Spain’s IE Business School and Warwick Business School of the UK retained their first and second spots in the ranking respectively.
The US has conquered most MBA rankings but when it comes to online learning, the traditional dominants of the MBA – Harvard, Wharton and Stanford – are behind the curve.
IE reclaimed its crown thanks in part to alumni success. Graduates of its online program earn the highest average salaries at almost $153,000, a 43% rise on pre-MBA pay.
Europe was given a boost by fast-rising UK school Bradford University School of Management, which was this year’s highest climber and came eighth place overall.
Bradford shares the biggest wage increase – 43%, up from 30% last year – with IE, and came top for career progression, while also scoring highly for alumni achieving their aims.
The US’ Whitman School tops the career service ranking – an alumni rating of the efficiency of career services departments in finding them a job – and rose one place to sit joint eighth.
The FT ranking has two criteria specific to online degrees – alumni rate how well their degree was delivered online, and the level of interaction with peers and academic staff.
Washington’s Hough Graduate School of Business came top in both of these, rising one place to third overall, becoming the highest-ranked US business school in 2015.
The two newcomers are Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg school and Florida International University’s Chapman school, ranked at 11 and 14 in the table respectively.
The rise of business schools’ online MBA programs highlights the power that digital technology now has in the global business education market.
The number of business schools offering online MBAs has surged by about 25% over five years and many schools are offering blended content – a mixture of both classroom study and online teaching.
Many students are reluctant to absorb the lost earnings and time away from work associated with traditional MBA degrees, which vary in length from one to two years.
Now in its second year, the FT ranking is based on surveys of business schools and alumni who graduated in 2011. At least 70% of the programs’ content must be delivered online, and schools must be internationally accredited to be included.
The ranking data show that online programs are a credible route for career advancement.
Nearly 75% of the alumni surveyed were professionals, and 12% held senior management or executive posts, when they enrolled. But three years after graduation, nearly 30% hold executive or senior manager positions and this is the most common level of job seniority.
Approximately 27% hold “professional” level jobs, 16% have director or vice-president status, and 15% are heads of their departments, according to the data.
An overwhelming 82% of graduates surveyed said they are glad that they opted for online learning.
The most popular industries that online MBAs enter are finance and banking at 13%; the industrial, and IT and telecoms sectors, at 12% each; and healthcare and consulting at 11% each.
It has also proved popular among entrepreneurs, who may find it easier to study a more flexible program than a traditional, full-time MBA. About 20% of graduates launched companies.
There is a gender gap on graduate pay. Men earn average salaries of $130,000, which is $22,000 more than women. But the increase in female’s salaries in the three years since graduation is 37%, compared with the 30% that males achieved.
The main reason these students began MBAs was to develop management skills, followed by increasing their earnings and securing a promotion. Nearly 90% achieved these aims.
Along with Warwick and Bradford, the UK’s Durham University Business School is included in the ranking at six.
Centrum Católica, a business school in Peru, moved two places to rank 13th overall this year.
To see the full ranking, visit: http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/online-mba-ranking-2015