Is Insead a Better MBA School Than Harvard?

by Derek Loosvelt | January 25, 2016

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According to the Financial Times' new MBA rankings, Insead is the best business school in the world. The school, based in France and Singapore, ranked No. 1 in the FT's 2016 global MBA rankings, unseating Harvard, last year's top MBA program, which ranked No. 2 this year. Insead and Harvard were followed by London Business School, Wharton, and Stanford, respectively.

The reason for Insead's rise to No. 1 (it ranked No. 4 last year) had to do with its length and thus affordability. Insead offers a one-year MBA program as opposed to the standard two. And so, it far outranked most other top MBA programs when it came to "value for money" (one of the FT's ranking categories that make up its overall ranking). Whether this means Insead is actually a better school than, say, Harvard, is unclear. Do Insead grads receive higher starting salaries than HBS grads? No. Is Insead's alumni network stronger and more extensive than Harvard's? No. (Tuck's alumni network might be the best, in fact.) Does Insead have a better reputation among employers in the U.S.? No.

Even so, Insead does have an excellent reputation, a history of producing top managers (like the CEO of Credit Suisse and CEO of Lloyds), and, with student debt being more and more of a drag, the one-year-and-back-at-it MBA is becoming a more popular option for business students, not to mention a more acceptable one for employers.

Although it's more popular overseas than in the U.S., the one-year MBA is now offered at both Cornell and Northwestern, among other prominent American schools. And the one-year MBA might be the superior option for those looking to stay within the same industry as opposed to entering a new one (accelerating rather than switching careers). In any case, here's the FT on its new No. 1 global MBA program:

It was 58 years ago that Insead was established in Fontainebleau, just outside Paris, to train Europe’s business elite. Placing a heavy emphasis on a global mix of students and on multilingualism, the school was very different from the top US business schools that it emulated. The most significant difference was that it taught its MBA in one year, not two.
This year Insead’s MBA, which has been ranked by the FT as one of the top 10 MBAs in the world for the past 17 years, has been ranked in the number one slot for the first time.
This is a first not only for Insead but for the one-year MBA, which is proving increasingly popular worldwide, including among some US business schools.

Other interesting findings from the FT's MBA survey (from which the rankings are compiled) include more women in MBA programs than ever before.

The proportion of women studying at ranked schools is rising. In 2015, 35 per cent of MBA students were women, up from 30 per cent in 2005. Last year, the proportion of female students topped 40 per cent in 27 schools, a leap from just four schools 10 years ago.

Also interesting was the little known school (at least here in the U.S.) that ranked No. 1 for career progression.

Created just a decade ago, the one-year, full-time residential PGPX programme from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad is ranked number one for the career progress of its alumni this year.
Widely regarded as the top business school in India, a reputation earned for its two-year pre-experience PGP programme, and ranked 15th in the world in the FT’s 2015 Masters in Management rankings, IIMA is also famous for its 100-acre campus and its teaching space designed by American architect Louis Kahn. The school, founded by local entrepreneurs with Harvard Business School, has followed the HBS lead and favours case-based teaching.

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In other news, last Thursday, JPMorgan Chase saw Goldman Sachs' "Protected Saturday" policy and raised it a day as it announced its new "Pencils Down" policy (shouldn't it be something a litter more technologically advanced like a mouse or iPhone being put down?) of giving all bankers Saturday as well as Sunday off if they aren't working on live deals.

Which, at a glance, sounds extremely generous, but at a closer look might not mean so much because JPMorgan has been killing it as of late (see Jamie Dimon's 35 percent pay raise to $27 million) which means most bankers at Dimon & Co. are probably working on a lot of live deals.

Still, the move was a bold one in theory, and a nice improvement to the firm's previous policy of allowing bankers to take one weekend off a month. It also underscored why young bankers work so many hours: pitch books. That is, often, when analysts and associates aren't staffed on live deals, their MDs and VPs dump pitch books on them. Pitch books, in case the term is new to you, are glorified marketing documents that bankers use in order to drum up business. They notoriously take a ridiculous number of hours to complete (often all weekend) and don't offer much in the way of good experience for a young banker. This is a little more on the pitch book from Zero Hedge:

Most people on Wall Street know all about it: the junior banker hazing ritual. Fresh out of college, pulling all nighters after long hours of staring at an Excel screen playing solitaire in the background, writing and re-writing pitch books for the sake of generating work which nobody will read, waiting for senior bankers to get back with their revisions, eating (expensed) meals after midnight, and so on.

In any event, will Pencils Down result in employee morale and happiness going up? Perhaps. Will it result in JPMorgan junior bankers working fewer hours per week? I doubt it. As do others, including one junior banker at Deutsche Bank who had the following to say to the New York Times when all these protected day policies began being implemented.

“If you have 80 hours of work to do in a week, you’re going to have 80 hours of work to do in a week, regardless of whether you’re working Saturdays or not. That work is going to be pushed to Sundays or Friday nights.”

In other words, maybe the new JPMorgan policy should be called "Friday Night Pitch Book."

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Read More:
An Open Letter to Wall Street Recruiters: What Junior Bankers Really Want
Thanks to Goldman, Wall Street Work-Life Balance Is Better Than Ever 
50 Best Banking Firms to Work For

Filed Under: Education | Finance

Tags: harvard | harvard business school | insead | mba rankings | one-year mba

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