New FT ranking: US business schools excel at MBA start-up spirit

Stanford, Olin and Darden top league table of best courses for entrepreneurship
Stanford Graduate School of Business © Getty

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It is two out of two for Stanford Graduate School of Business, which has retained its top position in the Financial Times’ second annual ranking of the best MBA programmes for entrepreneurship.

FW Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College came second, while The University of Virginia Darden School of Business followed in third. Places four to seven were also taken by US institutions — Dartmouth’s Tuck school, UCLA’s Anderson, Berkeley’s Haas and Wharton.

This year’s ranking — a customised spin-off from the FT’s 2016 global MBA ranking — features the top 25 MBAs for entrepreneurship, an expansion from the 10 programmes listed last year.

The league table was compiled using exclusive data gathered during the broader ranking exercise, from students who graduated from MBA courses in 2012.

Top 25 MBA programmes for entrepreneurship
RankProgramme
1Stanford GSB
2Babson College: Olin
3University of Virginia: Darden
4Dartmouth College: Tuck
5UCLA: Anderson
6Uni of California at Berkeley: Haas
7University of Pennsylvania: Wharton
8IE Business School
9London Business School
10Iese Business School
11MIT: Sloan
12University of Oxford: Saïd
13Harvard Business School
14University of Chicago: Booth
15Ipade Business School
16Georgetown University: McDonough
17Insead
18Duke University: Fuqua
19New York University: Stern
20USC: Marshall
21Birmingham Business School
22Columbia Business School
23HKUST Business School
24Incae Business School
25HEC Paris

Among the criteria assessed were the percentage of a school’s MBA graduates who started a company, as well as how many of those businesses were still trading at the end of 2015.

The ranking examined how integral the school and its alumni were in getting the company off the ground, from instilling the motivation in the mind of the entrepreneur to helping find staff and funding. A size threshold (responses from at least 15 entrepreneurs at each ranked school) was applied too.

When all these factors were analysed, US schools accounted for 15 out of the 25 ranked programmes.

At California-based Stanford, a third of graduates from the class of 2012 started their own company. The school came joint-first with Babson’s Olin for motivating students through the skills gained during their MBA. Stanford’s entrepreneurial spirit extends beyond those graduates who set up their own company. “I did not start a business but I am able to apply the entrepreneurship mentality to my corporate job,” one graduate told the FT as part of the data gathering process.

Stanford is also placed first for the extent to which alumni support one another when starting a company. “Stanford GSBers help each other,” another graduate added.

Olin, based in Massachusetts, rose to second from eighth in the previous year. Nearly half of its graduates — 46 per cent — started their own company.

One graduate praised its faculty’s practical role in instilling the entrepreneurial spirit: “[They] ensure that students learn how to tackle the real world challenges of starting companies.”

The ranking also includes schools from China, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Spain and the UK. Spain’s IE Business School, placed eighth, is the top non-US school. London Business School and Iese Business School, also from Spain, complete the top 10.

Overall, 19 per cent of MBA graduates from the class of 2012 started their own company. Entrepreneurs from all schools — ranked or not — tend to give similar replies when asked how much they were driven by their MBA course to set up on their own.

One factor that does vary significantly is the amount of help they get from their school and alumni network in setting up their company, financing it and recruiting key staff. There is an average difference of 0.8 points (out of 10) between the scores given by entrepreneurs in ranked programmes compared with those in non-ranked ones.

Overall, 56 per cent of entrepreneurs from the top 25 MBA programmes rated their school and alumni network as extremely helpful compared with only 44 per cent of entrepreneurs from the other MBA programmes.

In either group, the alumni network is consistently rated as being more helpful than the business school. For example, in terms of financing, entrepreneurs from the ranked programmes rated the help they received from their school at 6.5 out of 10, compared with 7.5 for the help they received from the alumni.

However, about 13 per cent of entrepreneurs deemed both their school and their network as not helpful at all and about a third of entrepreneurs sought no help from either.

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