Imperial College Business School Tops New Online MBA Ranking

Kelley Direct students participate in Kelley on Location in Chicago in September 2022. The online MBA program at Indiana University Kelley School of Business has topped P&Q’s Online MBA ranking for the second straight year. Courtesy photo

Kelley Direct students participate in Kelley on Location in Chicago in September 2022. The online MBA program at Indiana University Kelley School of Business is the highest ranked U.S. program in QS’ most recent ranking. Courtesy photo

What’s the best online MBA program in the world? Depends on who you ask.

According to the latest ranking from QS, the British-based admissions events company, the answer is Imperial College Business School in London’s South Kensington. Imperial’s online program beat out second-place’s IE Business School in Madrid, Spain by 5 points on a 100-point scale.

But, if you’re looking at the most recent ranking of global online MBA programs from The Financial Times, you’d have to flip those results. IE Business School comes out on top with Imperial College in second.

Moral of the story: Take these, and all rankings, with a grain of salt.

TOP 10 ONLINE MBAS ACCORDING TO QS

QS released its annual ranking of online MBA programs last week. In the interest of giving school seekers all the information available, we present the results here. However, we’ve written in the past why QS results should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Following IE, Warwick Business School in Coventry, England, came in at No. 3, followed by Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at No. 4. Kelley Direct Online MBA at Indiana University rounded out the top 5 and was the highest ranked program based in the U.S.

QS Online MBA Rankings Top 10

2024 Rank Institution Country/Territory Overall Score
1 Imperial College Business School United Kingdom 100
2 IE Business School Spain 95
3 Warwick Business School United Kingdom 92.4
4 AGSM @ UNSW Business School Australia 88.9
5 Indiana University (Kelley Direct Programs) United States 88
6 Alliance Manchester Business School United Kingdom 81.2
7 Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) United States 79.2
8 (Tie) POLIMI Graduate School of Management Italy 78.7
8 (Tie) University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) United States 78.7
10 Southern California (Marshall) United States 78.5

After Kelley, three other U.S. programs broke the top 10 of the QS ranking: Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business debuted on the QS ranking at No. 7. University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School tied for 8th while University of Southern California Marshall School of Business ranked 10th.

Overall, QS ranked 101 ranked programs across 21 countries, up from the 86 ranked in 2023. That includes 53 U.S. programs, 13 UK programs and 6 from Spain.

CMU Tepper was one of 18 new programs on 2024 list, and it earned the highest score of any school in Faculty and Teaching, earning 88.2 out of a possible 100 points..

THE ONLINE RANKING LANDSCAPE

There’s now several players attempting to rank a growing number of online MBA options, all of which are far from perfect.

U.S. News & World Report is arguably the most robust, ranking 345 U.S. programs in its most recent list. But its ranking is based on unaudited data provided by “regionally accredited” business schools along with its peer assessment survey of “high-ranking academic officials at MBA programs.” U.S. News does not survey students, graduates, or employers for the ranking. It also does not rank international programs.

P&Q’s online MBA ranking also sticks to U.S. schools, and we ranked 51 schools for 2024. Our methodology is based on three equally-weighted categories – admission standards, academic experience and career outcomes. Data is collected through institutional surveys and surveys of the most recent class of alumni. We require a minimum response rate of 10%, and schools that don’t meet that threshold do not get full credit for their alumni data. You can see how we calculate our online MBA ranking in our full methodology.

The other major ranking that looks at international programs comes from the Financial Times. But, that list is known as much as for the schools that are not ranked as for those that are. It ranked only 10 schools in 2024. FT reported that just 25 schools submitted data for this year’s ranking, but several failed to make the final list because of an “insufficient” response rate to the FT‘s alumni survey.

While the QS ranking includes 10 times more online programs as the FT’s, we don’t typically pay it as close as attention as we do other rankings. After consulting with MBA consultants and business school staffers who work on rankings, P&Q has called out QS’ Global ranking of full-time MBA programs as being one of the worst for its vague methodology, poor transparency, and concerns over conflict of interest. While the critiques weren’t lodged at QS’s online MBA ranking specifically, it’s enough to give one pause. (In response, QS co-founder Nunzio Quacquarelli defended their ranking.)

