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Financial Times Global MBA Rankings Breakdown

Posted January 20, 2016 by Lee Davidson - Senior Associate, Copywriter/Editor - AACSB International

Soon the Financial Times (FT) will release its 2016 Global MBA rankings. Accounting for full-time MBA programs worldwide, this list is a hierarchical collection of the “top” 100 MBA programs based on specific criteria defined by the FT. The ranking is an interactive table that includes comparison data such as country, salary, employment, prior rankings, and more, and is sortable according to a user’s preferences.


The ranking is based on factors that the FT deems most important for programs to achieve a “top”-ranked position. While useful as a comparison tool of programs that often appear in top-ranked lists, this business program ranking, as well as others, has limitations. For example, the same programs tend to be on the list each year; for the 2015 FT survey, 159 business schools participated, which means the majority were inevitably ranked in the top 100. AACSB alone accredits 746 business schools globally—more than 560 of which have MBA programs, which further means that less than 25 percent of these quality business schools participated in the rankings exercise last year. Does that mean the other hundreds of accredited schools are not of equal quality to the ranked schools? Not at all. Rather, it means that many business schools do not see value in competing for ranked positions and instead put resources into continuous improvement, quality programming, and innovative learning—things not explicitly accounted for in rankings.


For the Financial Times’ 2015 ranking, programs were eligible for being ranked if they were internationally accredited; however, the FT did not specify which accreditation bodies were acceptable for meeting eligibility. Further, programs must have been active for at least four successive years and must graduate a minimum of 30 students each year. Moreover, at least 20 percent of a program’s full-time MBA graduates from 2011 needed to respond to an FT survey for that program to be eligible.


Also looking at last year’s data, the FT collected responses to two online surveys: one for programs, of which 159 participated, and one for full-time MBA program alumni of the year 2011, of which 40 percent of those invited participated. The alumni survey factors heavily into the final rankings, comprising 59 percent of a school’s ranking weight, or percentage of overall ranking. The remaining weight distributions come from data provided by the school. A more in-depth breakdown of this information is on the Methodology page for the rankings.


Twenty different factors contribute to a program’s ranking, each carrying a different percentage of weight. For example, a graduate’s salary, gathered from the alumni survey, comprises 20 percent of the program ranking, while an alum’s stated “aims achieved” accounts for just 2 percent. Other weightier factors include alumni salary increase over three years (20 percent), faculty research rank (10 percent), and international mobility of program alumni (6 percent). Some of the lower-percentage criteria are placement success (2 percent), percentage of female faculty and students (2 percent each), and languages required for the degree (1 percent). The full listing of criteria with associated percentages is available in the Key to the 2016 FT Global MBA rankings.

Further Considerations

Individuals searching for business programs should consider a vast variety of factors when selecting an MBA—chief among them their own specific needs and desires. Things to look for include accreditation status, availability of courses, match of program curriculum to intended goals, financial feasibility, faculty composition, employment prospects, and many more, not all of which are represented in this and many other business school rankings.

AACSB International is providing this information in order to help prospective students understand the nuances among different rankings and how they are calculated. AACSB does not support or endorse any specific ranking methodology and encourages students to consider AACSB Accreditation as part of their search criteria when evaluating business school programs for fit, quality of education, and career success.