Professionals are now spoiled for choice when it comes to online MBAs. So how exactly do they choose one?

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, an MBA is still a key differentiator between an individual and their colleagues. It is also a launching pad into management and senior executive roles and a method of upskilling oneself to create greater chance of business success.

With the great leaps forward in technology, no longer is online learning the poor cousin of face-to-face learning. The online MBA offering has become deeply interactive and highly respected in its own right.

So how can a professional choose the best MBA for their needs? The first point, of course, is to compare the basics of what each course costs, how much time a student is expected to be on campus if at all, and where. Once the choice is narrowed, it comes down to how each online MBA ranks in comparison to the others on the shortlist.

Online MBA market in Australia: An overview

From fees to attendance requirements and from duration to number of enrolled students, online MBA offerings in Australia vary enormously.

One popular option is the Australian Institute of Business online MBA, which has fees of around $36,000, an 18-month duration and 100% online. Another option is the well-respected, circa-$60,000 online ‘MBAx’ offered by AGSM UNSW Business School and run over 24 months, allowing students to specialise in such fields as change, technology and social impact. And there’s the $15,000 online MBA from the SP Jain School of Global Management, focusing on the development of business managers who are also global citizens.

Most offer a 100 per cent online experience while a few require the odd campus visit. Most range in duration from 12 to 24 months, and many allow great flexibility within or outside that timeline, to fit study in with the responsibilities of work and life.

The MBA ranking conundrum

The problem with the various ranking systems is that they’re rarely in sync with each other. A university in number one place on one ranking system may not even make it onto another.

Below, we explain the approaches the various systems take, to help you make sense of the information.

Let’s take a deeper look into the major ranking systems.

QS World University Rankings

QS World University Rankings

What are QS rankings?

These rankings were launched in 2004 by Quacquarelli Symonds, an organisation that describes itself as “the world’s leading provider of services, analytics, and insight to the global higher education sector”. The QS World University Rankings are developed by the QS Intelligence Unit, the business’s research and professional services division.

Now a powerful global indicator of the performance of universities, the annual QS World University Rankings are also split into various ranking categories. These include geographical location, other related matters such as employability rankings, and ranking by 51 specific subject areas. One of the most influential QS lists is the QS Global MBA Rankings.

What is the QS measurement methodology?

The QS rankings of universities in general are based on six metrics, each with its own weighting. They are:

Academic reputation 40%

Based on research with over 100,000 experts in higher education.

Employer reputation 10%

Based on around 50,000 responses with employers around the globe.

Faculty/student ratio 20%

This is an indication of an institution’s ability to provide students with access to academics.

Citations per faculty 20%

This metric is based on the number of citations received as an outcome of all academic papers across the entire university across, over a five-year period. That figure is then divided by the number of faculty members at the institution.

International faculty ratio 5% / International student ratio 5%

The international faculty ratio, as well as the international student ratio, is likely to change dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. However, both of these metrics are intended to reflect the academic benefit of a diverse, global outlook, and showcases the program’s power to attract students and faculty from around the world.

For online MBA rankings, four metric groups are brought into play. They are:

Faculty and teaching 35%

Includes academic reputation, ratio of students to academics and completion rate.

Employability 30%

Directly related to the employment success of graduates.

Class profile 30%

Includes number of enrolments, number of applications compared to places available, proportion of female students, diversity of nationalities and professional experience of the student cohort.

Class experience 5%

A measure of the actual learning experience.

Online MBA QS Rankings

GLOBAL RANK UNIVERSITY
4 AGSM @ UNSW Business School
10 University of Otago Business School
20 Deakin Business School
30 La Trobe University
40 Curtin Graduate School of Business

Who’s up and who’s down?

Twelve months earlier, in 2019, AGSM came in at number six as the best Australian performer, followed by Deakin in 24th position and La Trobe at 32. New Zealand’s Otago rose three spots from 13, in 2019. Curtin fell three spots in 2020. So, for the most part, it’s good news for Australian online MBA programs as they continue their march up the rankings.

AFR BOSS MBA rankings

Financial Review BOSS MBA rankings

What are AFR BOSS rankings?

Every two years the Australian Financial Review conducts research to publish a ranking of the MBA and EMBA programs offered by Australian business schools. The last such ranking was released in 2019.

What is the AFR BOSS measurement methodology?

The Australian Financial Review, in partnership with a market research agency, conducts two surveys, one with alumni and one with schools. Some questions affect rankings and some do not. Surveys with alumni are weighted at 55 per cent of results.

Certain questions change, survey to survey, as the university and industry environments shift and as MBA providers introduce important changes into their programs.

