QS World University Rankings: Global MBA Rankings Methodology

Learn about the methodology behind this year’s QS World University Rankings: Global MBA Rankings 2021 Methodology.

Featuring over 250 business schools, this year’s full-time MBA rankings provides a comprehensive list of the best places to study an MBA. While studying a full-time MBA program continues to be a significant investment in this time of global uncertainty, the skills students gain and the potential return on investment makes the MBA as relevant now as it’s ever been.

Explore this year’s results in the global table linked below, or use the regional breakdowns to learn more about the top full-time MBA programs in a particular part of the world. This geographical specificity is extremely useful if you have concerns about travel restrictions internationally due to COVID-19.

We have also released the latest edition of the QS Business Masters Rankings, which now includes supply chain management as a subject, in addition to business analytics, finance, management, and marketing

Updated September 23, 2020 Updated September 23

While no ranking can be definitive, we have looked at more data points than ever before while compiling the QS Global MBA Rankings 2021, in an attempt to deliver the most comprehensive rankings on the market.

The Global MBA Rankings 2021 highlight the best MBA programs across the world. We ranked 258 programs this year from 40 countries, and many more were analyzed. This makes the ranking the largest ranking of accredited international MBA programs in the world. Data was collected in early 2020, using three surveys; the QS Global Employer Survey, the QS Global Academic Survey and a survey completed by the business schools themselves.

The survey completed by schools covered quantitative indicators such as the salary of graduates, class profile and other institutional data. 

For the purpose of the Global MBA Rankings 2021, QS did not ask schools to survey their alumni. Instead, schools provided career progression information on their alumni to MBACSEA compliant standards.

Data received was based on the 2019 graduating class (for employment info) and incoming 2019 class for class composition. When this data was not available we used the most recent available data provided by the schools. In a select few cases we used publicly available information to bolster our accuracy and completeness.

To be included in the Global MBA Rankings 2021, the program must be taught mainly on-campus (i.e. not distance-learning), be taught full-time (or be full-time equivalent) and have an average class size of at least 15 students. All schools must be accredited by either AACSB, AMBA, EFMD (EQUIS). We also require schools to provide us with relevant data in the majority of indicators to be included (see FAQs).

A total of 13 criteria form the basis of five key indicators that programs were ranked on: ‘employability’, ‘entrepreneurship and alumni outcomes’, ‘return on investment’, ‘thought leadership’ and ‘class & faculty diversity’.

QS Global MBA Rankings 2021 Breakdown

  • Employability – 40%
  • Entrepreneurship and Alumni Outcomes – 15%
  • Return on Investment – 20%
  • Thought Leadership – 15%
  • Class & Faculty Diversity – 10%

Employability

QS Global Employer Survey (35%)

The backbone of the rankings is the QS Global Employer Survey, which asks employers to select the schools that they prefer to hire from. The Survey has now been running over 20 years. Between 2016-2020, we collected hundreds of thousands of university and business school nominations from nearly 40,000 global employers to the QS Global Employer Survey. Schools have the option to contribute to the survey by nominating up to 400 employers that recruit their graduates. More recent responses have been given the greatest weight in this ranking. 

Employers across all sectors and industries take part in the survey, and include Facebook, Google, Uber, Wells Fargo, Bank of America etc. The survey helps us have an accurate impression of the reputation of a school compared to its peers among relevant employers who are hiring MBAs. 

Employment Rate (5%)

The total score for this indicator also considers the employment rate for students, three months post-graduation, based on MBACSEA standards. The average rate for the ranking this year is 84%

 

Entrepreneurship and Alumni Outcomes (15%)

Alumni Outcomes (10%) 

The Alumni Outcomes Index looks at the schools associated with over 50,000 CEOs, executives and board members at the biggest companies in the world including Apple, Amazon, UBS, IBM, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, ExxonMobil, AT&T, PepsiCo. This year we also included some of the most successful entrepreneurs using the CrunchBase Database.

Schools do not directly provide QS information on their alumni. QS collects it from publicly available sources and validates.

Schools can suggest to the QS Intelligence Unit possible lists of successful companies/alumni in order to enhance the quality of the survey.

Entrepreneurship (5%)

To reflect a growing trend of students interested in setting up their own companies post-graduation, we include this measure in the Global MBA Ranking. Schools self report this figure based on MBACSEA standards. The average percentage of entrepreneurs in the ranking this year is 5%.

 

Return on Investment (20%) 

We used a number of data points to determine return on investment, which can often be one of the hardest metrics to accurately predict with many permutations and possibilities. 

