QS Business Masters Rankings 2021 Methodology | TopMBA.com

QS Business Master's Rankings: Methodology

By Staff Writer

Updated Updated

The QS Business Master's Rankings highlight the best graduate masters programmes across the world. Data was collected using three surveys; the QS Global Employer Survey, the QS Global Academic Survey and a survey completed by the business schools themselves.

The survey completed by schools covered quantitative indicators such as the salary of graduates, class profile and other institutional data. 

To be included in the QS Business Master's Rankings, the programme must be taught mainly on-campus (i.e. not distance-learning), be taught full-time (or be full-time equivalent) and have an average class size of at least 15 students. All schools must be accredited by either AACSB, AMBA, EFMD (EQUIS). We also require schools to provide us with relevant data in the majority of indicators to be included (see FAQs).

A total of 13 criteria form the basis of five key indicators that programs were ranked on: ‘employability’, ’alumni outcomes’, ‘return on investment’, ‘thought leadership’ and ‘class & faculty diversity’.

QS Business Master's Rankings Breakdown

  • Employability – 35% (30% - Finance/Business Analytics)
  • Alumni Outcomes – 15% (20% Finance/Business Analytics)
  • Value for Money – 20% 
  • Thought Leadership – 20%
  • Class & Faculty Diversity – 10%
  • Employability (30-35%)

QS Global Employer Survey

The backbone of the rankings is the QS Global Employer Survey, which asks employers to select the schools that they prefer to hire from. The survey has now been running over 20 years. We collected hundreds of thousands of university and business school nominations from global employers responding to the QS Global Employer Survey. Schools have the option to contribute to the survey by nominating up to 400 employers that recruit their graduates. More recent responses have been given the greatest weight in this ranking. 

Employers across all sectors and industries take part in the survey, and include Facebook, Google, Uber, Wells Fargo, Bank of America etc. The survey helps us have an accurate impression of the reputation of a school compared to its peers among relevant employers who are hiring business school graduates.

Employment Rate 

The total score for this indicator also considers the employment rate for students, six months post-graduation, based on MBACSEA standards. 

Alumni Outcomes (15-20%)

The Alumni Outcomes Index looks at the schools associated with over 50,000 CEOs, executives and board members at the biggest companies in the world including Apple, Amazon, UBS, IBM, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, ExxonMobil, AT&T, PepsiCo.

Schools do not directly provide QS information on their alumni. QS collects it from publicly available sources and validates.

Schools can suggest to the QS Intelligence Unit possible lists of successful companies/alumni in order to enhance the quality of the survey.

Return on Investment (20%)

We used a number of data points to determine return on investment, which can often be one of the hardest metrics to accurately predict with many permutations and possibilities.

10 Year ROI (15%)

We looked at a 10-year return on investment, mapping average post-graduation, taking into account forgone salary as well as tuition and cost of living (using Mercer Quality of City Living Ranking). We also take into account the percentage of graduates accepting employment within six months of finishing their studies.

10 years gives a representative and meaningful return on investment insight compared with some rankings that use a five-year approach. No loans or scholarships were included in this methodology. We recognise no ROI calculation is perfect but believe we have come up with the best approximate ROI calculation with the data available.

Payback Month (5%)

We look at the time it takes to pay back the cost.  The shorter the payback month the better score the school receives.

Thought Leadership (15%)

QS Academic Reputation (10%)

This metric gives us an accurate impression of the reputation of a programme and is based on university and business school nominations of academics from around the world. Academics name the institutions which they believe are the strongest in their subject area. The survey has grown to become the world’s largest surveys of academic opinion, and, in terms of size and scope, is an unparalleled means of measuring sentiment in the academic community. 

Research Impact (2.5%)

We use Elsevier’s Scopus database to assess the research intensity of schools. 

Percentage of faculty with PhD (2.5%)

We look at the percentage of the faculty within the business school with a doctoral degree.

Class & Faculty Diversity (10%)

To give a clear representation of diversity within a programme we looked at the percentage of female students and faculty members. 

We also looked at the percentage of international faculty overall at the business school, and the international mix of students on the program.


Q) How is the data validated?

A) All data received from schools was subject to verification checks, including, where possible, comparison with historical data, peer schools and other published sources. QS reserves the right to alter information if a more accurate source is found. Employer/academic questionnaires were also audited for multiple or false entries. 

Q) What if a school didn’t provide all the data required?

A) When data was not supplied (by a minority of schools), QS surveys such as the QS Global Employer Survey, the QS Global Academic Survey were used in conjunction with QS research into publicly-available data to make an accurate estimate. Examples of sources include schools’ employment reports and class profiles.

Q) If a school didn’t provide data how can you be sure the information used was accurate?

A) Information used in these cases was compared with a number of sources and verified as best as possible to produce an accurate estimate. Examples of sources include schools’ employment reports and class profiles. 

Q) How are weightings fairly applied to get an overall score?

A) We use z-scores to ensure the data is reliably combined to produce an accurate and fair overall ranking.

Q) Why are there schools missing who you might expect to be present?

A) Schools are excluded if they did not fit the criteria necessary to be present in the ranking, if the program was too new, or not enough data was provided. In addition, we only accept business schools that have earned AACSB, EFMD or AMBA accredited or have received 3+ Stars in the prestigious QS Stars audit. 

Q) Why are some ranks missing?

A) Post-publication, QS was made aware of a few schools which were not eligible for the ranking. We will then normally remove the programs from the ranking, but the rest of the schools stay in their initial positions.

Q) We’re a business school and want to be involved in the next rankings. What do we need to do?

A) Contact [email protected] to find out, and to ask any other questions you might have regarding the rankings.

Q) Which of the programmes can I also take online?

We suggest you visit the institution profiles to get more information on how to contact the schools for this information.

Q) Where can I see the costs of the programmes?

We suggest you visit the institution profiles to get more information on how to contact the schools for this information.

Q) Why don’t you display all ranking data used?

We will try to do this in the future. At the moment we prioritise displaying the rankings themselves.

Q) Do you do undergraduate rankings?

The full suite of QS Rankings can be found in full on our websites.

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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