The Financial Times (FT) has published its annual ranking of the world’s top business schools.

FT’s Global MBA index for 2023 received submissions from 142 business schools worldwide, then narrowed to a list of the top 100 schools.

The FT surveys alums three years after completing their MBA. For schools to enter the ranking calculations, the FT usually requires that a minimum of 20% of alums reply to the survey, with at least 20 completed surveys.

Outcome measures still account for more than half of the total weighting. Salary levels, three years after completion, and wage increases, from before the MBA to now, remain central, said FT.

Business schools in Europe and the United States (US), led for the first time by Columbia in New York, dominate the top of the FT Global MBA Ranking.

According to the report, of the leading tier of 18 of the 100 business schools ranked in 2023, 13 are in the US, including Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley.

Two top-tier schools are in France – Insead (2nd) and HEC Paris (17th) – while one — third-placed Iese — is in Spain.

Other top-ranked European schools include SDA Bocconi (6th) in Italy and London Business School (16th) in the United Kingdom.

Looking at salary increases of graduates from all top 100 schools, the value of an MBA is evident in the large jumps alums see.

Twelve of the 14 highest-paying MBAs are also from US business schools, led by Stanford, with an average weighted alum salary of $248,669 or R4.4 million p.a., with a salary increase of around 131%.

The smallest increase recorded is 46% (UNSW Australia), where the average post-MBA salary is still in six figures ($114,803 – or R2 million p.a.) – but salaries can triple (200% increase) in places like China and India.

These are the top 15 business schools in the world, according to the FT, including the salaries they can expect to earn and the percentage increase in salary they could see.

# School Salary % increase
1 Columbia Business School $226 359 132%
2 Insead $198 363 111%
3 Iese Business School $181 270 144%
4 Harvard Business School $235 019 117%
4 Stanford Graduate School of Business $248 669 131%
6 SDA Bocconi School of Management $192 815 124%
7 University of California at Berkeley: Haas $213 321 132%
8 Cornell University: Johnson $193 293 148%
9 Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management $209 337 122%
10 Yale School of Management $196 659 139%
11 Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business $196 754 130%
11 MIT: Sloan $207 100 111%
11 University of Chicago: Booth $218 068 123%
14 UCLA Anderson School of Management $192 256 122%
15 Dartmouth College: Tuck $201 451 124%

Note: When considering all 21 categories used in the ranking process, two schools tied for 4th place and three for 11th place. 

However, this year’s ranking also included some essential changes, said FT.

“The aim is to focus on outcomes while placing more emphasis on tracking how the education offered reflects diversity and sustainability – which ultimately fosters greater societal impact by businesses,” added FT.

According to the report, the University of Massachusetts Amherst: Isenberg is ranked top for value for money after considering financial aid, with salaries three years after completion on average 188% higher than earnings before studying.

The University of Virginia: Darden was ranked highest for efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, and IE, followed by Iese (both in Spain), ranked highest for the extent to which core courses incorporated environmental, social and governance issues, including studying climate solutions that can help organisations reach net zero, said FT.

In a new measure of diversity in the rankings, only ESCP Business School, which has campuses in France, Italy, Spain, the UK and Germany, achieved student gender parity, with just ten schools among the 100 ranked having more women than men, added FT.

South Africa

No South African schools were ranked among the top 100 in 2023, with the country’s last appearance on the list back in 2016, when the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) was the 76th best business school in the world.

However, the FT pointed to high growth in executive education, which has become one of the fastest-growing business courses.

In late 2022, the FT published its executive MBA rankings, which featured the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB).

The Cape Town school ranked 74th out of 100 – dropping 18 places since its last feature in 2020 at 56th and not ranking at all in 2021.

According to FT’s latest ranking, GSB executive management alums averaged salaries of $275,396 or R4.9 million p.a., with a salary increase of around 27%.