10 Year ROI (15%)

We looked at a 10-year return on investment, mapping average post-MBA salaries against average salaries before enrolment, taking into account forgone salary as well as tuition and cost of living (using Mercer Quality of City Living Ranking). Salary increases are factored into both pre and post-MBA salary, with the latter increasing at a higher rate, as you would expect. Schools are given a graded bonus for the number of entrepreneurs produced, to account for the slower, but potentially much higher return for those starting a business. We also take into account the percentage of graduates accepting employment within three months of finishing their studies.

10 years gives a representative and meaningful return on investment insight compared with some rankings that use a five-year approach. No loans or scholarships were included in this methodology. We recognize no ROI calculation is perfect but believe we have come up with the best approximate ROI calculation with the data available.

Payback Month (5%)

We look at the time it takes to pay back the cost.  The shorter the payback month the better score the school receives.The average time this year is around 3.5 years.  

 

Thought Leadership (15%) 

QS Academic Reputation  (10%)

This metric gives us an accurate impression of the reputation of an MBA program and is based on university and business school nominations of academics 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 surveys of academic opinion, and, in terms of size and scope, is an unparalleled means of measuring sentiment in the academic community. This year nearly 35,000 academic responses were used in the analysis.  

Research Impact (2.5%)

Scopus - We use Elsevier’s Scopus database to assess the research intensity of schools. We look at the period between 2014-2019 and analyze thousands of papers.

Percentage of faculty with PhD (2.5%) 

We look at the percentage of the faculty within the Business School with a doctoral degree. The average percentage this year is 85%. 

Class & Faculty Diversity (10%)

To give a clear representation of diversity within a program we looked at the percentage of female students and faculty members. 

We also looked at the percentage of international faculty overall at the business school, and the international mix of students on the MBA program.

 The averages we see this year are:

  • Percentage women in the classroom: 39.8%
  • Number of nationalities in the classroom: 17
  • Percentage international faculty: 36%
  • Percentage women in the business school faculty: 32%

FAQs

Q) How are currency rates calculated?

A) Currency rates are accurate as of 1/1/2020, while salaries reported in reputational surveys were converted using an average for the years in question. Conversion rates do fluctuate and we take this into account in our calculations.

Q) When I compare the QS Ranking with other popular rankings I find some big differences

A) Every ranking has its own methodology. 45% of the Global MBA Ranking is based on reputation which many other rankings don’t measure this accurately.

Q) How is the data validated?

A) All data received from schools was subject to verification checks, including, where possible, comparison with historical data, peer schools and other published sources. QS reserves the right to alter information if a more accurate source is found. Employer/academic questionnaires were also audited for multiple or false entries. 

Q) What if a school didn’t provide all the data required?

A) When data was not supplied (by a minority of schools), QS surveys such as the QS Global Employer Survey and the QS Global Academic Survey were used in conjunction with QS research into publicly-available data to make an accurate estimate. Examples of sources include schools’ employment reports and class profiles.

Q) If a school didn’t provide data how can you be sure the information used was accurate?

A) Information used in these cases was compared with a number of sources and verified as best as possible to produce an accurate estimate. Examples of sources include schools’ employment reports and class profiles. 

Q) How are weightings fairly applied to get an overall score?

A) We use z-scores to ensure the data is reliably combined to produce an accurate and fair overall ranking.

Q) Why are there schools missing who you might expect to be present?

A) Schools are excluded if they did not fit the criteria necessary to be present in the ranking, if the program was too new, or not enough data was provided. In addition, we only accept business schools that have earned AACSB, EFMD or AMBA accredited or have received 3+ Stars in the prestigious QS Stars audit. 

Q) Why are some ranks missing?

A) Post-publication, QS was made aware of a few schools which were not eligible for the ranking. We removed the programs from the ranking, but the rest of the schools stay in their initial positions.

Q) We’re a business school and want to be involved in the next rankings. What do we need to do?

A) Contact [email protected] to find out, and to ask any other questions you might have regarding the rankings.

Q) Which of the programs can I also take online?

We suggest you visit each program's profile page to get more information on how to contact the schools for this information.

Q) Where can I see the costs of the programs?

We suggest you visit each program's profile page to get more information on how to contact the schools for this information.

Q) Why don’t you display all ranking data used?

We will try to do this in the future. At the moment, we prioritize displaying the rankings themselves.

Q) I want to specialise in a certain type of MBA. How should I use your rankings?

Please refer to our QS MBA Rankings by Specialization.

 

This article was originally published in November 2017 . It was last updated in September 2020

Written by

As editor of TopUniversities.com, Craig oversees the site's editorial content and network of student contributors. He also plays a key editorial role in the publication of several guides and reports, including the QS Top Grad School Guide.

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