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INSEAD Knocks HBS from Top Spot in Financial Times 2016 Global MBA Rankings

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INSEAD jumped three spots to claim No. 1 in the Financial Times 2016 Global MBA rankings, released today, knocking reigning Harvard Business School (HBS) to No. 2. The global business school—which features campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi—has been on an upward trajectory over the past few years, sidling from sixth to fifth to fourth, but this year marks the first time it has claimed the top spot.  Incidentally, it’s also the first one-year MBA program to ever do so. HBS, for its part, held steady at No. 1 each of the past three years and has taken top honors six times since the FT’s rankings debuted in 1999.

HBS wasn’t the only school displaced by INSEAD’s upward climb. London Business School (LBS) was knocked back down to third from the second-place spot it claimed last year. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania also backslid a spot, to fourth. And Stanford Graduate School of Business, which shared fourth with INSEAD last year, fell to fifth.

The FT compiles its annual global MBA rankings based on two surveys, one of the business schools themselves and another of their alumni. (For this year’s rankings, alumni who graduated in 2012 were surveyed.) Based on the responses to these surveys, the MBA programs are ranked according to the career progression of their alumni, the school’s idea generation and the diversity of students and faculty.

The average salary for INSEAD alumni three years out from graduation was $167,000, amounting to almost double (96 percent) pre-MBA salary. The other schools in the top five were in roughly the same ballpark on both measures, but INSEAD left them in the dust in terms of “value for money.” Here the difference between INSEAD’s one-year program—requiring less time out of the workforce and lower program fees—and the other top schools’ two-year programs was stark: INSEAD ranked 10th overall for value, while the four runners-up were all in the bottom quarter. INSEAD, which calls itself “the business school for the world,” also ranked well for its international course experience (fifth) and for the international mobility of its graduates (third).

Across all schools, MBA graduates from the Class of 2012 earned an average salary of $135,000 three years after graduation, up just slightly from last year’s $133,000. But the pay increase associated with completing the degree jumped more significantly. Graduates surveyed as part of this year’s rankings reported earning an average of 98 percent more three years out than at the start of their programs, compared to 92 percent last year. Seven schools reported average salary increases of more than 140 percent, contributing to the jump. Still, it’s off from past pay hikes, which reached a high of 153 percent in 2002 and 2003 and 110 percent as recently as 2012.

INSEAD’s top performance aside, U.S. schools dominated the rankings much as they have in past years, accounting for 47 of the 101 schools in the global list. That said, this year’s list did include nine new entries from six countries. And global schools have a strong foothold among the top 20, with INSEAD and LBS joined by Spain’s IESE and IE, as well as China’s CIEBS and HKUST, the United Kingdom’s Judge School of Business and France’s HEC Paris.

As always, those of us here at Clear Admit encourage prospective applicants to use a school’s performance in these and other rankings as just one of many measurements to determine the MBA program that will best fit your individual needs.

View the complete Financial Times 2016 Global MBA Rankings.