A quarter century of the FT MBA Ranking
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The FT launched its ranking process in 1998. The only other rankings that existed at the time — by US News & World Report and BusinessWeek — were limited to US business schools. There was a strong view in Europe that its schools led the way in recruiting overseas students, and they wanted to be part of the process.
The mood of business at that time was all about globalisation. So we were looking for the business schools that were going to create the best global managers for the 21st century.
Our first ranking was published in 1999. The criteria were set from the start: the international factors of where people worked, lived and came from; what people wanted from their MBA, which was a better job; and research: which universities were producing new ideas. We decided the rankings were primarily for prospective students, so factors measuring career progression carried most weight.
Because there were no publicly available data sets, we realised we would have to create our own. It was much harder to do then. Email was scarcely in use. We used paper questionnaires with a postpaid return envelope. We could not query the responses in any way.
Diversity by gender was included from the start, alongside international background. It sounds like madness now, but I was berated by professors for putting it in. “How will it make any difference if there are more women faculty?” they said.
I don’t know if our ranking helped push schools to change their policies, but I certainly hope so. Every year, they take in new students, so one of the easiest things they can do to increase their position is to improve those numbers.
Over time, we added schools from China, India, Australia and New Zealand. We stuck to the same parameters, but kept trying to nuance the process to make it easier for schools to collect the data, which is a lot of work for them.
I think there is a continued role for rankings. People look at reviews of business schools, and the factors we used are still appropriate: students take a business degree to get a better job; inclusion is important; and business schools should be producing big new ideas for business.
Equally applicable today is how to educate students to meet the challenges that businesses now face, such as sustainability. That is hard to measure, but necessary.