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Methodology
Discover the top online MBA programs available to study around the world with the

QS Online MBA Rankings 2020

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Online MBA programs have taken on increased importance in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. To reflect this, the QS Online MBA Rankings 2020 is our largest ranking of online business school provision yet, including 47 programs from around the world. (A more detailed breakdown of this year's rankings can be found here.)

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

Online MBA programs have been ranked in this eighth 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 program 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 program and is based on university and business school nominations from around the world between 2015 and 2019. 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 program’s faculty.

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

Employability (30%)

How employable are graduates from this online MBA program? 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 2015-2019, 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 program.

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 program’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 program over a given period compared with the number of places available for that period. The higher the ratio, the more popular the program 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 program 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 programs which get closest to gender parity (a 50:50 split).

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

Class Experience (5%)

What is the calibre of each program’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 program, we take a score from the schools which have some or all of these components.

Digging deeper

As part of the data collection for the QS Online MBA Rankings 2020, a wide range of additional data was collected. This has allowed us to write separate articles focusing on the online MBA programs with the highest proportion of female students and the highest proportion of international students. We have also compiled a list of the most expensive online MBA programs and the cheapest online MBA programs, and the top 10 online MBA programs for employability, based on responses to our employer survey.

What the schools say

Responding to this year’s ranking, the dean of Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Management, Federico Frattini, said: “Our School is once again showing its role as a trailblazer presenting excellent results in this field. I am so proud of this rankings result, achieved through our efforts to continuously improve the program and extend the international dimension of the curriculum.

“Today, the excellent level of our school is there for all to see in its development of digital solutions supporting the education process and the value of our online offer.”

Nick Wailes, Director AGSM and Deputy Dean at UNSW Business School, said: “The high scores for our online MBA program in the Employability and Class Experience indicators reflect a number of factors.

“We are continuing to ramp up our career support to students in our online programs, both through on-demand tools and resources and through online access to coaches and industry experts. MBAX students also have access to a wide range of industry initiatives run by AGSM Careers that connect students with alumni, employers and their experienced peers to maximise networking opportunities.

“In terms of class experience, our approach is not only to create a learning experience that is equivalent to that in our face-to-face MBA programs, it is to create the best online MBA program in the world. We keep classes small (20-30) and while we provide a lot of resources for self-directed learning, the learning is mainly driven by high-skilled and experienced faculty.”

Pietro Micheli, Course Director for the Distance Learning MBA and Professor of Business Performance and Innovation at Warwick Business School, said: “The QS rankings is just as keenly followed by prospective students so to see the school ranked in the world’s top three is good news and really enhances our growing reputation as a world-leading school in online education provision.”

Finally, Dean Martin Boehm from IE Business Schoolthe world’s top online MBA provider for a fourth straight year – said: “QS has been a respected source of rankings, one with a particularly necessary global perspective since its founding, and so it is indeed a great honor to be ranked number one in the latest online MBA rankings.”

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