French, British and Spanish institutions lead the new ranking of European business schools

French, British and Spanish institutions dominate the FT’s latest overall ranking of European business schools, the 20th annual assessment of the state of business education across the continent.

HEC Paris is ranked number one, ahead of London Business School in second place, while three other French schools – ESCP, Edhec and Essec – are also in the leading group of nine institutions. Iese is third, with another Spanish school, IE, also in the top group, along with Bocconi in Italy and St Gallen in Switzerland.

The rating is derived from performance across the FT’s 2023 individual rankings range of MBA, Executive MBA (EMBA) and Masters of Management (MiM) degrees, as well as open and tailored non-degree higher education programmes.

A total of 90 schools are included, reflecting the number and strength of academic institutions in Europe providing business education. They continue to do so amid competition from rivals in North America and Asia and despite significant recent demand disruptions and changes in format and content.

The ranking comes at a time when applications to postgraduate business courses have stagnated in Europe, according to the latest survey of students and schools around the world by the Global Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT admissions test. However, the strengths of European business schools — the quality of life in the cities where most are located, and the relatively low tuition fees and costs in many — continue to attract students from on and off the continent.

FT European Business Schools Ranking 2023

Read the ranking and report back

While the MBA was born in the US, Europe pioneered the alternative master’s program in management, usually taken immediately after a first degree, which has since caught on in other regions. Its schools remain distinctive, focusing on topics such as international business, sustainability and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Just under three-fifths of European schools have committed to zero-emission targets on their campuses by 2030, compared to 30 percent for the rest of the world.

Other changes in business education include a growing demand for students to prepare for careers in public service and advice on setting up start-ups or working in the technology sector – rather than more traditionally in banking, investment and consulting.

Ron Tuninga, vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at AACSB, the US-based accrediting agency for business schools, notes: “Multidisciplinarity is becoming an increasingly critical and distinctive feature of European business schools in addressing the complex issues of our time. [They] are rapidly moving to work outside of silos in both research and education.”

Ron Tuninga of AACSB
Ron Tuninga of AACSB © Henny Boogert

The Covid-19 pandemic and changes in working patterns have led schools to increase the amount of hybrid and online learning, although there is widespread demand for a return to the in-person components of on-campus courses.

Changes in exchange rates, the effects of Brexit on mobility and employment between the UK and the EU and evolving career aspirations have also changed outcomes, including wage levels. HEC Paris graduates report the highest average salaries in Europe for MiMs and are fourth for EMBA pay alone, although they are sixth for post-MBA pay. The French school also ranked second in Europe for both open and personalized executive training.

Reported salaries of European business school graduates are consistently lower than their counterparts from North American and Asia-Pacific schools, even though on average they started their studies in higher positions.

Only four of the ranked business schools report gender parity among their faculty: IE in Spain, Koç in Turkey and Institut Mines-Télécom and ESC Clermont in France. On average across all 90 schools, 38 percent of faculty are women, down to 19 percent for the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

IMD in Switzerland has the highest proportion of foreign faculty at 98 percent, compared to an average of 50 percent for all ranked schools. The lowest, only 2 percent, is the University of Porto — FEP | PBS.

Participation in the FT rankings is voluntary, with data provided by the schools themselves, as well as statistically significant responses from graduates who provided information on metrics including salaries three years after completing the course. The ranking measures factors including career development, salary increases, diversity of faculty and students by gender and citizenship, and measures to integrate climate change topics into teaching and operations.

As a sign of the efforts being made to attract students and experience from different parts of the world, the ranking covers joint programs and includes schools with multiple campuses such as ESCP, which operates in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. Some operate both outside and in Europe, including London Business School with a branch in the United Arab Emirates, Iese in the US and Essec in Singapore and Morocco.

The MBA, EMBA, and MiM rankings account for 25 percent of each school’s total performance, with the remaining quarter coming jointly from customized and open executive education programs. The calculation is adjusted for schools that do not offer the full range of qualifications and training.

France has the most ranked schools, 23, and there are 15 in the UK, eight in Germany and five each in Spain and Portugal. Also represented are Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Turkey, Denmark, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

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