For the second consecutive year, Britain’s Warwick Business School has topped the Financial Times highly limited ranking of the best online MBA programs. The 2019 list, ranking a mere ten schools in the world, half as many as last year, is the sixth time that the British newspaper has cranked out a list of top online MBA programs.
Only 22 schools cooperated with the Financial Times, a stark contrast to U.S. News’ online MBA ranking which rates 285 programs and profiles 302 online options in the U.S. alone. In the U.S. News ranking, published in January, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business tied with the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School for first place. Poets&Quants’ online MBA ranking puts numerical ranks on 35 different programs, with this year’s winner being the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.
The new FT ranking includes five U.S. programs, three of which are in the top five. Spain’s IE Business School, which had come in first three years ago, placed second t, followed by No. 3 University of Massachusetts at Amherst, No. 4 Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and No. 5 the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. This is the first time UNC, who MBA@UNC boasts one of the largest online MBA enrollments in the world, made the FT ranking.
ONE IN TEN WARWICK ONLINE MBA STUDENTS FAILS TO GRADUATE IN FIVE YEARS
Given the limited size of the ranking, there were few significant year-over-year changes. In fact, the top four schools all maintained their 2018 ranks. Northeastern University saw its online MBA offering rise four places to rank eighth from 12th last year, while the University of Bradford’s School of Management also improved by four spots to rank tenth from 14th in 2018.
To rank online MBA programs, the FT uses 18 different metrics culled from both school and alumni surveys. The British newspaper puts the most weight (30%) on compensation, with 20% slotted to average alumni salary three years after graduation and 10% on the percentage increase in alumni salary three years after graduation. Warwick’s alums reported the highest average pay at $214,141, largely a function of the fact that its online students are older and have more work experience, while the alumni of Massachusetts’ Isenberg School of Management reported the highest percentage increase at 39%.
The Financial Times said that Warwick maintained its number one ranking partly on “the strength of its faculty, but also its value for money and its graduates’ career progression.” Warwick held onto its lead despite the fact that one in ten students in its online MBA program fails to graduate within five years. That compares with a 100% five-year graduation rate at the other four top five programs.
AVERAGE SALARY INCREASE WAS 31.1% WITHIN THREE YEARS OF GRADUATION
Oddly, the FT collects this information but does not weight it in the online ranking. As a result, one of its top ten programs, the No. 9 ranked Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales, posts a mediocre graduation rate of just 72.3% in five years, a sign of a high dropout rate. Yet, the FT does include weighted metrics that are far less important and valuable, including “international mobility” which gives points to programs that have more alums who work in countries that differ from their citizenship.
The newspaper said that overall average salaries for online MBA alumni were $148,742, compared with an average of $189,975 for the top 10 full-time MBAs on its latest global MBA ranking.
“The big difference between online and full-time study is the salary increase,” according to the Financial Times. “The average rise across the online courses is 32.1%, compared with 119.5% for the top 10 full-time MBAs in the 2019 global ranking. This is due to student demographics. Full-time MBA students tend to be in their late 20s and at a point in their career where they enjoy rapid promotion. There is much more scope for them to increase their earnings after their MBA. Online MBA students, on the other hand, are more likely to be in their mid-30s and to switch careers after graduating. This means their salary is more likely to plateau — or even decrease — after the course.”
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA TOPS “ONLINE INTERACTION’ METRIC
Some of the more noteworthy metrics used by the FT include “online interaction” defined as how the alumni rate the interaction between students, teamwork and the availability of faculty. Some 10% of the ranking is based on this measure. The University of Florida’s Warrington School came out first in online interaction, followed by IE Business School, Indiana Kelley, UNC, and Massachusetts.
On career services, based on alumni ratings of the effectiveness of the school’s careers service in terms of career counseling, personal development, networking events and recruitment, no school did better than Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Right behind Northeastern were Indiana Kelley, Warwick, UNC, and Durham University Business School.