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First MBA ranking identifying the most reputable online and distance-learning programs

The first global ranking of online and distance-learning MBA programs has been released on www.topmbaconnect.com.

The 2012/13 QS Distance Online MBA Ranking, compiled by the team behind the QS World MBA Tour, is based on six indicators found to be the most important factors for MBA students: employability, establishment date, student quality, faculty and teaching, class experience and diversity.

While there isn’t a definitive count of the total number of online MBA programs in the world, there are at least 300 on offer and the number is growing each year. The majority do not have any form of accreditation and there is a lack of transparency of the quality of these programs, or the benefits they offer students compared to the frequently ranked and researched full-time MBA format.

The methodology of the new ranking is designed to identify the best of the accredited online and distance-learning programs available, whilst also providing a listing of other reputable options, not ranked in this first exercise.*

Top 5 of the 2012/2013 QS Distance Online MBA Ranking


Business school

Name of MBA program


IE Business School

Global MBA


Warwick Business School

MBA by Distance Learning


Manchester Business School

Global MBA


Thunderbird School of Global Management

Online Global MBA


Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

Kelley Direct MBA

©QS Quacquarelli Symonds, www.topmbaconnect.com All rights reserved.

The annual QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey shows that in 2008, 4.4% of prospective MBA students were primarily interested in distance learning and online MBA programs; the figure has now increased to 15.6 %, proportionally, in 2012.

The positive attitude towards online and distance-learning MBA programs was also mirrored in the latest Global Employer Survey which received response from 2140 MBA employers from over 50 countries.

Nunzio Quacquarelli, editor of the TopMBA Career Guide says “The popularity of this form of study is increasing among candidates and MBA employers as they are starting to recognize the value of programs delivered by reputable schools.  While these programs provide a very different experience to the traditional full –time MBA,  they give access to business education to a wider and growing motivated work-force who are seeking a life-style education, a way to learn essential managerial skills which fits with the reality of their lives.”

He continues, “This new ranking takes a snapshot of a fast –evolving sector. It is a new tool for discerning candidates seeking guidance for an important choice.”

Professor Newton Campos, director of admissions, blended programs at IE Business School says, "It's true that some recruiters still see distance MBAs as a bit weird. A top online MBA? Is that possible? There is still some prejudice about that.”

He continues, “However we are seeing companies now, particularly hi-tech, internet and innovative companies who prefer students from our blended MBA, rather than the face-to-face programs. They [employers] say, ‘these are the kind of people I need and have the skills I need. They have proven their ability to be with family, to work and study at the same time.’ Attitudes are changing and the number of such companies is increasing.”

The QS Distance Online MBA Ranking’s inclusion criteria require business schools or individual programs to be accredited by recognised a recognised accreditation body, to have graduated at least one class and to have an established reputation among MBA employers recognised in the QS Global Employer Survey.


2012/2013 QS Distance Online MBA Rankings methodology


Weighting %





MBA Employers’ perception of the school and program

QS Global Employer Survey

Well Established


Based on accreditation, length of time established, and number of students

Accreditation from an internationally recognised accreditation body

Number of enrolled students

Program establishment date

Student Quality


Comparative quality of MBA students based on experience, and school selectivity

Students’ average years of work experience

Applicant/student ratio

Average GMAT score

% of students with first degree

Faculty & Teaching


Number of faculty and % of faculty involved in online teaching, and the quality of experience they deliver

Faculty/student ratio

Full time/adjunct faculty ratio

Student completion rate

Class Experience


Day-to-day experience of student and opportunities for interaction with classmates

Level of student interaction

Amount of group work

Opportunity for physical meet-ups



Diversity of MBA class

Number of nationalities represented

% of MBA class that is female



The top 15 QS Distance Online MBA ranking can be viewed on www.topmbaconnect.com alongside an additional 100 blended, distance and online MBA programs.



Notes for editors

Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of QS

Nunzio took his MBA at The Wharton School in the USA, where he won the Glockner Prize for Management, after gaining an MA at the University of Cambridge in the UK. At Wharton, Nunzio also led the team that won the Moot Corp Business Venture Award in 1990, in competition with teams from the top US and European business schools. Before starting his own business Nunzio worked in strategy consulting for Mercer Management Consulting and Bain & Company, in the UK and Italy.

QS World MBA Tour

The QS World MBA Tour is the world’s largest series of recruitment and information fairs for business school applicants. The QS World MBA Tour offers a unique opportunity to meet admissions officers of the world's most influential business schools at venues around the world. The tour is now in its eighteenth year.

QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey

The QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey 2011 is the largest survey of the mindset and aspirations of MBA applicants ever conducted. Results from the survey were based on 4,527 responses from the QS World MBA Tour in the fall of spring 2010 and fall 2011.

QS Global Employer Survey

The 2011 QS Global Employer Survey presents an unrivalled overview of the global MBA recruitment market. Complete responses were received from 12,100 companies in 42 countries, of which 21,40 were actively employing MBAs. 

For further information: Simona Bizzozero, +44(0) 7880620856, [email protected] Vickie Chiu, +44 (0)20 7284 7292, [email protected]

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