Most working professionals are aware of the advantages of doing an MBA to boost their skills and career opportunities. But deciding to take the time to do an MBA is the easy part. Choosing the right school is, often, a much tougher decision.

MBA rankings, published by media outlets such as Bloomberg Businessweek, The Financial Times, Forbes magazine and Poets&Quants, are one source of information for those seeking independent business school information prior to making their career’s biggest investment.

So why are there so many different rankings, and how are they different from each other? The answer lies in their varying methodologies and the criteria they pick. Some list US MBAs separately from those in the rest of the world and some distinguish between two-year and one-year programmes. Some, like Forbes, are a biennial ranking, while others publish annually. The number of criteria they use also varies greatly – from more than 20 to as few as one.

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s Best International Full Time MBA Programmes

Bloomberg Businessweek’s ranking is based on surveys of recruiters (35% weight), alumni (30%) and students (15%), as well as recent graduates’ success at landing jobs (10%) and securing high starting wages (10%).

In Bloomberg Businessweek’s annual rankings of The World’s Best International Full Time MBA Programmes, INSEAD was named #1 in 2017. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “INSEAD, which has campuses in France, Asia, and the Middle East, snagged the No. 1 spot, thanks to its top ranking in surveys of employers and alumni, as well as a boost in its recent students’ ability to obtain jobs shortly after graduation.”

INSEAD’s MBA not only topped the tables on Bloomberg Businessweek’s Overall Rank, but also ranked number one on their Employer Survey, as well as their Alumni Survey, and it was in the top three on their Student Survey.

The Financial Times Global MBA Ranking

The FT’s ranking uses 20 different criteria related to ‘alumni career progress’, ‘diversity’ and ‘idea generation’.

In 2018, INSEAD was named No. 2 in the FT MBA Ranking. Its number of ‘Female students’, at an all-time high of 36% (up six places), and its ‘Career progress rank’ (up 11 places) were significant gains this time. INSEAD ranked in the top 10 on ‘Value for money’,  ‘FT research’, ‘Alumni recommend’ (selection by alumni of the schools they would recruit MBAs from), ‘International Mobility’ (whether MBAs worked in different countries before, and after, their graduation), and ‘International Course Experience’ (whether the course included exchanges, research, tours, internships in other countries).

INSEAD also improved its rank on ‘Salary percentage increase’, ‘Aims achieved’, ‘International course experience’, and ‘International students’.

Forbes’ The Best Return on Investment (ROI) MBA Programmes

The Forbes magazine ranking of business schools is biennial and is based solely on the return on investment achieved by MBA graduates in their first five years out of business school. That means the 2017 rankings surveyed the class of 2012 of all participating schools (17,500 of them!).

INSEAD was ranked number two ROI in the world, with a ‘5-year MBA Gain’ of $150,400, second only to IMD, Lausanne.

According to an article on the Forbes website, “INSEAD is more than 10 times the size of IMD and the biggest top MBA programme in the world with 1,055 in the class of 2017. The school sent more graduates to McKinsey (125 graduates), Boston Consulting Group (67), Bain (48) and Amazon.com (35) than anyone else. Companies flock to INSEAD to fill positions with more than 300 companies recruiting from the school. ”

The article also notes that INSEAD’s MBA graduates of 2012 earned back their investment in the course (foregone salary, tuition) in a brisk 2.7 years.

Poets & Quants International MBA Ranking

For those who might wonder if they should value one ranking over another, Poets&Quants offers a good alternative that sums it all up. A leading website and resource for coverage of graduate business education, Poets&Quants compiles a list that’s a composite of four major MBA rankings – The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek and Forbes.

In 2017, for the third consecutive year, INSEAD’s 10-month MBA programme was ranked number one in Poets&Quants’ composite ranking of the best full-time international MBA programmes.

These results are very much a reflection of our values - diversity, academic excellence, our entrepreneurial culture and extensive global alumni network. INSEAD faculty’s prolific and impressive research, along with the placement of INSEAD’s PhD students in top-tier institutions, also contributes significantly to the results.

However, while rankings are an important source of information and reflect the quality and reputation of a programme, it is also vital that every MBA candidate chooses a school that fits their personal aims and needs. Read this piece to reflect on some important questions to ask yourself, before you start your application journey to the business school of your choice.

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