KELLEY DIRECT TOPS SEVERAL ONLINE MBA RANKINGS

The best way to use rankings is to view them as a collection – as a single data point in a spreadsheet of data points. And, if you view QS’ recent online MBA list through that perspective, the results at the top aren’t that different from the other major rankings.

Seven of QS’ top 10 programs showed up in FT’s 2024 list. Similarly, four U.S. programs that ranked highly in P&Q’s and U.S. News’ 2024 rankings cracked the top 10 at QS, as you can see in the table below. That kind of consistency should encourage school seekers.

How Top Online MBA Programs Rank

School 2024 QS Rank 2023 FT Rank 2024 P&Q Rank
2024 U.S. News Rank
Imperial College London 1 2 NR NR
IE Business School 2 1 NR NR
Warwick Business School 3 3 NR NR
Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) 4 7 NR NR
Kelley School of Business 5 NR 1 1
Alliance Manchester Business School 6 NR NR NR
CMU Tepper School of Business 7 5 5 2
Politecnico di Milano School of Management, Ital 8 (Tie) 8 NR NR
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School 9 (Tie) NR 7 3 (Tie)
USC Marshall School of Business 10 4 9 3 (Tie)

As the highest ranked U.S. program at QS, the Kelley Direct Online MBA continues a truly impressive streak for the ranking season. It also topped P&Q’s latest ranking (for the second straight year) and the U.S. list for the third straight year. It also topped lists compiled by Fortune and The Princeton Review.

“Kelley Direct is a unique MBA experience, and that’s reflected in our rankings,” says Ash Soni, dean of the Kelley School of Business and The Sungkyunkwan Professor. “Our faculty and staff have worked very hard to create an innovative curriculum and engaging in-person events that set Kelley apart from other programs.”

QS ONLINE MBA RANKING METHODOLOGY

QS ranks online MBAs based on four metric groups, according to its methodology.

FACULTY AND TEACHING (35%): For this metric, QS incorporates data from both its proprietary Academic Survey which surveys schools on their perceptions of peer schools’ reputations as well as inputs provided by participating schools and/or public data. Specific metrics in this group include:

  • Academic reputation (15%) evaluates the reputation of an online MBA program based on nominations from its Academic Survey. QS notes, “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.” But it does not state how many surveys it sent out nor does it offer the response rate.
  • FTE/number of enrolled students ratio (10%): QS notes that a higher ratio means students can expect to receive more individual attention from program faculty.
  • Completion rate (10%)

EMPLOYABILITY (30%): Here, QS uses data from its proprietary Global Employer Survey, which aims to evaluate sentiments of hiring managers worldwide. QS has administered the survey for more than 20 years, so gives the greatest weight to the most recent responses.

But, the majority of online MBA candidates are part-time students and fully employed. Not all, or even most, are necessarily looking to change jobs at the end of their programs.

In contrast, Poets&Quants’ own online MBA ranking evaluates career outcomes based on metrics such as percentage of graduates who report earning a promotion or salary increase during or after the program and how alumni rate the school’s career services and advising.

CLASS PROFILE (30%): This metric group looks at the make-up of the cohort on average with data collected from participating schools and publicly available sources.

  • Number of students enrolled (10%), rewarding schools with higher numbers to reflect the school’s experience in providing a quality online MBA experience as well as the strength of the class network.
  • Applicant/place ratio (5%):
  • Work experience (5%), the higher the better
  • Proportion of female students (5%)
  • Number of nationalities represented (5%)

CLASS EXPERIENCE (5%): This group includes a range of evenly-weighted metrics including opportunity for physical meetups, regular synchronous classes, access to a learning app on a mobile and/or tablet, and 24/7 tech support.

NEXT PAGE: See the full QS Online MBA ranking for 2024

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