QS Online MBA Rankings Methodology | TopMBA.com

QS Online MBA Rankings Methodology

By Staff Writer

Updated April 21, 2021 Updated April 21, 2021

Ranking compiled using four key indicators:

  • Faculty and teaching (35 percent)
  • Employability (30 percent)
  • Class profile (30 percent)
  • Class experience (5 percent)

Online MBA programmes have taken on increased importance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To reflect this, the QS Online MBA Rankings 2021 is our largest ranking of online business school provision yet, including over 50 programs from around the world.

While full-time MBA programme applications have been in decline in recent years, online MBA programme options have increased in availability and often offer a cheaper alternative to the full-time programme.

Online MBA programmes have been ranked in this 10th edition of our Online MBA Rankings according to four metric groups, each designed to capture a key component of their mission: employability, diversity and access, the standard of the learning experience, and the quality of the class experience.

These four metric groups are:

Faculty and teaching (35% of final score)

Does this programme offer high academic standards? The results incorporate data from QS’s proprietary QS Academic Survey, which captures the sentiments of 95,000 academics globally. This metric also uses inputs provided by participating schools and/or validated by publicly available data.

This 35 percent is split as follows:

Academic reputation (15%): This metric gives us an accurate impression of the reputation of an online MBA programme and is based on university and business school nominations from around the world between 2016 and 2020. Academics name the institutions which they believe are the strongest in their subject area. The survey has grown to become the world’s largest survey of academic opinion, and, in terms of size and scope, is an unparalleled means of measuring sentiment in the academic community.

FTE/number of enrolled students ratio (10%): A higher ratio means students can expect to receive more individual attention from the programme’s faculty.

Completion rate (10%): This is considered in order to reward programmes which have a consistent cohort and is taken as an indicator that the online MBA programme is worth completing in full.

Employability (30%)

How employable are graduates from this online MBA programme? The results incorporate data from QS’s proprietary QS Global Employer Survey, which captures the sentiments of over 44,000 hiring managers worldwide. Each year thousands of employers across all sectors and industries - including Facebook, Google, Uber, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America - respond to the survey with the opportunity to nominate specific business schools that they believe produce the best graduates.

The QS Global Employer Survey has now been running over 20 years. Between 2016-2020, we collected hundreds of thousands of university and business school nominations from nearly 45,000 global employers. More recent responses have been given the greatest weight in this ranking.

For the online MBA ranking, we weight more heavily the employers who say they hired online MBAs specifically, as employers don’t always differentiate between the online and full-time versions of the programme.

The survey helps us have an accurate impression of the reputation of a school compared to its peers among relevant employers who are hiring online MBAs.

Class profile (30%)

How diverse and international is each programme’s class cohort? What is the applicant/place ratio, and how many students are enrolled? How much work experience does the cohort have, on average? These inputs are provided by participating schools and/or validated by publicly available data.

This 30 percent is split as follows:

Number of students enrolled (10%): Higher number is important because it means school will have a lot of experience putting many students through the online MBA curriculum. It is also a positive for students because their online MBA network is larger and the groupwork is more diverse.

Applicant/place ratio (5%): We look at the number of applicants for the online programme over a given period compared with the number of places available for that period. The higher the ratio, the more popular the programme and the higher the score. This is because a higher ratio means it is more selective and points are given to reward this competitiveness.

Work experience (5%): A large aspect of studying an online MBA is group work and case discussion. Having an online MBA cohort with more work experience provides more perspectives from professional settings and projects that elevate the entire programme experience. This is vital as you don’t just learn from your teachers, but also your peers.

Proportion of female students (5%): The highest scores are awarded to the online MBA programmes which get closest to gender parity (a 50:50 split).

Number of nationalities represented (5%): The highest scores are awarded to the online MBA programmes with the most diversity in the classroom.

Class experience (5%)

What is the calibre of each programme’s learning experience? This includes a range of evenly-weighted indicators including physical meetups, regular synchronous classes, access to a learning app on a mobile and/or tablet, and 24/7 tech support. These factors help to create a rewarding experience for the online MBA student. These inputs are provided by participating schools and/or validated by publicly available data.

As not all of the above factors are always relevant to each online MBA programme, we take a score from the schools which have some or all of these components.

