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INSEAD Tops Financial Times Global MBA Rankings for Second Year Running

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INSEAD liked making it to the top of the Financial Times Global MBA rankings last year so much that it decided to stick around for another first-place showing. The global business school—which features campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi—had been inching its way up the ranking for the past few years, from sixth to fifth to fourth, before jumping three spots last year and knocking reigning Harvard Business School (HBS) down to No. 2. In doing so, INSEAD also became the first one-year MBA program to ever hold top honors.

HBS, prior to last year’s dethroning by INSEAD, had claimed No. 1 three years running. By the FT’s standards, things are not looking as rosy for the Boston school now, which fell to fourth as Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania sidled past to second and third, respectively. Coming in at No. 2 marks quite a rebound for Stanford, which fell to fifth last year after tying INSEAD for fourth the year before.

The global ranking lived up to its name this year, with five of the top 10 schools located outside the United States. Last year, U.S. schools dominated all but three of the top 10 spots. Like INSEAD, London Business School (LBS)  and Cambridge University’s Kingdom’s Judge School of Business made the top 10 both this year and last, but LBS backslid from third place last year to sixth this year, behind its U.K. rival Judge, which for its part catapulted to No. 5 from tenth last year.

Rounding out the top 10 were Columbia Business School (No. 7), Spain’s IE Business School (No. 8), University of Chicago Booth School of Business (No. 9) and Spain’s IESE (No. 10). China’s CEIBS came in just shy of the top 10, landing at No. 11 after a big jump from 17th last year.

The FT compiles its annual global MBA rankings based on research published by a school’s faculty (weighted at 10 percent), a survey of the business schools themselves (weighted at 31 percent) and a survey of alumni three years out (weighted at 69 percent). (For this year’s rankings, alumni who graduated in 2013 were surveyed.) A total of 20 criteria are evaluated, including alumni career progression, faculty idea generation and the diversity of students and faculty.

The average salary for INSEAD alumni three years out from graduation was $167,657, amounting to almost double (95 percent) pre-MBA salary. Stanford topped the salary scales with an average of $195,000, representing 93 percent of its grads’ pre-MBA salary. As the FT notes in its own analysis, the top 15 MBA programs are relatively closely matched in terms of income, career progress and satisfaction. “All but one have average alumni salaries greater than $150,000, with a pay increase of about 100 per cent compared with their pre-MBA income,” reads the FT special report.

One-year programs ranked exceptionally well in terms of “value for money,” where the difference between their program—requiring less time out of the workforce and lower program fees—and the other top schools’ two-year programs was stark. INSEAD ranked 11th overall for value, and Judge ranked No. 1 in this regard, perhaps contributing to its top-10 showing and its ability to bypass LBS. The majority of the other top 10 schools were in the bottom quarter with regard to value.

INSEAD, which calls itself “the business school for the world,” also ranked well for its languages (second), international course experience (sixth) and for the international mobility of its graduates (third).

Across all schools, MBA graduates from the Class of 2013 earned an average salary of $129,053 three years after graduation, down from last year’s $135,000. But despite this dip, the overall pay increase associated with completing the degree saw a significant bump. Graduates surveyed as part of this year’s rankings reported earning an average of 102 percent more three years out than at the start of their programs, compared to 98 percent last year and 92 percent the year before. Five 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.

Even as schools outside the United States established a stronger foothold among the top 10, U.S. schools again make up more than half of all schools in the list, 51, after dropping below 50 for the first time last year, to 47. Of the eight schools this year that are either new to the list or returning after an absence, U.S. schools account for six.

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 2017 Global MBA Rankings.