FT Releases 2008 Global MBA Rankings

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business claimed the top spot for a fourth year in the Financial Times 2008 Global MBA rankings, released earlier this week. Rounding out the upper echelon we have the usual suspects: Columbia, Stanford, Harvard and the London Business School, which jumped from fifth to second place this year””the highest position ever for a European business school.

See the complete list of Financial Times rankings here.

British business schools have surged in popularity, the FT reports, as London has grown as a world financial center. At London Business School, for example, 69% of graduating students last year took their first permanent job in the UK, even though only 9% of the students were British. The strong pound has also made UK job offers financially competitive for overseas students, the paper reports. Not so for the flip side, though. The anemic dollar translates into less-than-stellar salaries by comparison. Cheaper tuition may make that more bearable for many foreign students.

This year’s rankings include a growing number of world-class business schools in Asia, particularly in China. “The rise in volume and quality of Asian business schools is also economically linked,” points out Arnoud De Meyer, director of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. “This is for a very simple reason: the demand for business schools is correlated with [the size of] GDP.” De Meyer believes the increase in the number of Asian business schools will result in a wave of innovation, just as the rise of the European business school saw innovations such as the development of the one-year MBA program and the creation of culturally diverse student bodies. “How do you manage in fast-moving economies with limited infrastructure?” asks De Meyer. “People have to be extremely creative in managing when infrastructure is under-developed.”

American business schools continue to outpace their European counterparts where funding is concerned, the FT reports. Healthy endowments at U.S. schools help attract both faculty and students. Lisa Giannangeli, director of marketing for MBA admissions at Stanford, told the FT that 72% of students in this year’s class received some form of financial aid. “We paid over $7 million in grants and research assistantships,” she said.

And while European schools are stepping up their academic research output, American schools are moving more towards their European counterparts in teaching methods, including more teamwork and overseas projects, the FT revealed. Big name schools such as Stanford, Columbia and Yale have all recently redrawn their curriculum to incorporate these pro-active elements.

In a shift from previous years, the FT analysis points to U.S. schools’ accepting greater numbers of recent undergraduates into MBA programs as another major point differentiating them from their European counterparts. According to the FT, the ability to enter an MBA program in the United States without prior related work experience could prove particularly attractive in the future to European career changers.

How are prospective MBAs reacting to the rankings? Oops, I Plan to Do it Again gripes that Wall Street Journal and FT rankings are based on bizarre, single-factor criteria, preferring to stick with the more reasonable Business Week and US News rankings. And some posters on the Business Week forum feel an anti-U.S. sentiment exists in the FT rankings. Is this a European invasion or do they have an unfair home advantage (FT is a European Business Daily), wonders Stuart Little gets an MBA at St. Gallen. The blogger goes on to ask whether American B-schools are getting complacent, since though the United States is still clearly the favorite destination to pursue a business education, the current lack of H1 B visas is denting the popularity of American business education.

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