Ruth’s Rankings 39 – Business School Rankings: Monkey Business for an Asia/Pac audience

By Ruth A. Pagell*

  • What is the best MBA program in the world?
  • Who is number one in Asia/Pac?
  • Which ranking has the best coverage of Asia/Pac?
  • Which Asia/Pac MBA program is best for women?
  • Which MBA ranking is best?

The December 2018 release of the new and controversial THE/WSJ MBA rankings prompted this article. It presents information and rankings data from our usual suspects, THE and QS, and from the recognized MBA ranking organizations, the FT (Financial Times Global MBA Rankings), EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit Which MBA?) and Bloomberg Business Week’s Best B-Schools – BBW). The history of business schools, rankings and MBA quality assurance agencies are in Appendix A. Appendix B provides details for the comparative tables accompanying the article.

Top U.S. MBAs are two years programs, affiliated with top universities. Many European schools are stand-alone institutions, offering one-year MBAs and discipline-specific Masters. The EMBA (Executive MBA) is a common offering accompanying MBA program.

Naming conventions: Names are inconsistent across rankings. Lists include stand-alone business schools, named business schools affiliated universities and university business schools that are not named. Stand-alone schools outside the US are often known by abbreviations and U.S. schools by their donors. FT places Hong Kong under ChinaI count HK separately.

See Table 39.1 for the list of the all MBA programs on a top 25 list.  See Table 39.1.A. inserted below for programs on at least two top 10 lists.

Table 39.1 A Top10_in_two_lista

Methodology: Fewer than 30% of accredited programs world-wide are ranked. Rankers aren’t transparent in how schools are selected. Rankers use surveys and school supplied data. Alumni and employer surveys, student input data, such as GMAT scores and GPA averages and output data such as salary and time to get employed are important factors for MBAs. Only QS and FT have research components.  Check the methodology for each ranker, since terminology varies, making comparisons difficult.


The standard U.S. MBA rankings are  Business Week, new to global rankings, and U.S. News, covering only the U.S. FT is the standard for non-U.S. based rankings. Coverage of Asia-Pac varies from OK to almost non-existent.

International University Ranking Sources


THE/WSJ released their first attempt to measure business school performance in December 2018. The website states that “The analysis is aimed to measure student experience and teaching excellence at each of the institutions that submitted their data.”  The highlighting is mine. Many top schools did not submit data. (Byrne, 2018).

Ranked programs include 35 One-year and 54 Two-year MBAs, a distinction not made by other rankers;  and Master-level degree programs in Finance and Management. Six of the one-year and 10 of the two year are from Asia/Pac.

Top Schools: I created a combined top 25 ranking, with 18 from the two-year rankings. 12 of the THE/WSJ top 25 are in no other top 25 rankings. Stanford is tops and The University of Hong Kong is tops in Asia/Pac.

Methodology:  Data are extracted from an alumni survey and school supplied data. About 50% of the scoring is based on the survey. Salary data are adjusted for location. Listed below are the pillars with the world and Asia/Pac leaders.

  • Resources: 2-year – Cornell; CEIBS (9):  1-year–Western; Indian School of Business (3)
  • Engagement: 2-year -Chicago; Fudan (27): 1-year-Cranfield; Indian School of Business (5)
  • Outcomes: 2-year – Stanford; CEIBS (23): 1-year- IIM Calcutta; IMD (3)
  • Environment: 2-year-Grenoble; Fudan (7): 1-year-Adam Smith; HKU (2)

Interface: Sort on individual pillars. Clicking on a school provides NO additional data.  See Table 39.2 for the complete list.


Ruth’s Rankings’ readers are familiar with QS’s (Quacquarelli Symonds) top university rankings. The Global 200 Business School Report pre-dates its global rankings, beginning in the early 1990s with regional and specialty rankings. It offered its first global business rankings in 2017. The  2011-2012 report was the earliest I found, with 11 from Australia and 25 from Asia. The 2019 ranking has 251 schools with 23 from Asia and 14 from Oceana.

Methodology  QS collects data from external surveys of academics and employers and the institutions.  QS uses five key indicators with 13 criteria.  5% of the criteria, “Though Leadership”, is from citations per paper

Ranking by key indicator:

  • Entrepreneurship and alumni outcomes: Stanford; CEIBS (5)
  • Return on Investment: Mannheim; HKU (8)
  • Thought leadership:  MIT; Melbourne (12); HKUST (18)
  • Employability:  Harvard; INSEAD (11)
  • Diversity:  EU Business School; La Trobe (29)

QS Business Masters Rankings

Interface:  Sort on one of the five indicators; search by city or country/territory.


