Online MBA Ranking 2023: methodology, table key and entry criteria
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This is the tenth annual edition of the Financial Times ranking of the best online MBA programmes worldwide. A total of 23 schools took part in the 2023 edition.
All participating business schools must meet the FT’s strict entry criteria. The school must be accredited by AACSB or Equis and programmes must have run for four consecutive years. At least 70 per cent of the content must be delivered online. The participants must also pass a selection process before enrolling and an examination process before graduating.
Data collection was carried out via two online surveys: the first was completed by participating schools; and the second by their alumni who finished their Online MBA in 2019. Some 644 of them completed our questionnaire — a response rate of about 21 per cent.
The FT typically requires a response rate of 20 per cent of alumni, with a minimum of 20 responses, for a school to enter the ranking calculations. Due to the pandemic, the FT considered schools with a lower response rate.
The ranking has 20 criteria. Alumni responses inform nine criteria that together contribute 59 per cent of the total weight. Another 10 criteria are based on the school data, accounting for 31 per cent. The remaining criterion, the research rank, counts for 10 per cent.
Alumni-informed criteria are based on data collected in the past three years. Responses from the 2023 survey carry 50 per cent of the total weight and those from 2022 and 2021 account for 25 per cent each. Excluding salary criteria, if only two years of data is available, the weighting is split 60:40 if the data is from 2023 and 2022, or split 70:30 if the data is from 2023 and 2021. For salary figures, the weighting is 50:50 for two years of data.
The first two alumni criteria are average income three years after completion and the salary increase compared with their pay on completion, with weights of 12 per cent each. For the latter, half of the weight applies to the absolute increase and half to the percentage increase (the published figure). Salaries are converted to US dollars using IMF purchasing power parity rates.
The highest and lowest salaries are removed for each school, to calculate a normalised average. Finally, salaries are weighted to reflect differences between industry sectors.
“Value for money” for each school is calculated by dividing average alumni salary three years after completion by the programme’s total cost, including tuition fees and other expenses. Any financial help given to alumni is subtracted from the total cost.
School criteria include the diversity of staff, board members and students by gender and nationality. For the gender criteria, schools with a 50:50 composition score the highest.
The environmental, social and governance rank is based on the proportion of teaching hours from core courses dedicated to ESG topics. It also includes time spent teaching how organisations can reach net zero.
The research rank is based on the number of articles by full-time faculty in 50 internationally recognised academic and practitioner journals. The rank combines the number of publications from January 2020 to October 2022, with the figure weighted relative to the size of the faculty.
There are two new categories. One is student sector diversity, which looks at the range of industries that candidates have worked in before starting their MBA. The second is the school’s carbon footprint rank.
The Online MBA ranking is a relative listing. Schools are ranked against each other by calculating a Z-score for each criterion. The Z-score is a statistic that shows where a score lies in relation to the mean. These scores are then weighted as outlined in the ranking key and added together for a final score.
After removing the schools that did not meet the response rate threshold from the alumni survey, a first version is calculated using all remaining schools. The school at the bottom is removed and a second version is calculated, and so on until the top 10 have been identified. The top 10 schools are ranked accordingly to produce the 2023 list.
Judith Pizer of Pizer-MacMillan acted as the FT’s database consultant.
Key to ranking table
(Weighting % in brackets)
Salary today US$ (12): average alumni salary three years after completion, $ PPP equivalent (See methodology). †
Salary increase (12): percentage increase in alumnus salary in the current job versus three years ago on completion. †
Value for money (4): calculated according to alumni’s salary, tuition, fees and other costs. †
Career progress (4): progression in the alumni’s level of seniority and the size of the organisation they now work for, versus three years ago on completion. †
Aims achieved (4): the extent to which alumni fulfilled their goals for taking an online MBA. †
Careers service (4): effectiveness of the school careers service in terms of career counselling, personal development, networking events and recruitment, as rated by their alumni. †
Programme delivery (5): how alumni rate the online delivery of live teaching sessions, other teaching materials and online exams. †
Online interaction (10): how alumni rate the interaction between students, teamwork and the availability of faculty. †
Sector diversity rank (2): calculated according to the diversity of sectors the students worked in at the time of admission, before the MBA.
Female faculty (3): percentage of full-time female members of faculty.
Female students (3): percentage of female students on the MBA programme.
