Global MBA Rankings Methodology: QS vs The Economist vs Financial Times |

Global MBA Rankings Methodology: QS vs The Economist vs Financial Times

By Niamh O

Updated March 23, 2021 Updated March 23, 2021

There are thousands of full-time MBA programs to choose from around the world, so deciding on the right full-time MBA program for you can be difficult.

This is why business school rankings like our own QS Global MBA Rankings are so important.

However, our MBA rankings isn’t the only source of information you might look at. Prominent global MBA rankings are also published by The Economist and Financial Times.

So, how do our different rankings compare? And which one is most useful for you?

Global MBA Rankings Methodology: QS vs The Economist vs Financial Times


The Economist

Financial Times

  • The Economist only publishes a list of the top 100 schools
  • The ranking has four main criteria
  • Data was collected during spring 2019 using two surveys
  • 150 schools took part in the 2019 edition (100 are ranked)
  • The ranking has 20 different criteria
  • The FT surveys alumni three years after completing their MBA


As well as a survey of employers and academics, we also send business schools a survey which covers quantitative indicators such as the salary of graduates, class profile etc.

For this ranking, QS didn’t ask schools to survey alumni, rather asking schools to provide career progression info of their alumni according to MBACSEA standards.

For an MBA program to be included, the program had to have a class size of at least 10 students, be taught full-time and mainly on-campus.

A total of 13 criteria form the basis of five key indicators that programs were ranked on: employability (40 percent), entrepreneurship and alumni outcomes (15 percent), return on investment (20 percent), thought leadership (15 percent) and class & faculty diversity (10 percent).

QS CEO Nunzio Quacquarelli said: “All of our QS World University Rankings include metrics on employability and employer reputation. For a full-time MBA ranking this is especially important, which is why we survey over 15,000 employers every year – more than any other organization in the world.

“Employers are asked to identify the MBA programs and universities they prefer to recruit from. This provides over 100,000 data points from which we can identify the programs with the strongest employer reputation.

"We also calculate the Return on Investment, based on average salaries reported to the MBA Career Service Council in order to provide an indication of the short-term benefits of an MBA investment.”

What it does differently: Unlike the other rankings, the QS Global MBA Rankings places great importance on both employability and alumni outcomes. The latter is calculated by gathering data on over 500,000 global leaders in business, government, healthcare and entrepreneurship.

Quacquarelli explained: “We mapped their master’s degrees and from this we can identify the programs which produce the most leaders over the long run.”

The Economist

The Economist’s 2019 methodology focused on four main criteria: new career opportunities (35 percent); personal development/education experience (35 percent); increase in salary (20 percent); and potential to network (10 percent).

During the spring of 2019, the Economist collected data through two surveys. The first survey was completed by schools with eligible programs, covering quantitative information including graduate salary, average GMAT scores of students and the number of registered alumni – this equates to around 80 percent of the ranking.

The remaining 20 percent comes from a qualitative survey undertaken by current MBA students and a school's most recent graduating MBA class. Respondents are asked to rate things like the quality of the faculty, facilities and career services department. They’re also asked to provide their salary details so data provided by the schools can be verified.

What it does differently: The Economist is the only ranking to survey students. While this means a student perspective is included, it should be noted that students cannot provide an unbiased opinion of their own institution and also are not well-placed to compare their school with others.

Financial Times

The FT’s ranking surveys alumni three years after graduating from their MBA program. To ensure they can enter the ranking, the FT asks that a minimum of 20 percent of alumni reply to the survey, with at least 20 fully completed surveys per school.

Of the 2016 class, about 7,920 graduated completed the survey – equating to a response rate of 38 percent. An extensive list of ranking criteria includes weighted salary, salary increase, proportion of female faculty and students, and career progress.

What it does differently: The Financial Times’ MBA ranking includes corporate social responsibility among its 20 criteria, as well as looking at alumni recommendations. Unlike other rankings, it contains no input from recruiters.

By putting heavy emphasis on salary three years after graduation, it also risks skewing the results in favor of schools with strong ties to investment banking as this career path tends to pay the most for MBA graduates.

Can a full-time MBA ranking tell you everything?

Even though these three rankings have different methodologies, even using all three together won’t necessarily tell you everything you need to know when choosing the right MBA program for you.

Often, you need to dig deeper in order to find the right match. This is why QS publishes our MBA Rankings by Career Specialization, which recommend MBA programs based on the career path you hope to pursue. Covering fields such as technology management, finance, consulting, operations management and entrepreneurship, this specialist ranking allows different schools to come to the fore.

Quacquarelli said: “To compile this ranking, QS processes data on millions of research papers published by business schools to identify which schools are producing leading edge knowledge in these fields.

“We then look at the numbers and proportion of students who are securing jobs in these fields, based on verified data. The result is a unique perspective on which business schools are best preparing candidates for particular careers.”

Find out more about the QS MBA Rankings by Career Specialization methodology here.

This article was originally published in March 2020 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  


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