What's the best MBA in the world?

Published: 3 May 2024 | by Thomas Graf

"What's the best MBA in the world" is a question I have been asked many times in the last two decades since I started my MBA coaching. Isn't this an interesting question?

"What's the best MBA in the world"

It is interesting because it suggests that there is one best program among probably more than 10,000 MBA programs worldwide. It is interesting because it uses the three letters M, B, and A as if all MBA programs worldwide refer to the same thing and that something such as an MBA exists. It is interesting because it suggests that there is one Master of Business Administration that is best for every MBA candidate worldwide. This question is interesting because it is wrong, misleading, and counterproductive.

Behind the acronym MBA

The good news is that the acronym MBA is more than just the three words Master of Business Administration. Instead of one program, there are thousands of MBA programs and each of them is different - for the simple reason that each program includes different people, locations, teaching styles, partners, opportunities, entry requirements, reputation advantages, costs, internationality, culture, explicit quality factors, and many other differentiating factors.

MBA clusters

However, there are categories that may help generate clusters of MBA programs. One cluster, for instance, is built around the simple question of whether or not a program can be studied while being in a job. Another cluster may be built around the target groups and whether an MBA addresses young professionals or experienced executives. A third example of an MBA cluster may be whether or not a Master of Business Administration requires the GMAT. A fourth cluster may include programs that have been internationally accredited or ranked versus those that are not.

Consequently, there is nothing such as the best MBA in the world. Instead, there are thousands of individual programs with specific differentiating criteria.

What do MBA programs have in common?

On the other hand, there are some common factors that each MBA in the world has in common and qualifies it as an MBA. MBA programs, for instance, teach general management as opposed to expert knowledge in a specific academic discipline. MBA programs target professionals and require a minimum of three years of post-graduation work experience as opposed to Master in Management programs that address graduates.

However, qualities that differentiate Master of Business Administration programs seem to outweigh the commonalities.

Also MBA candidates are not equal

What makes answering questions such as "What's the best MBA in the world?" even more difficult (and impossible) to answer is the fact that MBA candidates also have common qualities and differences. Such common qualities may include, for example, the interest of MBA candidates in general management, a strong career ambition, and the interest in a renowned degree. The differences include the profiles and CVs of MBA candidates, their financial resources, their career ambition, career trajectories, current career stages, and their cultural backgrounds. Similar to MBA programs, the differences among MBA candidates outweigh their commonalities.

Consequently, it makes sense to reframe the question "What's the best MBA in the world?" to "What's the best MBA in the world for YOU". Such a reformulation acknowledges the differences among the programs and candidates and focuses on the dyad of program and candidate and the assumption of a perfect match.

Does this make sense to you?

Then the next step of finding "the best MBA in the world for YOU" requires a thorough analysis of a candidate's career goals, resources, and preferences and investigating programs that come as close as possible to his or her individual qualities. If the career goal of a candidate is a position in an investment bank, then a top-ranked program where no bank recruits, for instance, will not be the best MBA for this person. If a candidate has savings of EUR 20,000, then a program with EUR 80,000 tuition fees may be difficult, even with the support of scholarships. If the candidate prefers a business school in his or her country of residence and with classes taught in his or her native non-English language, then an international business school may not be a match.

To sum up

There is no best MBA in the world. There is only the best MBA per candidate, and most likely there is more than one best MBA program. Disappointing as this answer may be to those who asked the original question of "What's the best MBA in the world?", isn't this an encouraging answer as well?