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Go to the best business school you can, or so the advice usually goes. But will you be happy and receive the support you need? Business school websites rarely offer much guidance as you are uniformly greeted by upbeat news stories and pictures of smiling people taken on sunny days. Business school marketing departments, it seems, never publish pictures taken in the rain.
To help redress the balance the FT’s Business Education section conducted its first alternative MBA survey. We asked MBA alumni from the top 100 schools in the FT 2014 Global MBA rankings to rate their former schools on criteria such as social life, learning experience and pastoral care. We also asked what they would most like to change about their alma mater and even what they thought of the weather (you should avoid British schools if you dislike rain). Here is some of what we discovered.
The biggest complaints
The main moan was about career services, followed by costs. Branding was an issue for those who felt their school was not well known. And alumni whose schools were outside city centres complained about location. Many students who completed one-year programmes thought these too short, and many wanted larger classes.
For many alumni who attended North American or European schools, however, the weather was the one thing they most wanted to change.
We asked students to rate their business school experience out of 10 and no school with significant numbers of respondents averaged a score of less than 8.5. Harvard Business School was rated top with 9.9, followed by a clutch of other US schools: Yale, Darden, Babcock and Fuqua.
When we asked about the general environment, Judge at the University of Cambridge emerged top with UCLA Anderson close behind. Both schools appeared in the top five for social life. UCLA Anderson also appeared in the top five for networking.
For most of our alternative survey criteria, even the worst performing schools were given high grades. In accommodation this was not the case. Alumni from Imperial College Business School and London Business School gave their schools mean scores of only 4.9 and 5.1 respectively on the cost of accommodation and both were also ranked lowest on the quality.
Accommodation at Goizueta at Emory University, in Atlanta, scored 10 for both standard and location.
Catering also generated poorer scores. Foodies might want to avoid Manchester Business School, which came last with a score of only 4.8. More surprising, considering the good reputation of French cuisine, was the appearance of HEC Paris in the bottom five with 5.8, though the survey is of alumni who studied at the school before the opening of its latest facilities. Insead, whose largest campus is close to Paris, ranked fifth for standard of food. IMD, the executive education specialist in Switzerland, came first with a score of 10 out of 10.
Best for overseas trips was NYU Stern, which also topped the poll for alumni clubs and parties. The other good places to party were Olin at Washington University, Coppead in Brazil, Iese in Spain, and Goizueta. The Atlanta school also came top for helping with financial difficulties.
The research was based on a survey of 4,500 MBA alumni who graduated in 2010 from the 100 programmes featured in the 2014 FT Global MBA ranking. Just under 1,200 alumni completed the survey, a response rate of 26 per cent.