The 2006 ranking of European Masters in Management programmes is a table of two halves; there is France and then there is the rest of Europe. French business schools dominate the top of the table. Eleven of the 35 programmes ranked are offered by French schools and these 11 occupy six of the top seven slots.

The inaugural ranking in 2005 provided strong evidence of French dominance in the area of management studies: four of the top 10 schools were French. In this year’s ranking the top French players, with their long history of excellence and expertise in this area fostered by the Grande Ecole system, surge even further.

Grande Ecole programmes run for three years but students with a relevant undergraduate degree can enter at the start of the second year to study for a Masters. Two institutions, Essec Business School and Grenoble Graduate School of Business, chose to submit stand-alone Masters programmes rather than their Grand Ecole stream.

The two French schools, HEC Paris and ESCP-EAP, which occupy positions one and three respectively, have a strong lead at the top of the table. Comments from their alumni highlight the particular strengths of the two institutions and graduates from both schools are agreed on the importance of alumni networks. One HEC alumnus remarks, ‘[It has the] best network since most top French CEOs went to HEC’.

The sway of the HEC brand when it came to finding a job was the other point that its graduates commented on most frequently and, indeed, the school scores very highly in the area of placement success.

ESCP-EAP alumni, on the other hand, frequently praised the international feeling of the programme: from the high proportion of international students and faculty to the many opportunities to work and study abroad. It would certainly seem that there is carry-over effect from this aspect of the ESCP-EAP programme: it is ranked second for international mobility.

Two more French schools moved into the top five this year: local rivals, Grenoble and EM Lyon.

In the case of Grenoble, a healthy improvement in weighted average salary was an important contributing factor. In 2005, the average weighted gross salary of Grenoble graduates three years after graduation was €42,098. This translated to eleventh ranking position for that criterion. This year the school ranks sixth with a figure of €47,350. Grenoble also comes top in career progression and international mobility. These three criteria alone contribute 40 per cent to the final mark.

For some schools, good improvements in more heavily weighted areas of the table led to an improved ranking this year. Other schools, such as Stockholm School of Economics, Audencia and Rotterdam School of Management made gains across the table and hence improved their overall ranking for 2006.

Further down the table, it is clear that many of the schools which participated last year have suffered as the French have climbed. There are 14 schools outside this year’s top 10 which also participated last year. None of these is French and, with the exception of Rotterdam School of Management, all have lost ground.

Closer analysis reveals a less disheartening picture: the negative changes in position are generally small and, this year, 10 new schools have entered the ranking. If these 10 schools were removed from the equation, many schools in the middle and second half of the table would be ranked in approximately the same position as they were last year.

This is also good news for the European Masters ranking itself. It indicates that the methodology adopted has not given rise to excessive year-on-year volatility.

Moreover, this year, two years’ data were incorporated where possible

The achievements of the 10 new schools also deserve note. Two Belgian schools and one from the U.K. made it into the top twenty at their first pass: Vlerick Leuven Gent, the IAG-Louvain School of Management and the University of Durham Business School. The expansion of the rankings also allows for a more meaningful breakdown of some of the national trends in areas such as employment. The graphs that accompany this piece show national differences in the sectors and sizes of companies where alumni are now working.

This year’s European Masters in Management survey ranks programmes offered by business schools based in 14 different European countries. The Cems programme, which offers a second degree for an elite subset of students, is taught in 17 European business schools. Alumni who responded to the questionnaire came from 58 different countries. As more schools around Europe offer accredited stand alone Masters programmes in line with the Bologna Agreement, the Financial Times should be able to rank an increasing number of these valuable pre-experience degrees.

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