QS Online MBA Rankings Methodology


Now in its 11th year, the QS Online MBA Rankings features over 70 business schools – the longest list so far.

As the world adjusts to new ways of living, working and studying alongside COVID-19, universities continue to develop innovative approaches to supporting the aspirations of MBA students.
Imperial College Business School is one such institution leading the change, launching new online modules in digital transformation, AI and machine learning to offer MBA students a contemporary skillset for a digital economy. Leila Guerra, Vice Dean of Education, says the school’s success reflects its pioneering work in creating an academic and educational digital environment “supported by the most innovative learning tools to allow students to connect, progress and define the personal, professional and societal impact they aim to achieve.”
Many of this year’s online MBA providers have adapted to blended or hybrid learning environments, to sustainably service the needs of students who aren’t able to study in ways considered commonplace pre-pandemic.
The Kelley Direct Program has invested millions in new, world-class, virtual classroom spaces. Will Geoghegan, chair of the program and Clinical Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, explains how the school’s new studios “allow Kelley faculty to create new course content and utilise advanced pedagogical techniques such as ‘flipped classroom learning’ – even in an online environment – making live session time even more valuable and dynamic.”

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated March 29, 2023 Updated March 29

Online MBA programmes have taken on increased importance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To reflect this, the QS Online MBA Rankings 2022 is our largest ranking of online business school provision yet, including over 72 programmes from around the world.  

While full-time MBA programme applications have been in decline in recent years, online MBA programme options have increased in availability and often offer a cheaper alternative to the full-time programme. 

Online MBA programmes have been ranked in this 11th edition of our Online MBA Rankings according to four metric groups, each designed to capture a key component of their mission: employability, diversity and access, the standard of the learning experience, and the quality of the class experience. These four metric groups are: 

Faculty and Teaching (35% of final score) 

Does this programme offer high academic standards? The results incorporate data from QS’s proprietary QS Academic Survey, which captures the sentiments of 95,000 academics globally. This metric also uses inputs provided by participating schools and/or validated by publicly available data. 

This 35 percent is split as follows: 

Academic reputation (15%): This metric gives us an accurate impression of the reputation of an online MBA programme and is based on university and business school nominations from around the world between 2017 and 2021. Academics name the institutions which they believe are the strongest in their subject area. 

 The survey has grown to become the world’s largest survey of academic opinion, and, in terms of size and scope, is an unparalleled means of measuring sentiment in the academic community. 

FTE/number of enrolled students ratio (10%): A higher ratio means students can expect to receive more individual attention from the programme’s faculty. 

Completion rate (10%): This is considered in order to reward programmes which have a consistent cohort and is taken as an indicator that the online MBA programme is worth completing in full. 

Employability (30%) 

How employable are graduates from this online MBA programme? The results incorporate data from QS’s proprietary QS Global Employer Survey, which captures the sentiments of over 44,000 hiring managers worldwide. Each year thousands of employers across all sectors and industries - including Facebook, Google, Uber, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America - respond to the survey with the opportunity to nominate specific business schools that they believe produce the best graduates. 

The QS Global Employer Survey has now been running over 20 years. Between 2017-2021, we collected hundreds of thousands of university and business school nominations from nearly 45,000 global employers. More recent responses have been given the greatest weight in this ranking.  

For the online MBA ranking, we weight more heavily the employers who say they hired online MBAs specifically, as employers don’t always differentiate between the online and full-time versions of the programme.  

The survey helps us have an accurate impression of the reputation of a school compared to its peers among relevant employers who are hiring online MBAs. 

Class Profile (30%) 

How diverse and international is each programme’s class cohort? What is the applicant/place ratio, and how many students are enrolled? How much work experience does the cohort have, on average? These inputs are provided by participating schools and/or validated by publicly available data. 

This 30 percent is split as follows: 

Number of students enrolled (10%): Higher number is important because it means school will have a lot of experience putting many students through the online MBA curriculum. It is also a positive for students because their online MBA network is larger and the groupwork is more diverse.  

Applicant/place ratio (5%): We look at the number of applicants for the online programme over a given period compared with the number of places available for that period. The higher the ratio, the more popular the programme and the higher the score. This is because a higher ratio means it is more selective and points are given to reward this competitiveness. 

Work experience (5%): A large aspect of studying an online MBA is group work and case discussion. Having an online MBA cohort with more work experience provides more perspectives from professional settings and projects that elevate the entire programme experience. This is vital as you don’t just learn from your teachers, but also your peers. 

Proportion of female students (5%): The highest scores are awarded to the online MBA programmes which get closest to gender parity (a 50:50 split). 

Number of nationalities represented (5%): The highest scores are awarded to the online MBA programmes with the most diversity in the classroom. 

Class Experience (5%) 

What is the calibre of each programme’s learning experience? This includes a range of evenly-weighted indicators including physical meetups, regular synchronous classes, access to a learning app on a mobile and/or tablet, and 24/7 tech support. These factors help to create a rewarding experience for the online MBA student. These inputs are provided by participating schools and/or validated by publicly available data. 

As not all of the above factors are always relevant to each online MBA programme, we take a score from the schools which have some or all of these components.  

This article was originally published in April 2020 . It was last updated in March 2023

Written by

As editor of TopUniversities.com, Craig oversees the site's editorial content and network of student contributors. He also plays a key editorial role in the publication of several guides and reports, including the QS Top Grad School Guide.

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