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The Financial Times 2021 MBA Ranking Reveals a Year in Disruption

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You can find the Financial Times 2022 MBA Ranking here.

The COVID-19 pandemic uniquely impacted The Financial Times 2021 Global MBA Ranking, released this week. Many of the top 10 U.S. schools opted out of the ranking this year to focus on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, more than half the rankings are U.S. programs. Data from MBA programs worldwide show that demand for MBAs and salary numbers remained strong through the end of 2020. In fact, many schools reported double-digit percentage increases in applications for the 2020–2021 academic year.

Top Ten Overall

Here are the Top 10 of The Financial Times 2021 Global MBA rankings (2020 positions are in parentheses):

Ranking School
1 INSEAD (4)
2 London Business School (7)
3 University of Chicago: Booth (10)
4 (tie) IESE (13)
4 (tie) Yale School of Management  (14)
6 Northwestern University: Kellogg (11)
7 (tie) CEIBS (5)
7 (tie) HEC Paris (9)
9 Duke University: Fuqua (16, tie)
10 Dartmouth College: Tuck (16, tie)

Many of the biggest moves into the top 10 are the result of other top schools opting out of the ranking this year. The top three schools last year, Harvard Business School, Wharton School of Business, and Stanford Graduate School of Business, are conspicuously absent. In their place INSEAD moved into the top spot, followed by London Business School and the highest-ranked U.S. program in 2021, Chicago Booth, in third. Booth also boasts the highest weighted salary in the top 10 at $200,287; a 121 percent increase over last year.

IESE broke into the top 10 in 4th from 13th place last year, as did Yale SOM, which moved up from 14th place to 4th in a tie, and Northwestern Kellogg which moved from 11th to 6th. CEIBS dropped from 5th to 7th place, and HEC Paris moved up two spots to tie for 7th place. Duke Fuqua and Dartmouth Tuck round out the top 10 in 9th and 10th place respectively. Last year both U.S. schools were tied for 16th place.

Overall, the weighted salaries of all ranked schools rose by 1 percent on average. Higher salaries in the U.S. reported by alumni likely account for the positive performance of U.S. programs in the rankings this year.

Top Ten U.S. MBA Programs

The Financial Times MBA ranking looks at business schools worldwide. In the U.S. market, the top 10 schools in 2021 look significantly different from previous years:

  • University of Chicago: Booth
  • Yale School of Management
  • Northwestern University: Kellogg
  • Duke University: Fuqua
  • Dartmouth College: Tuck
  • UVA Darden
  • New York University: Stern
  • Cornell Johnson
  • Georgetown University: McDonough
  • Michigan Ross

Top Ten European and Asian MBA Programs

Looking at just programs outside the U.S., the top 10 MBA programs in Europe and Asia are as follows:

  • London Business School
  • IESE
  • HEC Paris
  • SDA Bocconi School of Management
  • National University of Singapore Business School
  • University of Cambridge: Judge
  • University of Oxford: Saïd
  • IMD Business School

“It is indeed impressive to see how many schools managed to participate in this year’s Financial Times ranking, and it is a testament to that ranking’s market power and importance,” says Graham Richmond, co-founder of Clear Admit. “With that said, a ranking that does not include the likes of Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Columbia, Berkeley, and others, will always be open to criticism.”

Clear Admit’s Alex Brown agreed with this assessment, stating, “While I think this ranking does a good job of ranking the schools that participated, it’s tough to really qualify as a global ranking when so many leading programs chose not to participate. Not a fan of the boycotts, so well done to those who did contribute, despite the circumstances.”

Richmond further noted, “Of course, if we look beyond the notable omissions, we can see some interesting moves between this year and last.  INSEAD and LBS jumped right up into the top spots vacated by HBS, Wharton, Stanford, and MIT, but CEIBS was unable to similarly capitalize on the absence of some competitors opening the door to the likes of Booth, IESE, Yale, and Kellogg, who jumped ahead.  As always, it’s important to keep rankings in context, to understand their methodologies, and to recognize that rankings alone are insufficient when it comes to determining fit for a given candidate.”

The Financial Times Ranking Methodology

The Financial Times ranks the top 100 MBA programs in the world using 20 different criteria. Eight of these are alumni-based, requiring at least a 20 percent response rate and a minimum of 20 responses total for inclusion, making up 61 percent of the ranking. This year, due to pandemic disruption, schools with a lower response rate were considered. Eleven criteria are derived from school data including diversity of students and faculty for another 29 percent and the research rank criteria count for 10 percent. For more details on the ranking methodology:

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.