Women on board (1): percentage of female members on the school advisory board.
International faculty (4): percentage of full-time faculty whose citizenship differs from their location of employment.
International students (4): percentage of current students whose citizenship differs from the location of the school.
International board (2): percentage of the board whose citizenship differs from the location of the business school.
International mobility rank (4): based on alumni citizenship and the locations where they worked before their MBA, on completion and three years after. †
Carbon footprint rank (4): calculated using the net zero target year for carbon emissions set by the university or school, and a publicly available carbon emissions audit report within the last three years.
Faculty with doctorates (5): percentage of full-time faculty with a doctoral degree.
ESG and net zero teaching rank (3): proportion of teaching hours from core courses dedicated to ethics, social, environmental issues and climate solutions for how organisations can reach net zero.
FT research rank (10): calculated according to the number of articles published by a school’s current full-time faculty members in 50 academic and practitioner journals between January 2020 to October 2022. The rank combines the absolute number of publications with the number weighted relative to the faculty’s size.
For the three gender-related criteria, schools that have 50:50 (male: female) composition receive the highest score.
† Includes data for the class of 2019 and one or two preceding classes where available.
The following data is for information only and are not used in the ranking calculations.
Average course tuition and fees to complete the Online MBA (local currency): Programme tuition costs and fees paid by the most recently enrolled class, in the currency of the country of the school’s location. Figure shows weighted average.
Average completion time (years): The average amount of time students take to complete the programme.
Online teaching materials (%): Percentage of programme teaching materials that are delivered online.
Overall satisfaction: average evaluation by alumni of the course, scored out of 10. After alumni answered various questions about their Online MBA experience, they were asked to rate their overall satisfaction, on a 10-point scale. This figure is not used in the ranking.
Schools with a 50:50 (male/female) composition receive the highest possible score in the three gender-related criteria.
† Includes data for the class of 2019 and one or two preceding classes where available.
The FT research rank was calculated using Clarivate data covering 50 journals selected by FT from the Web of Science, an abstract and citation database of research literature.
Criteria for taking part in our ranking
Updated on December 7, 2022
We review the criteria on a regular basis. The pandemic has affected business schools and our ranking process, but we have done our best to accommodate feedback from schools. Please note, we are unable to include requests from every school.
The FT Online MBA ranking is based on two surveys: one for the business school and one sent to your alumni who have completed their Online MBA three years ago.
Please note, we only rank general MBAs — not specialised ones. Your Online MBA chosen for this ranking can be a full-time, part-time or flexible programme.
The following are the criteria schools must meet in order to participate in the annual ranking:
The business school must be accredited by AACSB or Equis.
The programme should have been running continuously for the past four years and should have graduated its first class in the calendar year three years prior to the survey date, or before.
At least 70 per cent of the programme content must be delivered online. The programme can be either synchronous or asynchronous.
The participants must pass a selection process before enrolling.
At least 30 students must have completed the programme, per year, three years ago and in each subsequent year.
The programme must deliver its degree following an examination process. Exams can be taken at any time during the course.
The business school must have a minimum of 20 full-time permanent faculty.
The MBA programme must be delivered in English. Graduates need to complete the survey in English.
Where applicable, the programme must be delivered by the same faculty that deliver the school’s campus-based MBA programme.
We need a response rate of at least 20 per cent from alumni with a minimum of 20 completed surveys from any school wishing to be considered for the ranking, eg a class size of 100 graduates will require 20 completed surveys and a class size of 200 alumni will require 40 completed surveys. This response rate is based on the total size of the cohort we are surveying, not the number graduate emails you will be able to supply, as we are aware that some alumni will opt out of the survey.
Meeting these criteria does not guarantee automatic participation in the ranking. The final decision rests with the Financial Times.
Please note, the table is finalised about five weeks before the publication date. It is too late for schools to withdraw from the ranking after the five-week mark.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org by the start of October if you have questions or wish to take part as the ranking process starts in late October or early November. By this time, the onus is on schools to get in contact with us if they wish to take part in the ranking, as we are unable to email every single school to check if they wish to be considered.
Invitation to participate: November
Schools to confirm participation: November
Schools to upload alumni list: December
Schools to upload faculty list: January
Survey open: December/January
Survey close: February
Data checks with schools: February to March