European business schools soar in 2021 rankings

SOURCE: Martin Bureau / AFP
FT rankings are calculated from data including alumni salaries three years after graduation, the quantity of research in recognised journals and the diversity of students and faculty.

By U2B Staff 

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European business schools have built a strong reputation for themselves thanks to quality academics, a fact further backed this year by rankings. These schools have muscled their way to the top in this year’s Financial Times Global MBA charts, with INSEAD’s one-year MBA programme nabbing the #1 spot.

In close pursuit were MBA programmes by London Business School in the UK, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in the US, IESE Business School in Spain, and Yale School of Management in the US.

HEC Paris climbed two spots to land seventh place. This year, a total of 143 schools took part in the 2021 edition of the ranking, while roughly 6,570 from the class of 2017 completed the newspaper’s alumni surveys — a response rate of 44%.

Similarly, IESE Business School in Spain climbed nine spots in the Economist’s Full-time MBA Ranking list 2021 to reign supreme. HEC Paris Business School in France secured the second. Also among the top 10 are SDA Bocconi in Italy climbing seven spots to sixth, EDHEC Business school climbing 25 spots to seventh, and IMD in Switzerland climbing 25 spots to 10th.

The Financial Times (FT) celebrated every participant. “Most institutions supported the argument that continuity, transparency, and accountability in business education were more important than ever,” wrote Andrew Jack. “With competition intensifying, they recognised the need to help students, recruiters and academics alike to benchmark and differentiate between different MBA programmes.”

Many are wondering if some top schools seeing the pandemic as justification to not partake in rankings had anything to do with this year’s results, however, INSEAD’s rise to the top is in no way unusual. The school has come out on top several times before, each time with Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton’s full cooperation.

“INSEAD has often done well in the FT ranking as has London Business School, so their positions this year don’t look out of place,” says Caroline Diarte-Edwards, who formerly headed MBA admissions at INSEAD before co-founding Fortuna.

Dean of Insead, Ilian Mihov is pleased with the outcome. He told FT: “This ranking captures many of the key aspects of high-quality business schools…  We are particularly pleased to see how Insead has advanced significantly in the research ranking and in our gender diversity statistics.”

European business schools stayed ahead amidst uncertainty

What kept European business schools confident enough to participate? Quality teachings did not just maintain the prestige of these institutions, but the appeal as well. Despite massive shifts in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these business schools stayed widely recognised as top picks for learners within Europe and overseas.

In November 2020, the vast majority of European business schools (79%) reported increases in applications to their master’s programmes in 2020, and more than half reported a significant increase of over 20%. Nearly 80% of these applications were from international candidates, which were heavily weighted toward business master’s programmes.

A strong reputation for graduate success

Ranking aside, European business schools have a long, illustrious history of being held in high-regard by accreditation bodies, employers, and aspiring business leaders. The continent is known as a study abroad destination that broadens life experience, expands networks, and promotes diverse cultural perspectives — three components that develop a global business mindset.

Ultimately, MBA graduates from these institutions go on to pursue fulfilling careers that come with outstanding rewards. Average alumnus salaries play a key role in FT’s rankings. INSEAD’s figure came up to US$188,432, a salary increase of 96%.

Iese Business School’s figure came up to US$166,811 with a 131% salary increase. HEC Paris graduates enjoy an average salary of US$168,436, a salary increase of 118%. SDA Bocconi School of Management boasts an average graduate salary of US$155,475, a pre-MBA increase of 126%.