three years after graduation, are more than twice the salary they gave up to do an MBA.

And at the top three schools, Wharton, Harvard and Stanford, alumni today in their early thirties earn on average in excess of $150,000.

The annual Financial Times global MBA ranking was fist published in 1999 and it is based on three sets of criteria: the career progress of alumni from the school, the international make-up of the school and how effectively the school generates new ideas.

The highest ranked Asian school is the China European International Business School (Ceibs) in Shanghai, ranked in twenty-first position. Its alumni, who are largely Chinese, saw their salaries rise by 154 per cent between beginning their MBA and the time of the Financial Times survey, three years after graduation. All of which demonstrates that China has caught the MBA bug as surely as the US or Europe.

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