Economist Rates Online MBA Programs

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on February 26, 2010

The Economist magazine just came out with its rating of top distance MBA programs, something not many publications have attempted but that the Economist has been doing for a few years now. Before I get to the winners, there are a few things you need to know about this rating.

First, it is a rating: schools are assigned ratings of excellent, good, average, and poor—not a number. It’s a rating of 15 “selected” online programs, not all the programs that are available. It’s based on ten quality measures grouped into three broad (equally weighted) categories: program content, student quality, and effectiveness of distance learning elements (such as learning materials). And most of the information for the rating comes from the schools themselves or surveys of students in the programs.

So who came out on top?

In the "excellent" category, only two schools made the cut: the University of Florida's Internet MBA and the International
Executive MBA offered by IE Business School in Spain. Here's what the magazine had to say about those programs:

Both schools scored well across the board. IE’s students, for example, have an average of 13 years of work experience, and although students are spread as widely as Nigeria and Turkmenistan, they also say they feel incredibly connected to the school. Furthermore, despite its hefty price tag—programme fees of €52,000 ($76,440) make it the most expensive surveyed—students still consider it to be excellent value for money. It is a similar story at Florida. Although its students have much less work experience than those at IE, they do rate their classmates as being the best of the schools surveyed. They also rave about the quality of the distance-learning materials used by the school. And it, too, scores well on value for money. Both schools also have a low student attrition rate.

In the "good" category, there were three schools: Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the Euro MBA, a partnership among schools in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, and Poland.

What's everybody think?

Reader Comments


March 4, 2010 12:01 PM

What do you think about the rise of EMBA programs? One in particular I would like to hear more about is your opinion on the Texas Woman's University EMBA Program (


March 5, 2010 10:32 AM

Don't waste your time with the online degrees, particularly not MBAs. These have no credibility in the marketplace whatsoever. That's because most people know these are not true educational programs, they're just the modern equivalent of self-paced correspondence courses. You don't get effective peer interaction (email doesn't count), and you don't get real-time interaction with an instructor. I've taken online several courses at two different schools, including SUNY Inst. Tech., eventually concluded that they were a waste of time for no real value. Have since enrolled in a PT program at a real college, and feel like I'm getting a real education. Bite the bullet and enroll in a part-time / evening program. You'll get a real education that will be recognized by future employers. As a senior manager at a major US health insurance company, I can assure you that these online degrees are not viewed favorably. In fact often they are smirked at.


March 5, 2010 1:14 PM

I agree with half of what Dan says. Face to face interaction is important. A good compromise is a blended learning program that includes both online and classroom components. The school's reputation also means a lot and many of the top ranked schools have these programs or are instituting them. Traditional part-time programs are yesterday's education system. Whether you graduate from a traditional part-time or blended learning program the degree is the same.


March 7, 2010 12:54 PM

I disagree with Dan; every individual has their own methods of effective learning. The online educational program for me is very beneficial. I am a very busy business person that does a lot of traveling. Attending an onsite classroom environment would be impossible. I am thankful there are accredited universities that have online programs. The key to success is the efforts you apply towards your educational learning. That same golden rule is true for onsite or online learning.

EMBA graduate

March 11, 2010 5:55 PM

An online program (partially or blended) will never rank the same in a potential employer's mind vs a "traditional" MBA program (full or part-time). There is no substitute for the real thing: class interaction and group work.


March 12, 2010 2:26 PM

In reference to my post on 3/4/10; I should state that the TWU EMBA program is face to face and a 14 month program that meets all day on Saturdays (from 8am - 5pm). Does anyone have any feedback on a program liks this or this one in particular? (WWW.TWU.EDU/SOM/)

Thank you!!


April 1, 2010 11:49 PM

It's what you know, not what school you attended or program you completed. I know morons from Cornell and CEOs from podunk schools. Those who think it's the paper that's important probably do not have the stuff upstairs to think or learn for themselves. Find a program that works for you, make the most of it, and excel.