The great value of the AFR Boss rankings is that it focusses solely on offerings from Australian institutions and, therefore, more closely on results from graduates within Australian industry.

2019 AFR BOSS MBA rankings

GLOBAL RANK UNIVERSITY
1 University of Sydney Business School
2 Adelaide Business School
3 Queensland University of Technology Graduate School of Business
4 University of South Australia Business School
5 Griffith Business School
6 Monash Business School
7 Macquarie Business School, Macquarie University
8 School of Business and Law at Central Queensland University
9 University of Queensland Business School
10 University of Western Australia Business School

Who’s up and who’s down?

Compared to two years earlier, in 2017, the top position was unchanged. Adelaide leapt three spots in between rankings, to second place, while UQ business school dove from second to ninth. Melbourne Business School, previously in third place, dropped out of the top ten while Griffith Business School, an evergreen amongst ranking providers, stepped up from fifth to fourth.

CEO Magazine MBA rankings

CEO Magazine MBA rankings

What are CEO magazine rankings?

CEO Magazine targets business leaders and those who aspire to lead.

The CEO Magazine Global MBA rankings cover MBA, Executive MBA and online MBA programs, most recently from 161 schools in 27 countries.

What is the CEO magazine measurement methodology?

According to CEO Magazine, data points for full-time and part-time MBA programs are judged according to these weightings:

  • Quality of faculty: 34.95%
  • International diversity: 9.71%
  • Class size: 9.71%
  • Accreditation: 8.74%
  • Faculty to student ratio: 7.76%
  • Price: 5.83%
  • International exposure: 4.85%
  • Work experience: 4.85%
  • Professional development: 4.85%
  • Gender parity: 4.85%
  • Delivery methods: 3.8%

Online MBAs are graded according to the same metrics, except with the removal of delivery method and class size.

2020 CEO Magazine Online MBA rankings

GLOBAL RANK UNIVERSITY
6 Macquarie Business School
8 University of South Australia
12 La Trobe University
=16 Griffith University
20 Torrens University
21 RMIT University EMBA
36 Swinburne University of Technology
=41 Victoria Graduate School of Business
52 University of Southern Queensland
53 University of Newcastle

Who’s up and who’s down?

One year earlier, in 2019, University of South Australia topped Australia’s list in sixth place, followed by La Trobe in eighth. Macquarie Business School, now leading the Australian charge, wasn’t on the list last year. RIMT’s EMBA program slipped from equal 11th (with Griffith University) to 21st.

Times Higher Education rankings

Times Higher Education rankings

What are Times Higher Education rankings?

Times Higher Education is a weekly magazine in the UK. It does what it says on the tin: reporting exclusively on matters relating to higher education. Originally published in 1971 as part of The Times newspaper, it became a magazine in 2008.

In 2020, Times Higher Education expanded into the area of international student services, with offerings related to student accommodation and placement.

The brand’s university rankings, first reported in 2004, are global and released annually and in 2020 listed close 1400 institutions from 92 countries. MBA programs are not specifically graded and nor are online courses. However, in 2018, Times Higher Education began ranking business schools.

What is the Times Higher Education measurement methodology?

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings Balance input across 13 performance indicators grouped into five areas. Those areas are teaching, research, citations, international outlook, and industry income.

According to Times Higher Education, the weighting of each of the 13 metrics are as follows.:

Teaching

  • Reputation survey: 15%
  • Staff-to-student ratio: 4.5%
  • Doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio: 2.25%
  • Doctorates-awarded-to-academic-staff ratio: 6%
  • Institutional income: 2.25%

Research

  • Reputation survey: 18%
  • Research income: 6%
  • Research productivity: 6%

Citations

  • Citations per scholar, normalised for variations in citation volume between different subject areas: 30%

International outlook

  • Proportion of international students: 2.5%
  • Proportion of international staff: 2.5%
  • International collaboration: 2.5%

Industry income

  • Amount of research income an institution earns from industry, scaled against the number of academic staff: 2.5%

Australia: Times Higher Education rankings for business and economics

GLOBAL RANK UNIVERSITY
38 University of Melbourne
55 University of Queensland
=63 Australian National University
=63 UNSW Sydney
85 Queensland University of Technology
90 University of Sydney
101 to 125 Griffith University
101 to 125 Monash University
101 to 125 University of Technology Sydney
126 to 150 University of South Australia

Who’s up and who’s down?

In 2019, the highest ranked Australian university, University of Melbourne, was in 43rd sport, followed by ANU in 50th and UNSW Sydney in 70th. There are now four Australian universities in the top 63 spots for business and economics. The best Australian climber in the top 100 was University of Queensland, which leapt from 73 to 55.