High MBA tuition fees, and pressure to stay in work, mean MBA candidates are more discerning about the flagship management qualification.
“People are putting a lot of financial resources into an MBA,” says Conrad Chua, head of MBA admissions and careers at the UK’s Cambridge Judge Business School. “The opportunity cost of leaving employment is something students must also consider.”
Calculating return on investment is vital. Each year, the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking lists the world’s 100 best business schools.
The FT also tots up schools’ 'value for money' rank. That is compiled by using the salary of alumni today, course length, fees and other costs, including the opportunity cost of not working for the duration of the MBA.
Best value MBA programs
The University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business sits atop the FT's 2021 ranking for value for money, despite being ranked 40th overall.
The school charges a resident tuition fee for its two-year MBA of $26,473, while non-residents pay $61,260; a relatively low amount considering the average cost of a top MBA program.
The ranking's metric for 'salary today' is the average salary for students three years after graduating. Warrington MBAs earn an average salary today of $128,375, a wage more than double the cost of the program’s entire tuition fee for non-residents of the state.
Behind Warrington in second place is Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business. As an affiliate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Marriott offers members of the church a reduced tuition rate costing $27,720, while non-members study for $55,440. Marriott grads earn on average $133,491 after graduating.
Top MBAs For Value For Money
Though the US takes first and second place in the value for money ranking, European and UK schools performed strongly. 10 of the top 15 schools best value MBAs are in Europe or the UK (11 including the France campus at INSEAD), and three of the schools are located in the US.
Only two schools based outside of Europe and the US. The University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and the Singapore campus at INSEAD offer the fifth and seventh best value for money courses.
MBA ROI: European MBAs lead the way
It’s the European and UK schools that offer the highest MBA salaries post-graduation for the least upfront investment—the shorter, one-year program lengths mean students are out of work for less time and it therefore takes them less time to pay off their tuition fees.
INSEAD MBA graduates have the highest salaries of all the schools in the list, at $188,432. The INSEAD MBA is ranked the number one program in the world in the 2021 rankings, up three places from last year after the three highest rated schools—Stanford, Harvard and Wharton—pulled out of the FT rankings.
HEC Paris MBAs have the second highest salaries, earning $168,436 on average, reflecting their record seventh placed finish in the overall rankings in 2021.
The University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School sees its grads take home on average $167,610, and IMD Business School MBA graduates earn an average of $160,768
With INSEAD and HEC Paris the only top 10 FT-ranked schools to appear in the FT’s value for money rankings, it is clear the highest ranked schools are not always the ones that offer the best value for money for MBAs.