IE Repeats As Top Online MBA Program

IE Business School in Spain

IE Business School in Spain

John Wooden once wrote, “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” Based on Financial Times’ 2015 online MBA rankings, maybe Wooden should add a corollary: “It’s easier to repeat when the field is small.”

That’s one criticism of the Financial Times’ online rankings, where only 18 MBA programs (globally) bothered to complete. With a narrow field, Spain’s IE Business School again nabbed the top spot in the rankings. They were followed by the UK’s Warwick Business School, the University of Florida (Hough), Northeastern University (D’Amore-McKim), and Indiana University (Kelley).


To be ranked, a school must deliver 70% of more of its content (and students must “pass a selection process before enrolling and an examination process before graduating”). Overall, the Financial Times’ online MBA rankings are based on alumni surveys, which cover areas like earnings, career progress, value for money, goals achieved, and quality of career services. These variables accounted for 65% of a program’s rank.


The remaining 35% was based on school-supplied data, which includes research publication, faculty educational credentials, and faculty and student diversity related to gender and nationality. Overall, 18 metrics are weighed, though income plays the heavy role in the Financial Times’ methodology. Salary receives a 20% weight, with another 10% given to the difference between average earnings at graduation and three years out.

And it is graduate salaries where IE Business School graduates shines. Here, graduates earn $152,966 within three years of graduation, nearly $6,700 more per year than Babson College graduates. This represents a 43% bump, tied with the UK’s Bradford University for the largest salary growth over three years. In fact, according to the Financial Times, IE online grads are actually paid more than IE MBAs overall ($152,286). Even more, they actually outearn MBAs from IMD ($148,148), IESE ($144,992), Ross ($144,159), Fuqua ($142,557), and Esade ($133,138) overall. That said, these grads each had an average salary increase of 70%-121% within three years of graduation, which likely means they will eclipse IE online alums’ annual  earnings soon enough.

Otherwise, IE Business School’s rankings were relatively pedestrian. The online MBA program received the fourth highest marks in career progress and aims achieved (but only ninth for career service). The school also rose two spots up to sixth in program delivery. At 37% for both female faculty and students, IE ranked slightly above its peers (though its 42% female board numbers ranked highest, by far, among other schools ranked). It also scored well on international students and faculty, at 58% (2nd overall) and 96% (1st overall) respectively. Lasting just 18 months, IE delivers the shortest online MBA curriculum, yet also boasts a 100% graduation rate.

Florida Hough online student celebrates with professor during campus visit

Florida Hough online student celebrates with professor during campus visit


Last year, Poets&Quants dubbed the University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business as “the happiest place on Earth,” due to student delight with the program’s faculty and curriculum. And 2015 was no different. Based on alumni survey responses, Hough again ranked number one in aims achieved (goal fulfillment), program delivery (quality of teaching, materials and technology), and online interaction (relationships with cohort and faculty availability). In other words, Hough (again) delivered on – if not exceeded – their promise to students. This hybrid program, where students form strong bonds by returning to campus every four months, also ranks fourth among faculty with doctorates (ahead of IE and Kelley).

However, Hough’s graduates lag behind their peer programs when it comes to salaries ($104,255 – the lowest among the top ten). At the same time, graduates’ salary increases dropped from 45% to 39% in one year (though that still ranked third-best), While alumni remain pleased with Hough, the school ranked in the middle of the pack when it comes to career progress (seventh) and aims achieved (eighth). In other words, graduates might not be getting all the results they hoped for, but they’re not blaming Hough for it.

Northeastern (D’Amore-McKim) and Indiana (Kelley) rank just below Hough. Surprisingly, Northeastern grads actually outearn the highly-regarded Indiana online alum by nearly $15,500 annually within three years of graduation. Like Hough, both programs generated the highest marks in the peer and faculty interaction and curriculum, training and materials categories (with Indiana and Northeastern ranking second and third in these categories respectively). In fact, Northeastern jumped from seventh to third in both categories from 2014 to 2015.

Among alumni, Northeastern scores much higher in career progress (2nd vs. 9th), while Indiana makes up the difference in aims achieved (5th vs. 12th) and career services (6th vs. 11th). Kelley also tops all schools in faculty research (with Arizona State finishing second and Hough third).

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.