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Harvard Ranked World’s Best Business School By The Financial Times

Harvard ranks best in the world in the Financial Times 2020 Global MBA ranking. We round up the winners and losers

Mon Jan 27 2020

Harvard Business School has regained its title as the world’s leading MBA course provider in the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2020.

Harvard took the top spot for the sixth time in the FT ranking’s 21-year history. It is perhaps the best known brand in business education, having created the first MBA class in 1908 and pioneering the case study method of teaching that has gained stardom across the globe. 

Harvard’s success in 2020 can be attributed in part to a higher average weighted salary, $210,110 compared with $205,486 last year. For the 13th year, alumni from ranked schools also named Harvard the top choice for recruiting students, and the school’s diversity also improved.

Below Harvard on the list are the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which rose from fourth place last year and came top for research; Stanford, which boasts the highest alumni salary; INSEAD of France and Singapore, and CEIBS in Shanghai.

Harvard regains top spot after being unseated from the pedestal in 2015 by INSEAD, which was superseded by Stanford in 2018.

All bar one of the top 10 institutions on this year’s list (HEC Paris in...

are the same as in the 2019 FT MBA ranking.


The biggest factor in the FT ranking methodology is the average alumnus salary three years after graduation. The ranking also takes into account other measures of career progress, course value for money, the diversity of students and faculty, schools’ commitment to sustainability, and their research output.

Unlike in other rankings, like those produced by US News, the FT does not take into account some common measures of student quality, for instance through including the average GMAT or GRE admissions exam scores achieved by each class.

Rankings geeks also often claim that the FT ranking disadvantages US schools because it converts current alumni salaries to US dollars using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates, which can inflate the salaries of graduates in emerging markets.

However, the FT’s MBA ranking shows that brand recognition, which American schools have in spades, still counts.


Winners & Losers

Team America!

Some 15 of the top 25 MBA programs ranked by the FT are in the US, the same tally as last year.

The biggest riser this year was George Washington University of the US, which shot up 20 places to finish 70th, with big gains made on career progress. The Cox School of Business, and Texas at Dallas, both also in the US, rose many places as well. 

Such gains will be welcome news to US business schools, where application declines are being blamed on tight visa restrictions and anti-immigration rhetoric, which is deterring overseas students. 

There is declining demand among domestic students too, due to several years of inflation-busting tuition fee increases and a strong jobs market that deters people from quitting their jobs to get a full-time MBA on campus. 

But those at the top of the FT ranking table seem likely to continue drawing in plenty of applications, thanks to their global brand value. 

Global MBAs

The FT ranking also highlights how the MBA has globalized, with four of the top 10 institutions being outside America, the birthplace of the degree. There are seven Chinese schools in the top 50 of the list, led by CEIBS, compared with four just five years ago.

HEC Paris of France was the highest riser in this year’s list, jumping from 19th to ninth place mainly because of its value for money ranking and internationally diverse class. 

This showcases how European institutions continue to strengthen, with applications rising on the continent even as the American market declines. This can be largely attributed to their shorter course durations, lower relative cost of qualifications and highly international student bodies. 

It was not an entirely rosy year for European institutions, however, with IE Business School of Madrid plunging 21 places to finish 52nd, from 31st a year earlier. The Spanish institution was removed from the FT ranking in 2018 after the FT said it found ‘irregularities’ in alumni surveys. It’s fall this year was largely due to alumni salaries falling by nearly 20%. 

The biggest loser was Australia’s Macquarie Graduate School of Management, which fell 23 places to rank 97th. This fall highlights a bad year all round for Australian institutions, with Melbourne Business School and the Australian Graduate School of Management both falling nearly 20 places each. 

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