Harvard is still #1, but how did other b-schools fare in Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking for 2015?

January 29, 2015 | by Matt Symonds

The new 2015 Financial Times Global MBA Ranking is out and for the third year in a row, the #1 spot goes to Harvard Business School. The school not only has the highest weighted MBA salary of $179,910 as well as strong figures for career progress and research, but also the strongest reputation among MBA graduates from other schools, coming top in the Alumni recommended rank. Harvard Business School has even scored well on the % of female students in the MBA program, which this year welcomed 41.5% women. In fact it is only on the Value for money rank that Harvard struggles, coming 66th out of the top 100 schools. Money we are often reminded cannot buy you everything.

But the rest of the 2015 FT results make fairly gloomy reading for US business schools. Though Wharton continues its ascension, gaining one place to #3, and UC Berkeley Haas makes the top 10 for the first time since the rankings began in 1999.

The only other bright spots are those US schools in the bottom half of the table, several of whom entered the ranking this year. The University of Iowa Tippie leads the pack, jumping in at #63, with the University of San Diego just behind at #66. SMU Cox also did well, climbing 22 places to #76, while Babson College rises 22 places to #73, with Notre Dame Mendoza entering at #89, and USC Moore securing a place at the top table at #96.

While Stanford GSB may not lose too much sleep about slipping from #2 to #4, the Yale School of Management will be disappointed to have fallen so far beyond the top 10. The Midas touch of dean Ted Snyder that has worked so well for the school in both the FT and BusinessWeek rankings of recent years looks a little tarnished at #17. And the other BusinessWeek success story, Duke Fuqua has also gone in to reverse, falling 4 places to #21.

But perhaps the clearest sign that 2015 was not a great year for US schools is best illustrated by Dartmouth Tuck, which made the top 20 every year since the FT began ranking business schools. In 2015 they fell to #23. Not quite the send off that dean Paul Danos would have wished for after 18 remarkably successful years at the helm.

The trend continues at Darden, another school that recently said goodbye to a long standing and hugely popular dean, Bob Bruner. They fell 5 places to #32. And with Emory slumping 19 places to #59, Urbana falling 27 places to #71, Minnesota Carlson tumbling 29 places to #83, Rochester down 30 places to #85, and Penn State sliding 24 places to #86, well you get the picture (and I’m running out of verbs).

So where are the other winners in 2015? Europe is the first place to look, starting with the London Business School that is tucked in behind Harvard at #2. INSEAD also moves up one place to share #4 with Stanford, and is the highest ranked one-year MBA program in the list.

Cambridge Judge wins this years b-school boat race, climbing to #13 while Oxford Saïd rows in stiller waters at #22. And HEC Paris edges closer to the European trinity with a jump of 5 places to #16.

Did I say trinity? That would require three schools to dominate the European business school landscape. The old maxim was that LBS, INSEAD and IMD filled those roles, but IMD continues the free fall it began in BusinessWeek and The Economist, and it’s position is under serious threat from IESE, IE, Cambridge and HEC Paris. In fact the initial Swiss rankings nose bleed is starting to look like a hemorrhage that the Geneva-based Red Cross would struggle to stem.

There are more European smiles further down the ranking that seem to make a mockery of the economic woes on the continent. Spain’s Esade makes the top 20 at #19, Italy’s SDA Bocconi has risen to #26 and the Lisbon MBA achieves the highest ever major media ranking for a Portugese school at #36. Even Ireland’s UC Dublin joins in the fun climbing 18 places to #73.

Elsewhere Germany keeps up the momentum in the world of business education with Mannheim up 11 places to #55 and ESMT Berlin up 26 to #63. Not to be left out, German-speaking St Gallen in Switzerland rises 21 places to #67.

And as the UK economy strengthens, so to its business schools. Imperial College and Manchester Business School made impressive gains to #34 and #35 respectively, while Lancaster shot up 27 places to make the top 50, and Durham Business School gained 18 to #79. Only Warwick reversed the trend, seeing gains of recent years erode as they fell back 13 places to #38.

The UK schools also stand out for their % of female students, filling 3 of the top 4 places by this measure.

The Asian business schools also performed well, notably those from China. With the exception of Peking University Guanghua that saw the biggest fall of any business school this year – they fell from #59 to a place beyond the 100 schools in the ranking – all the Chinese schools made progress, notably CEIBS which leapfrogged rival HKUST to make the #11 spot. And CUHK made an impressive return to the ranking after their absence in 2014, coming straight in at #30. They remind me of those people who are very popular at parties but you never know if they are going to show up.

And though Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Fudan School of Management are yet to become global brands in business education, their strong shared ranking at #55 based on the highest % salary increase of any b-schools in 2015 suggests we’ll be hearing a lot more from these schools.

Among the other BRICS, South Africa continues to be well represented by the University of Cape Town, which rose 7 places to #52. India had a decent year with IIM Ahmedabad up 4 places to #30, and the Indian School of Business close behind at #33.

But Indian schools still struggle to attract international faculty, and they also among the worst performers among the top 100 schools when it comes to research. On this criteria they would do well to look to the leading finance schools in the US, such as Wharton at #1, NYU Stern at #3 and Chicago Booth #4.

Among the Canadian schools it was a good year for the newbies – Queen’s ranked for the first time at #86, sharing the position with other new entrant University of Alberta. But elsewhere the ice is melting, with Rotman down 2 to #53, UBC Sauder down 9 to #81, W.Ontario Ivey down 8 to #97, and McGill down 16 to #100.

Australian schools also had a tough year, with AGSM falling 13 places to #75, and Melbourne off by 22 places to #90. It seems that this wasn’t the year for countries that had enjoyed the oil and mining boom.

Finally there are those schools that disappeared from the ranking altogether this year, so spare a thought for their staff as they face up to questions from disgruntled alumni and students. Though the Hult Business School and York Schulich were at #61 and #66 last year, they are below the top 100 in 2015. As too are Texas A&M (previously #75), Coppead (were #79), Tulane (#92), Brigham Young (#93), Wake Foest (#94), EMLyon (#95) and UC Davis (#98). Given the volatility in the lower half of the ranking – 18 schools moved by more than 15 places this year – some of them will be back again in 2016.

But for the next 12 months we’re stuck with these FT results. Just take them with a pinch of salt – after all, they are only a ranking.

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