Tuesday, May 14, 2013

IMD in the rankings - The Economist 2012

Since there is so much importance placed on MBA rankings, I figured it would be interesting to take a deeper look at IMD's position in each of the major rankings out there and see how it fared. There may be some unexpected findings behind each ranking's methodology.

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.

IMD's strengths
  • 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.

  • Number of jobs 3 months after graduation & Student assessment of Career services

  • 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
     You probably don’t need the Economist to tell you this, but IMD’s small class size affords students an intimate setting and very close proximity with the faculty. IMD’s faculty-to-student ratio is listed by The Economist as 0.4 (although in the Q&A I recently attended, IMD mentioned an even better 1:2 ratio).
    • Student diversity (aside from % women)
     If you set aside the percentage of women students, IMD’s student body diversity excels in every other aspect. IMD’s “international diversity score” of 57 out of 100 is among the highest in the top 20. IMD’s student rating of the culture and of classmates is an impressive 4.7 out of 5, also among the highest in the top 20.

    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. 

    IMD's weaknesses

    • Diversity of recruiters
    IMD failed to break the top 100 in this category. The Economist defines “Diversity of recruiters” as the “number of industry sectors recruiting students.” Basically, each school reports whether companies recruited from the following 11 sectors: consulting, consumer products, financial services, government, manufacturing, media/entertainment, not-for-profit, petroleum/energy, pharmaceutical/health care, real estate and technology.

    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
    IMD placed 86th in this category, which is a rather puzzling result. By all accounts the IMD MBA experience is world-class, so how come it is ranked so low here?

    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
    The Economist’s survey had IMD’s students rating the program at 4.4 out of 5. This is not the highest value in the rankings, but on par with other schools in the top 20 (Harvard’s students rated their program at 4.6, LBS’s at 4.4).

    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
    IMD placed 78th in this category.

    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.


    1. I love your blog posts, Marshmallow. I am a prospective candidate for the Jan 2015 intake. Will submit my application in R2. Hoping to see you sometime soon IF i get an interview call.In the interim, would you be available to connect over email?

      1. Hi Jarna - I am glad you are enjoying my blog! Absolutely, feel free to e-mail me at marshmallow.imd (at) gmail.com. Things have been pretty hectic but I will do my best to help you out. In the meantime, best of luck with your applications and I hope to see you here in Lausanne soon!