Online MBA ranking 2016: methodology and key

Survey data from students accounts for 65% of the weightings

This third annual Financial Times ranking evaluates the world’s best online MBA programmes. A total of 18 programmes took part in the ranking process. Data for the rankings are collected from participating schools and alumni who graduated from their nominated programmes in 2012, giving us time to measure their career progress.

To be included, each school must be internationally accredited by AACSB and/or Equis and its programmes must have run for at least four consecutive years. At least 70 per cent of the programme content must be delivered online. Participants on the courses must pass a selection process before enrolling and an examination process before graduating.

A total of 610 alumni completed the FT survey, a response rate of about 24 per cent. For schools to be ranked, 20 per cent of their alumni must respond to the survey, with at least 20 fully completed responses.

Alumni responses inform six ranking criteria that are common to all FT business education rankings, such as “salary today”, and two additional criteria specific to the alumni’s online experience: “programme delivery” and “online interaction”. Together, the alumni criteria account for 65 per cent of the ranking’s weight.

Where available, information collated by the FT over the past three years is used for alumni-informed criteria. Responses from the 2016 survey carry 50 per cent of total weight, and those from 2015 and 2014 25 per cent each. Excluding salary-related criteria, if only two years of data are available, the weighting is split 60:40 if the data are from 2016 and 2015, or 70:30 if they are from 2016 and 2014. We consider the two most recent years for salary data and give each year a weighting of 50 per cent.

“Salary today” is based on current alumni salaries. Salaries of non-profit and public sector workers, as well as full-time students, are removed. Salaries are converted to US dollars using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates supplied by the International Monetary Fund. The very highest and lowest salaries for each school are subsequently removed, and the mean average current salary is calculated. The resulting figure carries 20 per cent of the ranking’s weight.

“Salary increase”, which accounts for 10 per cent, measures the difference in the alumni average salary on graduation and three years after. Half of this figure is calculated according to the absolute increase and half to the percentage increase.

“Programme delivery” is rated on how alumni rate the online delivery of teaching and exams. “Online interaction” is based on interaction between students and with faculty.

Information provided by the business schools accounts for 35 per cent of the final ranking. With the exception of the “doctoral rank” category (measuring the number and progress of doctoral graduates from each school over the past three years), the FT uses 2016 data only from the schools.

The FT research rank, which accounts for 10 per cent of the ranking, is calculated according to the number of articles published by schools’ full-time faculty in 45 internationally recognised academic and practitioner journals. The rank also takes into account for the first time the school to which the journal’s editors are affiliated, earning schools an extra point should they also appear in the ranking.

The FT Online MBA ranking is a relative ranking — an FT score is finally calculated for each school. First, Z-scores — mathematical formulas that reflect the range of scores between the top and bottom school — are calculated for each respective ranking criterion. These scores are then weighted, and added together for a final score.

Judith Pizer of Jeff Head Associates acted as the FT’s database consultant. The FT research rank was calculated using Scopus, an abstract and citation database of research literature.


Note: Weightings in brackets

Salary today (20): average alumnus salary three years after graduation, US$ PPP equivalent †

Salary increase (10): percentage increase over three years: between salary on graduation in 2012 and current salary

Value for money (3): calculated according to alumni’s salary, fees and other costs †

Career progress (4): progression in the alumni’s level of seniority and the size of company they now work for, versus three years ago †

Aims achieved (4): the extent to which alumni fulfilled their goals †

Career service (4): alumni rating of the efficiency of the school career services in finding them a job after graduation †

Programme delivery (5): alumni rating of online delivery of live teaching sessions, other teaching materials and online exams †

Online interaction (10): alumni rating of interaction between students, within teams and the availability of faculty †

Women faculty (2): percentage of female faculty *

Women students (2): percentage of female students on the MBA programme *

Women on board (1): percentage of female members of the school advisory board *

International faculty (4): percentage of faculty whose citizenship differs from their country of employment

International students (4): percentage of current MBA students whose country of residence differs from the country the school is located in

International board (2): percentage of the board whose citizenship differs from the country in which the business school is situated.

International mobility (5): calculated according to whether alumni’s citizenship and work locations pre-MBA, on graduation and three years after graduation differ from each other †

Faculty with doctorates (5): percentage of full-time faculty with a doctoral degree

PhD graduates (5): number of doctoral graduates during the past three years. The figure in brackets is the percentage of these graduates who took up faculty positions at a top 50 full-time MBA school

FT research rank (10): calculated according to the number of articles published by a school’s current full-time faculty members in 45 academic and practitioner journals between January 2013 and December 2015

† Includes data for the current year and the one or two preceding years where available.

* Schools that have 50:50 (male: female) composition receive the highest possible score.

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