HEC Paris has kept its place at the pinnacle of the 2011 Financial Times European business school ranking. Close behind at number two is its near neighbour Insead, and the top three is completed by London Business School, last year’s runner-up.

Based on four FT rankings, published during 2011, this composite ranking includes 75 European schools. It assesses both the quality and quantity of their programmes. Ranks for MBA, executive MBA and masters in management programmes have been calculated where applicable, along with a rating for shorter, open-enrolment programmes. The quality of customised programmes, those tailored specifically to business clients’ specifications, has also been assessed.

Despite relative calm at the very top of the table – the first three schools remain unchanged from the 2010 ranking, albeit reordered – there have been notable changes for other institutions. Università Bocconi and its graduate business school, SDA Bocconi, has risen 10 places on 2010’s position, to finish joint seventh this year. The Milanese school’s ascent was aided by a debut entry in the 2011 EMBA ranking, in which it was listed 67th in the world, equivalent to 28th in Europe.

According to Alberto Malerba, an alumnus from the EMBA class of 2008, surveyed by the FT as part of the 2011 global EMBA ranking, “SDA Bocconi was a splendid experience … in a course that widened my knowledge on multiple aspects of management. I strongly recommend it for the extremely high professionalism and the preparation and openness of its professors.”

Improvements in the placing of the school in both the MBA and masters in management ranking – up 10 places and seven places respectively – complete the Bocconi success story, confirming its entry into the European top 10 for the first time.

Iese Business School is also on the up. The Spanish institution improved across the board in 2011. It started the year with a top-10 finish in the global MBA ranking in January, when it was placed joint ninth. May’s executive education rankings brought more good news, with the school ranked first among open enrolment programmes and eighth in the customised programme league table. A successful year was capped by a jump of 13 places in October’s EMBA ranking, when Iese was placed just outside of the global top 10. As a result, the school climbs five places in the composite European table to fourth this year.

The 75 schools in the 2011 ranking are spread across 18 countries. France and the UK claim the lion’s share – 18 of the featured schools are primarily based in France, while 21 are in the UK. Germany has the next-largest concentration, with five schools, followed by Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

The diversity of schools is reflected in the international profile of students and alumni alike. According to data gathered from European schools taking part in FT rankings published in 2011, 36 per cent of masters in management students who enrolled this year were from outside the country in which the institution was based. This proportion was much higher for MBA programmes, (88 per cent), while EMBA enrolments tended to be more local (26 per cent of students were international).

Among students who graduated from masters in management programmes in the last academic year, various overseas options were common – 34 per cent completed an overseas internship as part of their degree, while half spent some time overseas studying at a different business school. By comparison, just 11 per cent of MBA graduates from European schools took part in similar overseas exchanges.

International mobility was widespread among graduates. Alumni surveyed three years after graduation were asked where they lived before their degree, on graduation and at the time of the survey. Masters alumni were the most likely to have lived in more than one country – 47 per cent reported having done so. MBA graduates were similarly mobile, with 42 per cent having moved abroad at least once. EMBA alumni were less likely to have migrated: just 22 per cent did so.

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