The top three were made up of IE Business School in second and Imperial College Business School in third. It was the first time Imperial had been featured in the ranking.
The FT’s list of best Online MBA programs in 2021 was 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 in 2021 were offered by US schools.
In the year following the Covid pandemic applications to Online MBA programs boomed, 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.
No stopping Warwick Business School
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 took top spot for the fourth year in a row, and the school's continued success can be attributed to the impressive salaries its Online MBA graduates command three years after completing the program, which sit at $207.7k on average. In the 2021 ranking, graduates from Imperial’s Online MBA, who earn the second-highest average salaries, earned on average $185k three years out of the program.
Warwick also topped 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 ranked second globally for value for money—the program cost £34,150 ($47k) in 2021—eclipsed only by the University of Bradford School of Management, which cost just £18,296 ($25k).
Winners & Losers
There were no real losers in the FT Online MBA ranking in 2021. Schools ranked in 2020 either maintained their positions in 2021 or moved up the list.
Some schools were unable to participate in 2021 because of the disruption caused by Covid, although a more significant impact was seen 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 didn't feature in the 2021 list.
Online MBA students on the International Flex MBA, offered by Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano School of Management, saw 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 offered the best careers services and topped the FT’s research rank. Kelley was also ranked the best distance learning MBA for its online teaching, while the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business ranked first for the level of online interaction between students.
IE Business School in Spain boasted 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 were women. IE also ranked best for corporate social responsibility and boasted the highest proportion of female faculty (44%).
Interestingly, IE’s Online MBA recorded the lowest student satisfaction score out of any of the 15 top-ranked schools in 2021 (still reasonably high at 8.5/10), although this metric is not used in the ranking. Students were 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, ranked highest for international mobility, with many Imperial Online MBA students working in different countries after graduation. Imperial also boasted the most international faculty, with 97% of faculty from outside the UK.