This is the seventh annual edition of the Financial Times ranking of the best online MBA programmes worldwide. A total of 22 schools took part.

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. Course participants must pass a selection process before enrolling and an examination process before graduating.

Data were collected through two online surveys — the first was completed by participating schools and the second by their alumni who finished their online MBA in 2016. Some 650 of them completed our questionnaire — a response rate of about 26 per cent.

The ranking has 18 criteria. Alumni responses inform nine criteria that together contribute 65 per cent of the total weight. Another eight criteria are based on the school data, accounting for 25 per cent. The remaining criterion, the research rank, counts for 10 per cent.

Alumni-informed criteria

Alumni-informed criteria are based on data collected in the past three years. Responses from the 2020 survey carry 50 per cent of the total weight and those from 2019 and 2018 account for 25 per cent each. Excluding salary criteria, if only two years’ data are available, the weighting is split 60:40, if data are from 2020 and 2019, or 70:30, if data are from 2020 and 2018. For salary figures, the weighting is 50:50 for two years’ data.

The first two alumni criteria are average income three years after graduation and the salary increase compared with their pay on graduation, with respective weights of 20 per cent and 10 per cent. 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 the IMF purchasing power parity rates published in October 2019.

The salaries of non-profit and public sector workers and full-time students are removed, as are the highest and lowest salaries for each school, in order 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 graduation by the programme’s total cost, including tuition fees and other expenses. Any financial help given to alumni is subtracted from the total cost.

Business school criteria 

School criteria include the diversity of staff, board members and students by gender and nationality. For gender criteria, schools with a 50:50 composition score the highest.

The corporate social responsibility category is based on the proportion of credits from core courses dedicated to CSR, ethics, social and environmental issues. It carries a weight of three per cent.

Research rank 

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 2017 to December 2019, with the figure weighted relative to the size of the faculty.

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 2020 list.

Judith Pizer of Jeff Head Associates acted as the FT’s database consultant. The FT research rank was calculated using Clarivate Analytics data from the Web of Science, an abstract and citation database of research literature.



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