Business education has undergone significant transformation in recent years and this is no different for MBAs delivered online. The application of advanced technology and a more tailored learning experience are reshaping the sector, but it is benefits such as flexibility, lower cost and a better work-life balance compared with a traditional MBA that are attracting students.

For the second consecutive year, IE Business School in Spain came first in the Financial Times ranking of online MBAs. Factors that helped it retain the top position included its high proportion of international students, the variety of sectors that the students worked in when admitted, and the international mobility of alumni.

Graduates praised IE’s diversity of students, which contributed to their practical business skills, personal growth and management capabilities. The Madrid school was also ranked second for programme delivery, online interaction, ESG teaching and school carbon-footprint rank.

Imperial College Business School in the UK rose one place to second, with its alumni earning the highest average salary of $218,315. The London school was also top for career progression based on the seniority of its alumni and the size of the organisation they now work for, compared with three years ago.

University of Southern California: Marshall School at number four had the second-highest average salary for alumni at $209,900. The US school was top for research, based on the number of articles published by the school’s current full-time faculty in FT 50 journals.

Birmingham Business School was a newcomer to the ranking, in ninth place. The UK school was in the top five for value for money, international mobility and careers service — the latter assesses the effectiveness of job counselling, personal development, networking events and recruitment for alumni.

Participation in the FT ranking is voluntary and requires provision of data by business schools and their alumni who completed their programmes in 2020. In this year’s ranking, 25 schools took part. Some were ineligible for the final ranking, however, as the number of alumni responses was insufficient.

More than half of the 683 alumni who were surveyed had completed their course within two years, the same duration as some full-time MBAs.

Students who completed their programme within two years had a better overall experience. On the other hand, those who took more than two years to finish their course rated the programme lower in important areas, with their alumni network receiving the lowest rating.

As well as reporting lower satisfaction levels with their programme, alumni who take longer than two years to complete their course earn less than their peers. However, graduates in the US and Canada who take longer to complete their degrees tend to benefit financially.

Online MBA alumni who studied at schools in North America pay the highest course costs but are rewarded with the highest salaries three years after completion. Schools in the UK have the lowest tuition fees, however, the remuneration for their graduates three years after completion is, on average, only $1,000 less than US and Canada alumni.

Almost 80 per cent of former students reported that their schools performed well in teaching general management. Corporate strategy and organisational behaviour were also highly rated by alumni. However, the survey revealed that students think teaching of fintech, IT, and law could be improved.

As in the previous three rankings, personal development was the greatest motivator to study an online MBA, closely followed by improving career opportunities. Starting a business and working overseas were rated less important by alumni.

FT Online MBA ranking 2024 — 10 of the best

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

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