2019 is the 20th year of the FT MBA rankings. It releases the Global MBA rankings at the end of January.  FT extracts the tops in ten different fields and publishes rankings of masters programs. It has separate regional rankings for Europe and for top 25 schools in Asia/PAC based on a composite of individual ranks.  It releases Asian rankings in December. See Table 39.3 for a comparison of the top 25 in 1999, 2018 and 2019.

Table 39.3-FT_top_10_1999-2019

Methodology for 2019 Global MBA:  Schools must be accredited by AACSB or EQUIS (see Appendix A) and meet response requirements from an alumni survey. FT uses 20 criteria.  61% come from alumni responses, 29% from school data and 10% from research data supplied by Clarivate Analytics, using publications from 50 journals, adjusted for faculty size.

Special rankings with individual methodologies with tops in world and Asia/Pac – 2018 are:

  • Masters in Finance Post-experience (6) London Business School, SMU Lee Kong Chian
  • Masters in Finance Pre-experience (65) HEC Paris, Shanghai Jiao Tung Advanced Institute for Finance
  • Masters in Management(100) – St. Gallen; Shanghai Jiao Tong Antai
  • EMBA (100) – Kellogg/HKUST; top schools have Asian connections
  • Online (20) – IE Business School; AGSB, UNSW
  • Non-degree (50) – IESE; Asia/Pac Shanghai JiaoTong Antai
  • Top MBAs for Women (50) – Shanghai Jiao Tung Antai; Stanford

Interface:  Users can personalize their rankings online or download the dataset. Click here for example from Indian School of Business to see all data.

Click here for analysis of the FT 2019 list.


Economist has ranked business schools since 1990. The 2018 100 list includes 53% from the U.S. and eight from Asia/Pac, including three from Australia, two from Singapore and one each from China, Hong Kong and India.

Unique to the Economist are names of schools that were contacted but not listed because they fell outside EIU’s top 100; that participated for the first time and will be eligible in 2019; and which were ineligible or declined to participate.

Methodology:  EIU bases scores on school supplied data (80%) and MBA student surveys. Indicators are arranged under four categories:  Open new career opportunities; Personal development and educational experience; Increase in salary; and Potential to network.  Other rankings include:

Interface:  The only search options are filtering by geographic location or years 2011-2018.  Find ranks for all metrics by selecting a school, as in this example for NTU.


30 years after presenting its first MBA rankings, Bloomberg BusinessWeek updated its methodology and offered a global ranking.  Of the 124 schools, 32 global schools have been added to 92 U.S. programs. Only four are from the Asia/Pac region: HKUS, CEIBS, NUS and Melbourne. This makes it the least useful for Asia/Pac coverage.

Methodology:  Schools are included based on response rates to alumni surveys and recruiters who hire MBAs. Indexes are based on survey responses and compensation data.

Interface: Personalize results for comparisons.  Schools can be reranked by the four major indicators with tops in the world and Asia/Pac listed below:

  • Compensation (38.5%) – Stanford; Melbourne (80)
  • Learning (23.1%) – William & Mary; HKUST (93)
  • Networking (27.9%) – Stanford; CEIBS (61)
  • Entrepreneurship (10.5%)–Stanford; CEIBS (66)

BBW presents additional qualitative information about the schools, extracted from the surveys. Click here to see the information about HKUST.


Top business schools from 45 years ago, Stanford, Chicago, Harvard, Penn (Wharton) and Columbia, are still tops today. No Asia-Pac school is a consensus top 25 except INSEAD with its joint French/Singapore location followed by CEIBS and Melbourne Business School. QS, not featured in any MBA composites, has the most Asia/Pac schools, but still less than 15% of the dataset as shown in Table 39.4.

Specialty masters offer an opportunity for more schools to join the rankings. See Table 39.5 for the top 10 in Finance and Management.  Asian schools are best represented in joint EMBA programs shown in Table 39.6

My first choice is FT, with its history, data availability, and interface flexibility. EIU and BBW MBA rankings have too few regional schools to be useful.  THE/WSJ’s new ranking can be misleading because of all the schools that did not participate.

For ongoing evaluation of business school rankings, follow Poets & Quants, which provides consensus lists and FINDMBA for its search capability.

Byrne, J.A. (6 Dec 2018).  Th Wall Street Journal’s ‘Where’s Waldo’ MBA ranking, Poets & Quants” accessed at

Ruth’s Rankings

A list of Ruth’s Rankings is here.

*Ruth A. Pagell is emeritus faculty librarian at Emory University.  After working at Emory, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University and then adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii.  She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS –