The Financial Times masters in management ranking, now in its eighth year, remains in 2012 a European-dominated affair topped by a Swiss school and populated principally by French and British rivals.

The ranking is based on a survey of business schools and their alumni who graduated in 2009, with criteria ranging from diversity to alumni career progression and international exposure.

The University of St Gallen retains the top spot, scoring highly in all criteria. St Gallen’s alumni boast among the highest salaries three years after graduation, the highest achievement rate and a broad international experience. The school offers the best value for money and is ranked second for the effectiveness of its career service.

Esade Business School in Barcelona, Spain, and HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Germany, have progressed well, reaching seventh and 11th spots respectively. Warwick Business School in the UK shows the greatest improvement, jumping 13 places to 35th. IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, is the highest ranked new entrant, in sixth place. The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad is the highest ranked school from outside Europe, in 10th position.

Nearly half the schools ranked are French or British – 19 and 13 respectively. While French schools feature prominently in the top half of the ranking, British schools are mostly confined to the bottom half.

Ninety per cent of entrants to UK schools are from overseas, compared with one-third in France. On the other hand, students in France spend a significant amount of time abroad on exchanges, research or internships, while students at British schools travel less as part of their degree. As a result, British schools outscore their French counterparts for international diversity but are outperformed in international course experience.

Alumni data from this year’s survey show that over half the students who graduated in 2012 from British schools came from outside the EU. About a quarter of those now work in the UK. From April 2012, new visa regulations stipulate that students from outside the EU are required to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £20,000 a year from an accredited employer if they wish to stay on in the UK after graduation. It is not yet clear whether this reform will affect the position of British schools in future rankings.

Data from schools participating in both the 2009 and 2012 rankings show that the number of students registering for a masters in management increased by 18 per cent during this period. A 90 per cent employment rate three months after graduation and attractive salaries are obvious draws. In particular, schools in eastern Europe (as shown on the map) have seen enrolment increase by 70 per cent, with local students driving demand. Increases elsewhere in continental Europe came mostly from international students. On the other hand, demand remained constant in Ireland and the UK.

Data provided by alumni show that graduates are increasingly going to work for smaller companies. Nearly three out of five graduates were employed at companies with more than 5,000 employees in 2008, compared with only two in five in 2012. The prospects of making a bigger impact or taking on more responsibility may be part of the reason why graduates are drawn towards smaller companies.

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