The Financial Times recently released its 2021 Global MBA Rankings. This year, several international schools rose in the ranks. European schools now hold the top two spots, INSEAD jumping from #4 to #1 to replace Harvard Business School. Similarly, London Business School rose from #7 to #2, taking the second-place spot from Wharton.
This shift in rankings was heavily influenced by the decision not to compete by three of last year’s top five (Harvard Business School, Wharton, and Stanford GSB). The omission of these schools serves as a reminder that rankings can aid in the school selection process but are not the be-all and end-all.
While US MBA programs still dominate the latest FT MBA rankings, only five of the schools in this year’s top 10 are US business schools – down from six in 2020.
Chicago Booth jumped from #10 to #3, and Yale SOM (#14 in 2020) tied with IESE Business School (#13 in 2020) for the #4 spot. Kellogg also moved up considerably from #11 to #6.
CEIBS and HEC Paris tied to secure #7, CEIBS with a two-spot decline and HEC Paris with a two-spot jump. Rounding out the top 10 were Duke Fuqua (#9) and Dartmouth Tuck (#10). Both of these US business schools tied for #16 in the previous FT rankings.
Even before the global pandemic, Personal MBA Coach was guiding an increasing number of clients interested in MBA programs outside of the US. Now, in part due to Covid-19, interest in these programs is growing rapidly. In 2020, European business schools reported a 50.1% increase in domestic applications. While international applications from Europe also increased by 20.8%, 2020 was a particularly strong year for European programs.
As you review these numbers, keep the following advice in mind to better understand how to think about MBA rankings. Personal MBA Coach is a full-service admissions consulting firm, and school selection is a crucial part of the process that we help with!
1) Look at MBA rankings to get the lay of the land.
MBA rankings are useful in showing what schools exist, where they are located and how they stack up. Use these rankings to get a general overview of the business school landscape.
2) Uses statistics as an initial guide.
Statistics such as acceptance rate and average GPA and GMAT/GRE/EA of enrolled students will provide some solid benchmarking data. However, it is important that you use these numbers only as an initial guide since the entire applicant package matters much more.
Plenty of candidates with lower-than-average GPAs or GMAT/GRE/EA scores gain admission each year while others with higher scores do not.
3) Pay attention to average ranking over time.
Average ranking over time is important when evaluating MBA rankings. When you are courting that investor ten years down the road, they will not know what the ranking was when you applied to business school, but they may look at the current standing. This is why it is important to consider average ranking over time—has the school stayed consistently in the top tiers?
4) Look at general trends.
Nearly every ranking scale will show different results. Of course, certain schools will remain in the top ten in nearly every ranking, but the general list tends to vary significantly from one source to the next. Similar to ranking over time, the general trend across different scales is most important.
5) Notice how rankings vary by industry.
While all business schools emphasize strong general management education, each one has a different area of expertise. Therefore, it is important to recognize how schools perform in industry-specific rankings as well.