INSEAD, Asia And The One-Year MBA – 3 Big Winners in the FT MBA Ranking 2016

January 26, 2016 | by Matt Symonds

The news that INSEAD has claimed the #1 spot in the FT Global MBA rankings will send shock waves from Boston to the Bay Area. This is the first time that the school has topped the FT ranking which Harvard, LBS, Wharton and Stanford have dominated since Della Bradshaw and her team first published in 1999.

Controversy is nothing new when it comes to business school rankings, and for the FT and other media it makes for good copy and that’s what sells. But the 2016 result is likely to generate more agitation than others, challenging as it does the dominance of ‘HSW’ dominance of the two-year program.

The strong performance of the one-year program is one of the most interesting aspects of this FT ranking. INSEAD leads the way of course, and my co-director at Fortuna Admissions, Caroline Diarte Edwards has written an excellent piece looking at the factors that have contributed to their current success.

But one-year programs are now firmly entrenched among the top schools, with Cambridge Judge, IMD and HEC Paris all climbing in the 2016 ranking to join INSEAD and IE Business School among the world’s top 15 full-time MBA programs.

More striking is the fact that the shorter MBA course length is now in the majority among the top 50 in the FT ranking, accounting for 26 places. Of those, close to 70% improved or maintained their position compared to 2015. Compare this to the seven MBA programs that suffered the biggest drop, six of which are two-year programs in the US.

Is the 2016 FT ranking flawed? Probably. Limited? Certainly. But with 47 schools among the 100 ranked by the FT, US business schools are certainly not overlooked. Business School Editor Della Bradshaw has not been shy in observing that the only full-time MBA format to launch in the past decade has been the shorter one-year format. With this, Della’s final ranking after 27 remarkable years at the FT, she signs off with a set of results that seem to vindicate where she sees the market heading.

Della has also maintained that the idea behind the FT rankings is to produce a listing of business schools around the world that are producing global managers for the 21st century. With 20% of the FT ranking measuring the international credentials of a school – faculty, students, board, mobility, course experience and languages – this is where business schools such as INSEAD outperform their US counterparts. In a global economy that is 24/7, activities in Shanghai, Berlin and New Delhi are now on a par with those of San Francisco, Boston and New York.

Which brings us to the other big winner this year – Asia. There are now fourteen business schools from Singapore, China, India and South Korea in FT Global MBA rankings. In the inaugural 1999 ranking there were none, and INSEAD was yet to open its Singapore campus. With the exception of CEIBS and Sungkyunkwan, these schools had a great year, with Nanyang, Shanghai Jiao Tong and IIM Bangalore all making double-digit gains, while Renmin University was the highest new entry at #43.

The economic volatility of recent months in China is yet to impact the salaries and career potential of MBA students, if indeed it has any impact at all. For the 2016 results, seven of the ten schools whose students saw the biggest salary increase in the three years after graduation, in a range from 120 to 170%, are in Asia.

20% of the FT rankings calculation is based on salary increase, with a further 20% on weighted salary. Though INSEAD ($166,510) cannot quite compete with the weighted salaries at Stanford ($185,939), Wharton ($177,877), HBS ($172,501), Columbia ($169,395) and UC Berkeley Haas ($169,395), only Columbia MBA students saw a higher salary increase of 99% compared to INSEAD’s 96%.

The Asia effect can again be felt at INSEAD, and it’s presence in Singapore. It is not by chance that the new Global Director of Career Development, Guido Gianasso is based at the school’s Asian campus. As my co-director Caroline explains, ‘The FT 2016 ranking shows that the 1-year MBA can deliver the sort of earnings power and salary increase to compete with the very best 2-year programs.’ Factor in the value for money that 1-year programs can offer with a lower opportunity cost of time out of the work force and you’ve got a compelling offering for any young professional.

But this is an MBA ranking, and if they teach us anything it is that it could all change again next year. Just ask Stanford GSB which ranked #1 in 2012, and is now #5. So INSEAD should enjoy the moment – Carpe Annum.

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