Exterior shot of ESCP Business School
Top ranked: ESCP Business School takes the number one spot in the FT Masters in Finance ranking for the first time

Léon Laulusa has had some welcome news as he starts his new role as dean of Paris-based ESCP Business School.

Admissions are up, and assessments of its masters in finance degree, too — with the school top of this year’s FT ranking overall and rated highly by past students for its careers service, alumni network, and aims achieved.

“This year our applications for MiF have doubled,” he says. “Students are looking for impact and employ­ability.”

French business schools continue to dominate the FT Masters in Finance ranking of pre-experience programmes for those with little or no relevant previous work experience.

FT Masters in Finance ranking 2023

The ranking has 18 categories including value for money

Find out which schools are in our ranking of the top 55 pre-experience postgraduate finance degrees. Also, learn how the table was compiled and read the rest of our coverage.

Five of the top 14 schools are French, including the strongest four, led by ESCP and two other elite Paris-based “grandes écoles”: HEC and Essec. France’s Skema and Edhec, which has campuses in France as well as London and Singapore, complete the group.

The ranking is based on data collected from alumni and schools that agree to participate, and reflects the performance using metrics including salaries and assessments of how far former students feel they achieved their aims, as well as the gender mix and diversity by citizenship of students and faculty.

Last year, there was stagnating student demand for the MiF degree in Europe with a drop in applications offset by growth in the US, according to the most recent survey conducted last year across a broader sample of 227 schools around the world by GMAC, the organisation that runs the GMAT business school test.

There is also fresh competition with a growing number of other specialist masters, in subjects such as data analytics, as well as rivals to traditional degrees, including the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exams for investment professionals and accountancy qualifications such as the ACCA.

However, GMAC’s separate survey of recruiters from business schools showed that last year there was an increase in demand for MiFs by employers compared with 2021, with 85 per cent of recruiters in western Europe saying they intended to hire during the year, 55 per cent in the US and 96 per cent in the Middle East.

For the first time, the FT ranking credits schools which produce and publicly release reports on their carbon emissions and set net zero targets, with Università Bocconi in Milan ranked top followed by IE in Madrid and Rotterdam School of Management.

The analysis encapsulates growing demand by students, recruiters and faculty for sustainability courses including climate finance, and expanding initiatives by business schools and wider universities to provide more specialist training in the topic.

Schools choose whether to participate in the FT ranking, and must be recognised by one of the two leading international accreditation agencies — AACSB or Equis — and have sufficient responses by alumni to a range of questions to reach statistical significance. That resulted in 55 being ranked in 2023.

Adjusted for purchasing power parity, alumni of Tsinghua reported the highest salaries after completion of their degree at over $205,000 a year, followed by those from Peking University: Guanghua and Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance.

The French schools led among those ranked in Europe, with HEC graduates reporting salaries of nearly $176,000 on average and the highest growth in remuneration with salary increases of 120 per cent three years after their first post-degree wage.

Nearly two-thirds of alumni said they were employed in the financial sector, with the majority in investment banking. Private equity and asset management are also popular sectors.

Sector performances
Best sector for improving seniorityTradingGovernment / public sector
Best sector for improving salaryPrivate equity / VC — 84% increaseEnergy / utilities — 86% increase
Best sector for starting salariesTrading — $71,000Technology / telecoms / IT — $59,000
Best sector for salaries three years after completionTrading — $112,000Technology / telecoms / IT — $90,000

Only a quarter of graduates reported an improvement in seniority in the three years since completing their programme, with those working in trading and the public sector experiencing the greatest gains for financial and non-financial sectors, respectively. Alumni who work in trading reported the highest average salary at completion as well as three years later.

While alumni from schools in mainland Europe represent more than 50 per cent of the cohort surveyed, UK business schools have the highest number of graduates from other countries — reaching 100 per cent at the University of Oxford: Saïd.

The Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management both rose in the rankings to enter the top 14. ISEG — Lisbon School of Economics and Management is the highest riser, climbing 11 places to 23rd.

Improvements in student diversity and alumni’s fulfilment of their goals or reasons for doing a masters added to ISEG’s success.

Germany’s EBS Business School is this year’s highest new entrant, in joint 25th place. Alumni praised its exchange programme, careers events and networking opportunities. “The finance masters gave me the skillset, mindset and network to get the job I wanted before even graduating,” said one graduate.

The quality of teaching of corporate finance, investments and statistical methods received high scores from respondents. They gave lower marks to courses on private equity, one of the more popular career choices.

Nearly all graduates cited bettering their career opportunities as one of their main motivations for starting a masters course, as well as improving earnings potential. Early career graduates showed less interest in working overseas and starting their own companies.

Ranked 31, University of Southern California: Marshall enters the placings for the first time and is the top school in the US. Its alumni earn $118,750 on average, the highest weighted salary among US institutions in the ranking. Graduates praised Marshall’s faculty and the network opportunities.

There is no ranking this year of post-experience programmes, for students with about three years of relevant work experience in finance, due to an insufficient number of survey responses.

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