I will start by looking at the Economist's ranking, where IMD occupies a respectable 10th place in the latest installment (2012). IMD placed ahead of some heavyweights like London Business School, INSEAD, Wharton and Kellogg.
Of course, each business school is so different that I don't believe there is a perfect way to really compare them all, so their ranking should be taken with a grain of salt. To me rankings are most useful for candidates to identify a school's strengths and weaknesses, and use that information to evaluate how good a fit it would be with their individual goals.
Quick overview of The Economist’s methodology
The Economist looks at a variety of metrics over a three-year period to determine its rankings. They look at four major categories: - "Open new career opportunities," weighted at 35% - "Personal Development/Education Experience" weighted at 35% - "Increase Salary" weighted at 20% - "Potential to Network" weighted at 10% Each of these categories is divided into a variety of subcategories ranging from "average GMAT score of incoming students" to "Numbers of overseas countries with an official alumni branch."
In my opinion the Economist's ranking has one of the more balanced methodologies. Compared to other rankings such as the FT, the Economist places relatively lower importance on the post-MBA salary, and it tries to quantify the "education experience" by looking at things such as international diversity.
You can find more detail on the Economist's methodology here.
I took a look at all the subcategories for IMD, and I wanted to highlight the ones that best demonstrate IMD's strengths and weaknesses.
- Post MBA salary (excluding bonuses)
IMD ranked #1 in this category in the Economist’s ranking. That is an impressive figure. And honestly, this figure becomes even more impressive when you consider that 75% of IMD’s graduates go into industry and only 5% go into finance (an area known for providing higher salaries for graduating MBAs).
- Percentage increase in salary
The Economist reports IMD graduates obtain on average a 77% increase in salary, which puts it at number 51 in this category. It is not as high a figure as for some other schools in the top 10 (for example, the #1-ranked University of Chicago’s Booth MBA comes in at 90% salary increase).
But don’t forget that IMD came in ranked #1 in the category above, post-MBA salary. A lower percentage salary increase doesn’t mean IMD’s graduates are getting paid less than other school’s graduates. It simply means IMD’s students are coming in with higher salaries to begin with. They are a little older and a little more experienced – one might say a little more impressive? :)
In my opinion, this figure becomes even more outstanding when you consider IMD‘s MBA is a one-year program.
The results for these two categories demonstrate how strong IMD’s career service capabilities are. IMD was ranked 7th in percentage of students with a job offer within 3 months of graduation. Also, it was ranked 4th in student assessment of career services. This tells me students are finding jobs that they are happy with, and they feel they are getting excellent support from the school.
- Ratio of faculty to students
- Student diversity (aside from % women)
This figure is not at all surprising considering the sheer number of nationalities represented in such a small student body at IMD year after year. In my assessment day alone I was already impressed by how diverse the group was, and I am continually amazed at how IMD's admissions officers find a way to keep up this diversity level with every class.
- Diversity of recruiters
Considering IMD’s history and its focus on industry, it’s not too surprising that it doesn’t fare so well in this category. According to IMD’s latest placement report, 75% of its class went into various segments within industry, 20% into consulting and 5% into financial services.
What this tells me is that IMD is not a school a candidate would go to if they are not sure what they want to do, and they just want to have lots of options and lots of time to figure it out.
- Education experience
As it turns out, this category is broken down into four subcategories. IMD scores very strongly in two, and very poorly in two. Let’s examine each one:
Student rating of program content and range of electives
What this tells me is that perhaps the intensity of IMD’s MBA makes students feel they aren’t able to get quite as much out of the experience as others who had a more relaxed schedule and an additional year. Still, 4.4 out of 5 is a fine score and it clearly indicates IMD’s students are very happy with the program and the experience.
Student assessment of facilities and other services
IMD students rated the facilities at 4.5 out of 5. This is another strong assessment, and indicates IMD’s students are very pleased with the facilities and environment IMD offers them.
Range of overseas exchange programs
Here’s one of the categories that seems to be bringing down IMD’s “Education experience.” IMD does not offer any overseas exchange programs, and scores zero points here.
Given IMD’s one-year format and intensive academic schedule, an international exchange program in my opinion would be disruptive to the flow of the course, and would just not make sense. IMD does offer students opportunities to study and work internationally, however, through the Discovery Expedition and the International Consulting Projects.
What this subcategory indicates is that if spending time in a different school during your MBA is important to you, IMD will obviously not be a good place for you to do that.
Number of languages on offer
Here’s another category where IMD scores zero points. The Economist lists IMD as having no languages on offer.
I do wonder what this category actually means. For example, #9 IESE is listed as having two languages on offer. IESE’s website mentions students have the chance to obtain a bilingual degree (English and Spanish). I cannot find mention of other languages anywhere. So if IMD’s program is taught in English, why isn’t IMD’s number of languages on offer 1?
Regardless, this seems to occur by default. IMD’s program forces the students to work hard to complete a 2-year curriculum in one year. Learning a new language is certainly a useful skill, but it is a very time-consuming process, and time is at a premium in the IMD MBA.
I would argue, given the highly international make-up of the IMD class, its students are probably already fluent in the languages they plan to use professionally post-MBA. However, if you are looking to learn a new language during your MBA as a way to facilitate a move to a different geography, IMD may not be the best place for you to accomplish that.
- Breadth of alumni network
Considering the fact that IMD only graduates 90 students per year, compared to hundreds (if not thousands) in other schools, the numbers are bound to work against IMD in this category. So, when it comes to numbers alone, IMD’s alumni network is likely not as broad as that of other schools in the top 10.
However IMD does believe that due to the highly personal, almost family-like experience in the IMD MBA program, its alumni network is much more engaged, responsive and accessible than that of other schools. The alums I’ve encountered certainly seem to be that way, and I hope the ones I encounter in the future continue with that trend.
- Percentage women students
At 28%, IMD has one of the lowest percentages of women students among the top 20 schools. This factor alone brings down IMD’s overall ranking in the “student diversity” category. I would imagine given IMD's small class size this figure will be more prone to swings up and down than elsewhere.
If you’re a woman applying to IMD this figure probably helps your chances. But it may also mean as a woman in the program you will be more of a minority than you would be in other schools.
More detail about IMD's results in the Economist's ranking here.