April 7, 2010 11:02 AM

Best Institute
Getting quality teaching with an online degree means that you need to research each institute carefully. Talk to other students, if possible. Look at several schools offering both traditional programs and online degree programs. It doesn?t hurt to check out class size either. Try to find class sizes that are small and thus offer you the possibility of individual attention. Check into how the institute can help you……………
universities online programs


April 8, 2010 6:02 AM

To Dan:

If, as you say, online MBA's are not any good then how do you explain that IE's International executive MBA (which is online with some residential periods)is rated 6th worldwide here in BusinessWeek, ahead of most offline MBA's?

Of course they are not for everyone but don't dismiss an entire form of learning because of bad experiences at other institutions.


April 16, 2010 11:55 AM

Opportunity to Study
In short, taking classes online and earning your degree online is no different than taking classes in person, it’s just that online classes are a more convenient way of accomplishing your goals. Get the promotion you always deserved or start that new career path that you always wanted to go down - It is now all possible through online degrees……….


April 20, 2010 11:06 AM

Online Education
If you or someone you know is looking for online education have do a thorough search. Don’t settle for the first set of cyber flooding institutions. Look at local colleges with online programs, they might not only provide you online flexibility but also other supporting services available on evenings and weekends. If you are looking at distant institutions, make sure they have experience in fully supporting students remotely. Go online and on message boards and see what people say about those institutions. Don’t believe the first person you chat with but if you keep chatting and the information is not positive, more on…………


April 21, 2010 1:31 PM

Online Bachelors Degree

To the adult educator all this means a need for more efficient and effective courseware. We need to put our creative thinking hat on and challenge ourselves and our employer to pilot new approaches. This is not an impossible task, it is a new reality. Greater productivity brought by education and innovation are the only weapon against off shoring. Yet this weapon is a hidden “diamond in the rough”, in George French’s words, as it might bring great new opportunities………….


May 12, 2010 8:42 AM

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


best video converter

September 13, 2010 8:51 AM

It is remarkable, a useful piece


December 21, 2010 7:13 AM

To the naysayers of online MBAs...

Learning takes many different shapes and forms. What is effective for some people is not effective for others. Just because you yourself had a bad educational experience in a particular school/format/program; it does not make that program inferior. I've taken courses at community colleges that were laughable in regards to rigor (i.e. open-book test that consisted of 10 questions and you had 1.5 hours to take it!). Yet I would not dare say that community college is not worthwhile; or that a graduate of a community college shouldn't be taken seriously in the job market.
The emphasis on face-to-face interaction in MBA programs seems to be pretty misguided. A friend of mine is in a full-time, traditional MBA program at a well known urban university...and she is COMPLETELY unimpressed with the level of cooperation and interaction present in her cohort. When telling her about my experience in my online MBA program (at an AACSB-accredited state school), she is a bit envious in that we are at least forced to collaborate, communicate and interact as an integral part of our courses.
It is true, many things can be improved in online learning. For example, for me, it takes a lot of extra time and effort to seek out assistance in my studies when I feel I am not quite understanding something. Also too many professors do not take their online courses as seriously as they should, and it shows. However no MBA program is perfect. The real world business environment is very different from what can be simulated in B-school. Also MBAs can take on a wide range of positions in a wide range of settings. This includes jet-setters who telecommute and need to stay committed to their tasks and projects remotely. Earning an MBA online is a great example of someone who can accomplish this. So there are most definitely good qualities that can be demonstrated by those who have earned their MBAs online. You just have to open your mind a bit and be receptive to them.


April 15, 2011 12:24 PM

I took a mix of online and traditional courses when I was studying for the MBA. There is NO COMPARISON: the traditional, in-person courses were FAR better than the online courses, so much so that I thought the university should have charged half price for the online credits; the goods were THAT inferior.

Online courses are cheaper to run, but they were a waste of my time. I could have gone to a day-long AMA seminar and come out knowing exactly the same stuff. And it is irrelevant how people learn. It's just not the same experience.

But if you MUST choose an online program, check first to see what employers think of it, and investigate the school's placement resources. THAT's the bottom line. See what recruiters have to say.

They all have the same number of credits; it's up to you how much you want to learn.


May 18, 2011 3:29 PM

It all depends what your motivation is. A full time MBA degree looks the exact same on a resume as an online degree...there's no asterisk.

Post a comment



Read daily reports from BusinessWeek editors and reporters Louis Lavelle, Geoff Gloeckler, Alison Damast and Francesca Di Meglio and boost your chances of getting into your best-fit B-school.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!