The Financial Times (FT) Online MBA Ranking lists the top 20 programmes around the globe, with schools in Australia, Europe, North America, and South America making the list.

Once again Financial Times (FT) has released its ranking of the top online MBA programmes, and once again IE Business School (Spain) has topped the list, followed by Warwick Business School (UK) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (US).

To be eligible for consideration in the FT ranking, schools must be internationally accredited, the programmes must be at least four years old, and at least 70 per cent of the content must be delivered online. There were 13 programmes from US schools, five from Europe and one each from South America and Australia.

Top schools

IE Business School has topped the list all four years the ranking has existed with its English-based, 15- to 18-month Global MBA programme. Over 95 per cent of the student body at IE Business School is international, and they take advantage of the convenience of online teaching (via video conferences and interactive forums) in between short stints at the Madrid campus. According to surveys, IE Business School graduates earn the highest average salary of any of the ranked schools.

Check out: The Growing Allure of the Online MBA

Warwick Business School stayed in second position in 2017 with its Distance learning MBA programme. Designed to be as flexible as possible, the programme can be completed in 2 to 4 years, allowing students to decrease the course load at times or take a break altogether. Students spend two weeks at the Warwick campus and then complete their studies online, with an option of taking one module on campus at no additional cost.

Both the IE Business School and Warwick Business School kept their respective #1 and #2 spots, but the third place was a newcomer to the top five. The Isenberg School of Management’s Online MBA programme at the University of Massachusetts Amherst jumped from #9 to #3 in 2017. Rounding out the top five were the Australian Graduate School of Management’s MBAX programme at the University of New South Wales (Australia)  and the Hough Graduate School of Business Online MBA programme at the University of Florida (US).  

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Alumni feedback

A significant portion of the basis for the ranking came from surveys of 2013 graduates, who in large part were overwhelmingly pleased with the flexibility of online study and the ability to take courses on their own schedule. Alumni feedback was weighted at more than double any other factor.

Over half of IE Business School’s 2013 graduates reported current employment at department head or greater levels, indicating a high level of upward mobility. IE alumni also reported current salaries nearly 50% higher than at the time of their graduation and IE rated the highest when former students were asked if they achieved their goals.

Notable stats

  • Two of the schools (Warwick Business School and University of New South Wales) reported 100 per cent of their faculty having a PhD.
  • The University of Nebraska Lincoln’s (U.S.) Online MBA programme and the University of Bradford’s (UK) Distance Learning MBA were ranked #1 and #2, respectively, in terms of value for money.
  • More than half (11) of the schools offered their programs 100 per cent online.
  • Indiana University’s (U.S.) Kelley Online MBA programme was ranked #1 in FT’s research rank, which means that its faculty had the highest number of published articles in reputable journals.
  • George Washington University’s (U.S.) Online MBA programme had the highest percentage of female students at 49 per cent.

FT Online MBA Ranking methodology

For the fourth year in a row, FT compiled information on top business schools with MBA programmes that have 70 per cent or more of their content delivered online. FT’s ranking formula evaluates feedback from alumni (65 per cent), data reported from the schools themselves (25 per cent) and a research rank (10 per cent) based on the number of faculty articles published in 50 top professional journals.

The criteria used in the ranking included average incomes of programme graduates, rates of salary increase since graduation, student and staff diversity, and international reach, among others. One notable category ranks the schools in terms of “value of money,” which looks at the average salary of alumni (three years after graduation) as a ratio to the programme’s overall cost.

All programmes considered for the ranking must be internationally accredited by either the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS). Both accreditations are specifically related to management and business schools.

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