Nunzio Quacquarelli is the founder and managing director of TopMBA's parent company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), as well as a recognized expert on the strengths, weaknesses, and specializations of business schools worldwide. He has an MA from Cambridge and an MBA from Wharton, where he started QS in a tiny campus office. Quacquarelli is responsible for the annual QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey, QS TopMBA Jobs and Salary Trends Report and the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report. He is also the director of the QS World MBA Tour, the world's largest series of business school information fairs.
How long has QS been doing MBA rankings and ratings?
QS has conducted a global survey of MBA employers since 1990. This global survey now receives over 15,000 employer responses per year, including over 2,400 responses from employers who target MBA hiring. This survey underpins our rating of Global business schools known as “QS Global 200 Business Schools” – a rating because it is based on a single critieria: employer response – and schools are listed in clusters of overall popularity with employers, rather than ranked.
QS has been producing the QS World University Rankings since 2004. This draws upon our global employer survey but also additional objective data measuring; research quality, teaching commitment and internationalization of universities which enable us to publish a full ranking of the world’s best universities
Why has QS decided to publish a ranking of distance and online MBA programs?
The ranking is a response to market demand for intelligence comparing an increasing number of MBA programs in the distance learning or online format, which are themselves a response to the growing number of prospective MBA students seeking such programs.
There is little or no regulation of the provision of online education. As a result, there has been a proliferation of providers of variable quality. Our aim is to provide some quality assurance, by identifying some of the better providers. The list is certainly not exhaustive, and the final ranking is subjective, based on the weightings we have applied. Rather, we hope these top 20 institutions will represent an initial guide to quality. We will extend this list next year, as we are able to evaluate more such programs.
How are most online MBA programs delivered?
Much confusion currently stands around the terms Distance Learning and Online in relation to MBA programs. Other often used terms include: "hybrid", "blended-learning", "global-program", "Virtual MBA", "Global MBA", "e-MBA", and "Flexible Learning". For the purpose of this ranking, we have used the overall term "Distance MBA" to refer to all hybrid MBA formats which involve some element of compulsory meet-up amongst students, during the course. We have used the term "Online MBA" to refer to all programs which involve no student meet ups, or only voluntary student meet ups.
We have identified four aspects of delivery of a distance online MBA, which we feel provides for a superior class experience and which are included in the ranking:
- Is there a physical meet-up? – reward for physical meet up, suggesting that programs offering a physical meet-up give students the opportunity to engage with each other as well as faculty and teaching staff, forging more personal relationships and increasing the opportunity for networking
- Is there a regular online class? – suggesting that an organized and frequent class schedule ensures structure and regular interaction
- Is there a compulsory attendance for online class at set time/date? – suggesting that a compulsory attendance ensures commitment to the program and quickly highlights problems with individual student motivation
- Do students complete work in groups? – suggesting that close teamwork and collaboration are key learning points of studying an MBA, along with the opportunity to learn from fellow classmates
What are the main reasons online MBA programs have become so popular?
A primary driver of the popularity of distance online MBA programs is the ability for a candidate to carry on working whilst they study. In addition, there is a level of flexibility in when course work is completed, which is difficult to replicate in a part-time MBA program.
Although there are many business schools around the world today, it remains the case that many people live and work in locations where there may not be a convenient, high quality local business school and so a distance online MBA offers the best quality/convenience combination available.
In the past, price may have been a selection criteria, but today distance online MBAs often cost a similar amount to a part-time or full-time MBA. University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler has recently launched a distance online MBA charging exactly the same as their top-ranked full-time MBA at $91,000. IE Business School’s distance online MBA also costs €39,200 compared to their full-time MBA which costs €52,000.
However, there are some lower cost alternatives amongst the better quality distance online providers. Aberdeen Business School’s distance online MBA costs just £11500. Durham Business School costs just £14,000. Fully "online" MBA programs are also often cheaper. UMass Amherst is fully online and costs $22,000.
What makes the QS Distance Online Ranking unique?
The QS ranking is the first of its kind, providing a comprehensive ranking of both hybrid and fully online MBA programs. We also utilise our exclusive Global MBA Employer Survey to identify which distance online MBA programs offer the best reputational investment for MBA candidates. QS has collected and audited a large amount of data providing the basis for candidates to make direct comparisons between schools along several key dimensions of the distance online MBA experience.
QS also requires that each program is formally accredited, so candidates are not just taking our word for the quality of the program, but also the in depth evaluation of one of the international accreditation bodies.