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Financial Times 2019 MBA Rankings: 5 Key Takeaways

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The Financial Times released their 2019 Global MBA rankings this week and all seems right at the top.  Stanford GSB once again claimed first place, followed by Harvard Business School in second (up from fifth last year).  INSEAD maintained its position as the leading international school, landing in third overall.  Wharton and CEIBS rounded out the top five.

Clear Admit’s resident admissions expert and author of “Becoming a Clear Admit: The Definitive Guide to MBA Admissions,” Alex Brown, commented:

“The top three U.S. schools are in the right order—Stanford and HBS lead things off, with Wharton just behind. This is reflective of how we see applicant preferences play out in the marketplace.  It’s also worth noting that the FT is the only major ranking that lists these three programs as the tops in the U.S., with HBS and Stanford ahead of Wharton.”

Here are more key takeaways from the latest FT Global MBA rankings:

1. Harvard Back Where It Belongs
HBS pushed its way back towards to the top of the pack (rising from #5 last year to #2 this year), and this allows Stanford and HBS to sit atop the overall ranking, which is consistent with what we have seen over the years at Clear Admit in terms of candidate preferences on MBA DecisionWire.  HBS’s move arguably comes at the expense of INSEAD, Wharton and LBS, which slipped slightly as HBS jumped ahead of them.

2. CEIBS Sets a Record, Oxford Saïd and UVA / Darden Jump
Another big mover in the top was CEIBS, landing at #5 after ranking #8 last year and pushing LBS back to #6.  CEIBS set a record in the rankings—they became the highest ranked Chinese school to date.  Other noteworthy moves are the steep rise of Oxford Saïd Business School  and UVA / Darden.  Oxford Saïd jumped a whopping 14 places to #13—even amidst the unpredictable repercussions of Brexit on the UK.  UVA / Darden moved up seven spots and also earned the maiden accolade of being the top school for corporate social responsibility.

3. Take Your Time
Once again, nine of the top-10 programs are on the two-year, traditional MBA format, which suggests that there continue to be advantages to the longer format.

4. Holding Steady
Northwestern / Kellogg (#14) and Dartmouth / Tuck (#15) remain outside of the top-10, while peers like Berkeley / Haas and Yale SOM remain ahead of them (#10 and #11, respectively).  This suggests that Haas and Yale are holding onto their hard fought gains in recent years, and perhaps benefiting from the continued strength of the NYC metro and Silicon Valley in terms of geographic job centers.

5. Grain of Salt
Of course, it’s important to remember that moves up or down by only a few slots may not hold all that much significance here, and to keep in mind that Clear Admit espouses more of a tiered approach to rankings since our research and data suggests that schools don’t neatly fit into a purely ordinal ranking.

Understanding the FT Ranking Methodology
The FT ranking is based on surveys of alumni three years out from graduation, school data, and research rank. Alumni responses inform eight criteria—including average income three years after graduation and salary increase compared with pre-MBA salary. Together, these eight criteria account for 59 percent of the overall ranking. School data inform another 11 criteria—including various measures of diversity such as percentages of female and international faculty, students, and board members. Together these criteria make up another 31 percent of the ranking. The remaining 10 percent of the ranking is based on research rank, calculated according to the number of articles by full-time faculty in 50 internationally recognized journals, weighted relative to faculty size.

Looking Ahead
FT’s new Work & Careers editor, Isabel Berwick, also shared reflections on their longstanding methodology.  The rankings have historically relied heavily on salaries, but Berwick brought up the values of careers that may not be represented accordingly—notably, non-profit endeavors and entrepreneurial ventures.  She laid out related plans:

“Starting this month, the rankings team at the FT will begin a complete review of our methodology, with the aim of ensuring that our measurements of value and worth in business education are aligned with the needs of schools, students and wider society. We will think about new types of rankings that we could start to produce.”

We look forward to the 2020 Global MBA Rankings and how they will shake out!

View the complete Financial Times 2019 Global MBA Rankings.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.