Digging deeper

Want to learn more about this year's results? We've taken a closer look at each of the ranked online MBA programmes and compiled a series of 'alternative' top 10s:

What the schools say

Pietro Micheli, Professor of Business Performance & Innovation and Course Director for the Distance Learning MBA, Warwick Business School:

"The pandemic has seen demand increase significantly for our Distance Learning MBA. In fact demand and final recruitment numbers have increased significantly for both the Warwick and London formats of our Distance Learning MBA, with the cohort starting in January 30 per cent bigger than last year’s as 249 people accepted a place. We are seeing a similar pattern for our June 2021 intakes with demand continuing to be extremely buoyant.

“Being online is obviously an advantage with our campuses close for much of the pandemic. However, our Distance Learning MBA has two Warwick Weeks, where students come together for lectures, networking, careers workshops and events at the campus or our WBS London base at The Shard.

“This has moved online during the pandemic, though we are preparing to bring them back from the end of May. The my.wbs platform already has a wealth of careers support, workshops, videos, and quizzes to help students online, but we have also moved one-to-one coaching and careers fairs online. With most industries and professionals working from home it has actually helped us secure more speakers from industry to give talks online from all over the world.

"The main reasons Warwick Business School is ranked so highly for online MBAs is because of our my.wbs platform, our experience and expertise in providing blended learning, our top faculty and our network of alumni

“Built and designed in-house, my.wbs has really helped the school during the pandemic, making the move to online teaching for the rest of our courses a lot smoother.

“My.wbs provides a virtual classroom for our students where we run lectures, knowledge groups, online case studies and hold rich interactive learning resources.

“We invest heavily in edtech every year and have a fantastic e-learning department that now has two film studios to record lectures, interviews, webinars and discussions. We are also going to companies to film on site, developing mini-documentaries to help open up the subject even more for students."

Professor Markus Perkmann, Academic Director of the Global Online MBA, Imperial College Business School:

"Our Global Online MBA contains some classroom based courses which are very highly valued by our students because they allow them to get to know their class-mates face-to-face and to mix with colleagues from our other MBA programmes. We also offer “glocal” electives in various global regions.

"During the pandemic we transitioned all these activities to a synchronous online mode but we will changed them back to classroom based mode as soon as possible. From now on, we will also offer many classroom based electives – our Global Online students can take two of these – in “multi-mode”: This will allow students to participate either physically or online in the same class.

"We have been at the forefront of championing the increased use of educational technology for over 15 years. Our Edtech Lab, Imperial’s first digital learning and education group, which was established back in 2005 and since then we’ve established ourselves as a leader in online teaching and learning through the use of innovative technology.

"Our programme offers an immersive, cohort-based MBA experience, taught by our top faculty, designed by our award-winning Edtech Lab and supported by our world-class Careers team. We also offer a large number of elective modules, allowing our students to personalise their curriculum to enhance their studies.

"We are currently introducing new electives in analytics and strategy, complementing the already rich choice of courses we offer in leadership, entrepreneurship and finance."

Federico Frattini, Dean, MIP Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Business:

"Even prior to COVID-19, at MIP Politecnico di Milano we recognised that there had already been an increasing demand from students for greater digitalisation, flexibility, and accessibility in learning.

"We call our approach to online learning ‘Smart Learning’, and we have been using this in our master's and MBA programmes since 2014. This is an area where we have achieved great results, with over 550 students studying via our digital programmes since 2014, while our International Flex EMBA has been ranked as one of the top programmes in the world.

"We pride ourselves in having the knowledge that our online MBA students will become experts in dealing with intense situations, and will ultimately master not only hard skills, but also essential soft skills such as empathy, resilience and knowing how to motivate and manage teams in person and remotely. These are all crucial in today’s ever-changing business climate.

"One of the biggest challenges schools face when switching to online teaching is keeping students engaged, motivated, and part of the school community. Therefore, even when teaching online, we make sure that we take the time needed to build and nurture personal relationships with students – even when we do not meet them face-to-face.

"Our faculty engage with students via video calls, on online forums, and by involving them in virtual group work and live Q&A webinars. Beyond the teaching, we also make it essential to develop informal interactions between students. This has been especially crucial during the past very difficult year when students may have been isolated from friends and family."

This article was originally published in June 2019 . It was last updated in April 2021

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