IE tops: the business school ‘offers a unique blend of subjects’, said one former student © FT Montage/IE Business School

IE Business School in Spain has overtaken the UK’s Warwick Business School as the leading provider of Online MBAs, performing strongly on measures including salary increase after graduation, according to the tenth annual FT assessment of the business degree.

Warwick and Imperial College maintain strong positions in the list of ten ranked institutions, ahead of two other UK schools: Durham and the University of Liverpool.

In the US, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Massachusetts Amherst performed well, alongside good scores from the University of North Carolina and the University of Florida: Warrington, both longstanding participants.

The FT ranking comes at a time of growing interest in online learning, which intensified during the Covid pandemic as many business schools — alongside other higher education institutions — began offering a wider range of hybrid, synchronous and asynchronous options for students.

Financial Times Online MBA 2023 ranking: top 10
Rank in 2023Business schoolLocation
1IE Business SchoolSpain
2Warwick Business SchoolUK
3Imperial College Business SchoolUK
4Carnegie Mellon: TepperUS
5University of Massachusetts Amherst: IsenbergUS
6University of North Carolina: Kenan-FlaglerUS
7University of Florida: WarringtonUS
8Durham University Business SchoolUK
9University of Liverpool Management SchoolUK
10Politecnico di Milano School of ManagementItaly
FT data

See the more detailed table, here.

Overall demand for MBAs in North America and Europe has eased, partly in response to a tight labour market, with employers seeking to retain existing staff with additional incentives, rather than lose them to full-time education.

As a result, the traditional division of online and in-person courses has shifted. Even a number of the leading business schools are now offering online teaching, typically supplemented by some in-person gatherings, to allow more part-time study and less need for travel to a campus.

Participation in the FT ranking is voluntary and requires co-operation and provision of data by both the business schools and their alumni three years after completing their programmes. Some schools were excluded because of the high standard required for eligibility and, of the 23 that entered, a number could not be ranked because too few alumni responded to questions.

FT Online MBA ranking 2022 — 10 of the best

Woman talking to people in a meeting using her laptop.

Find out which schools are in our ranking of Online MBA degrees and read the rest of our coverage at

The ranking weights factors including salary, salary increase and value for money after taking into account the costs of tuition.

IE alumni reported the second highest average salaries adjusted for purchasing power parity, three years after completion, at nearly $206,000. This was just below the average for the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg Online MBA, which was $233,000.

IE graduates also reported the second highest increase in salary as a result of the degree, and the shortest overall average completion time at just 1.5 years, compared with as long as 4.5 years at the University of Liverpool Management School.

One former student of IE Business School in Madrid said it “offers a unique blend of subjects in a very beautiful city . . . I particularly loved the emphasis on accounting and entrepreneurship, which was very beneficial in planning for future roles and opportunities”.

Online MBA students said personal development was their primary motivation for study, ahead of career opportunities, management development, and a salary increase. With online courses, a smaller proportion was interested in increasing their salary, changing career, employer or country than was the case with full-time in-person MBAs. But a higher proportion of those online — 16 per cent — wanted to start their own company.

Men continue to outnumber women in the study and teaching of online MBAs. IE was closest to gender parity among its faculty, with 49 per cent women, while University of Massachusetts Amherst: Isenberg had the highest share of female students, at 41 per cent.

IE had the largest share of non-domestic students at 92 per cent, while Imperial reported 97 per cent international faculty. University of Florida: Warrington was ranked top for the diversity of professional backgrounds among its students at the time of admission, ahead of IE in second place.

Uniquely among FT rankings — because it is so important for online learning — alumni views on the extent of interaction between students, the degree of teamwork, and the availability of faculty are factored in. On those measures, IE ranked second after Carnegie Mellon: Tepper. University of Massachusetts Amherst: Isenberg came top for live teaching sessions, other teaching materials, and online exams, based on alumni assessments.

In line with the FT’s recent 2023 Global MBA ranking, the Online MBA ranking this year includes a fresh emphasis on sustainability, by giving credit to business schools — or their wider universities — for producing a public carbon emissions report and setting a target date for net zero emissions.

IE’s Global Online MBA was ranked top on these new measures. It also scored best for a longstanding self-assessment of the extent to which core courses contained environmental, social and governance factors — and a new metric on the inclusion of climate solutions to help reduce carbon emissions.

The University of North Carolina: Kenan-Flagler is ranked highest for the number of research papers by its full-time faculty in the FT50 list of prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals — a measure of academic excellence. The University of Florida: Warrington ranked second.

Overall, alumni said the Online MBA providers were most effective at teaching economics, organisational behaviour, and general management. They judged that the schools performed less well in the emerging areas of fintech and ecommerce.

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