World's Best Online MBA Programs | Financial Times Ranking

Find out which business schools offer the world’s best online MBA programs as we break down the FT Online MBA Ranking 2021

Warwick Business School offers the world’s best Online MBA program—that’s according to the Financial Times Online MBA Ranking 2021. Warwick’s Online MBA tops the FT ranking for the fourth consecutive year.

IE Business School, in second, and Imperial College Business School, a new entry to the FT online MBA ranking, make up the top three.

The FT’s list of best online MBA programs in 2021 is otherwise dominated by US business schools, with the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flalger Business School in fourth and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in fifth. Eight out of the FT’s 15 top online MBA programs are offered by US schools.

Applications to online MBA programs have boomed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic with more candidates looking for flexible, affordable online MBA programs that allow you to complete your studies alongside your work.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), applications to online MBAs increased by 43.5% in 2020, compared with 11.6% for in-person programs.

See the full FT ranking table

Warwick tops the FT ranking AGAIN

The FT online MBA ranking is based on a range of criteria with particular weight given to the total compensation and salary increases received by online MBA students after graduation.

Schools ranked by the FT must be accredited by AACSB or EQUIS. Online MBA programs must have run for four consecutive years and at least 70% of the program must be delivered online.

Warwick’s continued success can be attributed to the impressive salaries its online MBA graduates command three years after completing the program, at $207.7k on average. Graduates from Imperial’s Online MBA, who earn the second-highest average salaries, can expect to around $185k.

Warwick also tops the FT’s career progress rank, which measures progression in the level of seniority and company alumni work for in the three years following graduation.

Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA also ranks second globally for value for money—the program costs £34,150 ($47k)—eclipsed only by the University of Bradford School of Management, which costs just £18,296 ($25k).

Winners & Losers

There are no real losers in the FT online MBA ranking. Schools ranked in 2020 have either maintained their positions in 2021 or moved up the list.

Some schools were unable to participate this year because of the disruption caused by coronavirus, although a more significant impact was felt in the FT’s full-time MBA ranking

The highest-profile casualty on the FT online MBA ranking, the University of Massachusetts Amherst: Isenberg, ranked third for the four previous years, but does not feature in the 2021 list.

Online MBA students on the International Flex MBA, offered by Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano School of Management, can expect the biggest salary uplift after graduation, at 45%, although this metric can be impacted by the seniority of students entering the program.

Indiana Kelley’s Online MBA offers the best careers services and tops the FT’s research rank. Kelley is also ranked the best distance learning MBA for its online teaching, while the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business ranks first for the level of online interaction between students.

IE Business School in Spain boasts the most international students, 92% of the online MBA cohort, and the most female students, at 46%. Only 17% of the online MBA class at Italy’s MIP are women. IE also ranks best for corporate social responsibility and boasts the highest proportion of female faculty (44%).

Interestingly, IE’s Online MBA records the lowest student satisfaction score out of any of the 15 top-ranked schools (still reasonably high at 8.5/10), although this metric is not used in the ranking. Students are most satisfied at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.

Imperial, a significant new entrant to the list of the world’s best online MBA programs in 2021, ranks highest for international mobility, with many Imperial online MBA students working in different countries after graduation. Imperial also boasts the most international faculty, with 97% of faculty from outside the UK.

Is an Online MBA worth it?

Online MBA programs come in many different shapes and sizes. Online MBA programs ranked by the FT can take students between 1.5 and 3.5 years to complete.

Online learning is no longer viewed as secondary to traditional campus-based classes and so the cost of some online MBAs is increasingly comparable to some full-time MBAs.

Kenan-Flagler offers the most expensive program in the FT online MBA ranking, at over $125,000. The school’s full-time MBA costs around $134,000 for two years of tuition.

There are more affordable options too. After Bradford School of Management, some of the cheapest online MBA programs in the FT’s list are offered by Durham University Business School in the UK (around $33,000) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ($31,200).

If you’re asking yourself the question ‘Is an online MBA worth it?’, you’ll need to consider your own individual career goals. Online MBA students tend to be at different stages of their careers compared with full-time MBA students.

As we get more and more used to working and studying from home, online MBA programs are becoming increasingly popular, providing comparable study experiences and career benefits in a more flexible format.

FT best online MBA programs: 20202019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016

Next read: Ivy League Online MBA Programs | Explained

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