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The FT Global MBA ranking and the English football Premier League have one thing in common. Pundits may argue about who will head the table, but most years there is little doubt about the top five.
So it is for 2014: Harvard Business School fended off competitors and kept the crown it regained last year. This is the fifth time Harvard has topped the rankings since they began in 1999. Stanford Graduate School of Business remained second, while London Business School leapfrogged the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania, pushing the latter into fourth place. Columbia Business School and Insead are joint fifth.
The FT ranking is based on two surveys of the business schools and their alumni who graduated in 2010. MBA programmes are assessed according to the career progression of their alumni, the school’s idea generation and the diversity of students and faculty.
Harvard leads the field for idea generation, coming first for research and second for its doctoral programme. The school’s alumni also boast the second-highest average salary three years after graduation (behind Stanford) and above-average salary increase. Harvard is also among the top schools for career progression and its MBA was the most highly commended by graduates from other schools.
Harvard’s alumni praise a “transformational experience” over the two years of the programme. They also particularly value the Harvard brand and the strength of its alumni network. “Harvard brings an amazing network with instant credibility,” noted one graduate. On the downside, another graduate wished the programme had been less US-centric.
One of the most notable climbers is Yale School of Management, which rose four places to 10th, its first appearance in the top 10 in seven years. Other strong performers are the Darden school at the University of Virginia, up eight places to 27th; and the Kenan-Flagler school at the University of North Carolina, up 12 to 32nd. The Carlson school at the University of Minnesota returns to the ranking in 54th place, and the highest new entrant is the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore at 68.
Boston, Massachusetts, confirms its position as education capital of the world, with six schools in the top 100, including Harvard (1st) and MIT: Sloan (8th). Hult International Business School, the Carroll school at Boston College, the Olin school at Babson College and Boston University School of Management complete the set.
What is a typical MBA cohort? Most (85 per cent) of those who started an MBA five years ago were professionals on an annual salary of $64,000. Three-quarters were aged between 25 and 30. Women made up a third and those from overseas half. The main motivation was to increase earnings. Developing management skills came second and networking third.
Nearly half of alumni surveyed (48 per cent) received no financial help and faced average fees of $100,000. This ignores income forgone during full-time study. Half (49 per cent) received a scholarship or sponsorship, and faced only a third of the cost: $33,000.
Three years after graduation, the average alumnus is a 33-year-old senior manager or higher on a salary of $127,000, thus doubling the pre-MBA figure. More importantly, nine out of 10 think they have achieved their main ambitions at this stage of their career.